by Rex M. Dayao
I was on my way home one night of October 2016 when the jeepney that I am riding suddenly stopped. Three men had been shot dead. They, according the police, were drug users and pushers.
Drug users and pushers are considered the main culprits for crimes and illegal acts in the Philippines. While a part of me was at peace knowing that there were three less criminals in my community, I cannot help but worry about the lives that were lost because of not being given the opportunity to change, or perhaps given another option.
Our passionate President, Rodrigo Duterte launched a “war on drugs” with the fear of our country being a narcotic state. Since the launch, at least a million of Filipinos, majority are youth, have surrendered and are now being rehabilitated through a multi-sectoral approach.
More than 30 million Filipinos are in the age of 15-35. At least 20 million were not able to finish schooling and have limited access for jobs, or have no jobs at all. The lack of options gives these youth the ample time to engage on vices, gang wars or drug abuse.
This is the rationale that inspired Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc (KKFI) to develop a program that provides opportunities for the youth to learn about leadership, education, advocacy and development.
Youth, Lead and Advocate for Development (YLEAD) is a program that enables the youth to be a catalyst of change in their respective communities.
YLEAD was launched in September 2015 and was attended by 75 young leaders from communities in Manila and Bulacan. The seven groups were able to implement projects in their respective communities, to address challenges in education, economic and environmental concerns. It is good to note that majority of our Alternative Learning System passers undergo the YLEAD training, thus making the training relevant in shaping young leaders.
On its second year, the program team identified seven mentors composed of KKFI staff and Global Mission Fellows. To aid in facilitating the YLEAD Camp, 22 young facilitators applied and were competently trained to assist the mentors and co-participants.
Last October 25-28, 2016, 85 young leaders gathered at Gilead Training Center in Pulilan, Bulacan to learn more about themselves, their peers and their respective communities.
Ms. Nancy C. Nicolas, KKFI Executive Director opened the training by relaying her story of leadership. She said that her mother exposed her to national trainings provided by the United Methodist Church. Said experience propelled her to be the National President of United Methodist Youth Fellowship of the Philippines (UMYFP).
She told young leaders to never stop initiating change and believe in themselves amidst challenges.
The training was highlighted with the seven core groups presenting their community projects which aimed to provide people in their communities the knowledge and services they need to have a better life.
Axel Supleto, one of the participants said, “YLEAD is life-changing. I am thankful that I was able to attend. I was able to know myself better and I have the opportunity to do something for my community.”
While many fall victim of drugs and lack of opportunities, KKFI tries to find ways to create options out of challenges. YLEAD is a program that unleashes the power of the youth to be involved and prove to everyone that they are never too young to lead.