Many say that today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. True enough that our young leaders are expected to hold the solution for our bright future, I see it though that not all stand on equal footing with discrimination, inequality, and poverty coming along their paths. There are a number of students who, despite their immense potential, are not given that good chance for advancement.
Recognizing the promise among these young leaders could make that one difference that changes their lives. And a bottling firm acted upon this realization through paying forward.
Owning to its corporate social responsibility, this bottling firm gathered together 40 of the country’s underserved yet deserving college students to hone their no-nonsense leadership skills, and enable them to become effective agents to lead, create and change. Dubbed the arc young leaders camp, a three-day youth camp fun filled with lectures, panel discussions, workshops, reflections, and outdoor activities was all set to shape, develop, and improve the delegates’ characters and leadership potentials.
Inspiring the campers were generous camp speakers who not only spare time to visit the delegates, but share a part of them.
I personally admire the first speaker, the very lively Bam Aquino of Hapinoy. Seeing other speakers as experts on the field of leadership, Mr. Aquino dealt on social enterprise. In the end, his talk all the more pushed the delegates to be environmentally and socially responsible leaders.
The Giving Tree
Mr. Aquino narrated the story of the Giving Tree. I read the book once many years ago and that time, I might be too young then to appreciate the story. Anyway, the Giving Tree is a tale about the relationship between a young boy and a tree. The tree always provides the boy with all his wants and desires. As the boy grows older, he demands more from the tree, giving him no contented and lonely at the end.
Mr. Aquino then applied the importance of social enterprise in the story and proposed a twist hyping on a different strategy to achieve a beautiful ending- what if, instead of just giving, the tree made the boy plant apple seeds. This story proposition then will make the boy and his community prosperous, and with enough apples for all, the boy, the community. and everyone would be happy. The apple tree will still be there standing tall and fruitful in the middle of an abundant apple forest.
This was the very essence of Mr. Aquino’s own social enterprise project called Hapinoy. His Hapinoy provides start up capital for and trains housewives to start their own businesses. Hapinoy provides no temporary solution but answers that may be able to create solutions in the future.
Same with the proverb “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” the story of the Giving Tree taught me that it is indeed more worthwhile to teach someone to do something to improve himself than to do something for him.
Mr. Aquino even shared his Switzerland experience wherein everything is based on trust. He once used Swiss’ tramp (MRT in the Philippines) and there was no officer to check his ticket. Everything though was very orderly and almost everyone trust everybody.
I believe in the phrase that true leaders do not command excellence. They build excellence. A true leader radiates excellence as obviously shown on his character. He acts upon good judgment. He decides with a clear conscience. And he stands with an honorable character. What is the point then with the story of the tramp in Switzerland? If all our government leaders then stand with honorable characters, the people they lead may then be inspired to be just honorable and trust would be such a common yet powerful value which will drive our country towards success.
The second day of the camp was all the more resoundingly thriving with 19-year old Emmanuel Bagual and 2009 CNN Hero of the Year Efren Penaflorida both shared how they grow up “sa dagat ng basura” and stood up to believe in their own leadership capacities. They are too eager to push for positive change that they provided an alternate learning program for street children. They literally push a kariton klasrum to reach out to street kids who do not attend school because of poverty, lack of interest in studying, and bad influence in their surroundings. Kuya Ef and Kuya Em, together with their increasing volunteers, teach the street children very basic lessons from taking a bath to reading ABCs.
Kuya Ef and Kuya Eam are then leaders. And excellence easily radiates in their personalities and actions. Despite their unwelcoming beginnings, they have proven that one may still be a leader if he believes in himself and he has that noble intention to lead, create, and change.
Another important lesson learned during the camp: leadership is not gained with age. Kesz Valdez, a twelve-year old former street child, proved this and awed us all with his grandiose act of selflessness. He too, has his own established advocacy group called “Caring Children” which aims to help people in the only way he can at his age — by raising funds and saving money and playing Santa Claus to the needy. He will always be remembered as that young good Filipino boy who led his team of kids to prepare gifts for the kids and families hit by typhoon Sendong. And on his birthday, instead of asking gifts for himself, he raised funds and literally knocked on every door in Cavite City to ask for anything they can spare. From his savings, he bought slippers and food for the street children. Why slippers? Simply because he didn’t have slippers too when he dug for a living before.
These wonderful speakers shared a part of their time, because, again for a good cause. And they too are paying forward. For behind every hero is a mentor. And behind Efren Peñaflorida and Emmanuel Bagual is Bonn Manalaysay who rather prefers to avoid the limelight.
The ARC Young Leaders Camp aims to hone the evident leadership potential of each delegate. But more than pushing these participants to realize their leadership skills, the camp was able to push not only the students but me included to becoming catalysts of change. More that anything, the camp thought me to reach out for the hands of others and push for the positive change we all are hoping to achieve.
I have three beautiful kids and I want them to enjoy mother earth and live in a peaceful community called Philippines. As age proves no barrier to lead, create and change, I see today and everyday as the perfect time to make that push.
I am committed then to become an effective agent for positive change. I am paying forward my lessons learned at the ARC Young Leaders Camp, all for a good cause.