Many say that today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. Our young leaders are expected to hold the solution for our bright future. Sadly, though, I see it that not all stand on equal footing with discrimination, inequality, and poverty coming along their paths. There are some students who, despite their immense potential, are not given that real chance for advancement.
Recognizing the promise among these young leaders could make that one difference that could change their lives. And a bottling firm acted upon this realization through paying forward.
Owning to its corporate social responsibility, this bottling company gathered together 40 of the country’s underserved yet deserving college students. They aim to hone the students’ practical 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 was all set to shape, develop, and improve the delegates’ characters and leadership potentials. The camp is expected to be fun filled with lectures, panel discussions, workshops, reflections, and outdoor activities.
And to inspire the campers were generous camp speakers who not only spared time to visit the representatives but share a part of them.
I admired the first speaker, the vivacious Bam Aquino of Hapinoy. Seeing other speakers as experts in 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. 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 kid grows, he demands more from the tree, giving him no contentment, and lonely at the end.
Mr. Aquino then applied the importance of social enterprise in the story. He 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 would make the kid and his community prosperous. And everyone would be happy. The apple tree would still be there standing tall and fruitful in the middle of an abundant apple forest.
This was the very essence of Mr. Aquino’s social enterprise project called Hapinoy. His Hapinoy provides start-up capital for and trains homemakers to start their 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 showed 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 trusts everybody.
I believe in the phrase that real leaders do not command excellence. They build excellence. A true leader radiates excellence as apparently shown on his character. He acts upon good judgment. He decides with a clear conscience. And he stands with an important character. What is the point then with the story of the tramp in Switzerland? If all our government leaders then stand with honorable traits, the people they lead may then be inspired to be just honorable. 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 inspiring. 19-year old Emmanuel Bagual and 2009 CNN Hero of the Year Efren Penaflorida both shared how they grew up “sa dagat ng basura” and stood up to believe in their leadership capacities. They were too eager to push for positive change that they provided an alternate learning program for street children. They 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 Em are leaders. And excellence effortlessly radiates in their personalities and actions. Despite their unwelcoming beginnings, they have proven that one may still be a leader. He just needs to believe in himself, and he has that noble intention to lead, create, and change.
Another important lesson learned during the camp: age is not a barrier to being a great leader. Kesz Valdez, a 12-year-old former street child, proved this and awed us all with his grandiose act of selflessness. He too has his established advocacy group called “Caring Children.” Caring Children aims to help people in the only way Kesz can at his age — raise funds, save money, and play Santa Claus to the needy. He will always be remembered as that young 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.
Leaders for good cause
These incredible 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 I included to becoming catalysts of change. More than 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 the Philippines. As age proves no barrier to lead, create and change, I see today and every day as the perfect time to make that push.
I am committed then to become an active agent for positive change. I am paying forward my lessons learned at the ARC Young Leaders Camp, all for a good cause.
* First published at Mga Pahina ni Msbolin about four years ago, I am reposting this to salute Efren Penaflorida and Bonn Manalaysay as they continuously work tirelessly to make the world a better place. The two are in Atlanta, Georgia. Efren was nominated CNN SuperHero as part of the 10-year celebration of the campaign CNN Hero of the Year. The winner was announced live during Sunday night’s show. And though Efren did not make it, he is to me and to many an outstanding individual who continues to best embody the spirit of a real hero.