NEVER TOO YOUNG TO LEAD

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.

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YLEAD participants had to cross the “Spider Web” without touching the wires. Once a teammate touches the wire all of them have to repeat the process.

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.

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Barangay  Tibag group plans for their YLEAD project

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.

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REGAINING SELF-CONFIDENCE

by Glenda B. Gutierrez
 
At the age of 15, Rachelle Cruz had to stop her formal education because “I got pregnant and got married.” Rachelle, still a teenager at 19, is very candid about. Yet one can sense regret in her voice.
 
She has reached the second level of high school and she is determined that the change of her marital status would not be a barrier. She knew that she has her whole life ahead of her and the lack of education would not stop her from dreaming of a better life.
 
Rachelle admitted that she lost her self-confidence when she got pregnant. She thought her future would be bleak. She said her mother, who is into direct selling of beauty products, supported her financially.
 
But Rachelle is a resourceful person. She buys goods from Divisoria, a business center in Manila, and sells them online.
 
“I earn enough for my baby’s milk,” narrates Rachelle.
 
Rachelle and her friend, Jonalyn Villaruel, were among those who enrolled in the Alternative Learning System (ALS) Program of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) at the St. Peter United Methodist Church (UMC) in Navotas City.
 
She was among the youth who were visited by staff members of Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) to promote ALS.
 
“I enrolled in ALS because I want to have a well-paying and stable job,” says Rachelle.
 
Despite the difficulties due to her second pregnancy, she persevered. She studied at home whenever she was unable to go to class. She was advised by her doctor to rest near when her due date neared.
 
She initially thought that she would not pass the Accreditation and Equivalency Examination. That was how low her self-esteem was. Drawing inspiration from her children, she studied hard, reviewing thoroughly for the exam. Imagine her joy upon the knowing the results.
 
She is passed the entrance examination and interview of the Don Bosco TVET Center for the Bookeeping course of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). Their classes will start this November 2016. She plans to look for a job to save for a college education. She dreams of putting up her own business or a restaurant.
 
Rachelle is slowly but surely regaining her self-confidence that she once lost.

FOR THE LOVE OF GRANDMA

by Glenda B. Gutierrez

 

“The Alternative Learning System (ALS) will help me get a better-paying job with which I would be able to help my family. ALS would also widen my knowledge,” says Mark Anthony Tado, 16, in Filipino.

Mac, as he is fondly called, enrolled in the ALS of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) in Tondo, Manila because he wanted to finish his studies. He learned about the program from his grandmother who frequents the Barangay Hall to avail of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the government.

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Mark Anthony Tado left with batchmate Ian Leonardo Sabdao

Mac grew up with his grandparents. His mother, Laila is now living in Bacolod and has her own family. Mac has three half-siblings.

He stopped schooling after the second level of high school due to financial constraints. Both his grandparents are no longer working.

Mac idolizes his grandmother, Lola Anlay, whom he considers his inspiration. She took care of him despite her ailment. She is the reason why he refrained from bad habits and vices. He hopes to earn to help his Lola soon.

Mac admitted that his cousins did not believe he will not be able to pass the Accreditation and Equivalency examination. He even thought of giving up the ALS to take care of his grandmother.

But he really wanted to finish his studies. So he persevered and did his best. His folder which is full essays and mock tests is a testament to his dedication.

Mac wanted to become either a seaman or a basketball player who is included in the roster of a team included in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), the premier professional league in the country.

But first, he said he wanted to get a college diploma from the University of the East (UE) then work hard so he can buy a house and a car of his own. But before that, he knew he has to take a more practical and realistic step– enroll in a Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) course, have a job the soonest possible time, earn and save.

Mac will do whatever it take to offer the best for his grandparents, especially Lola Anlay.

PERSEVERANCE IS THE KEY

by Glenda B. Gutierrez

 

Jay Legarda of Malabon City was forced to stop studying because he had to work and help the financially strapped family. It was a decision that he had to make with a heavy heart.

But deep inside him, there is a gnawing realization of a truth in the worldly and capitalistic reality we are in—only education can get anyone a better-paying and stable job. If he could only reach this point, the poverty that his family is trapped would give him and everyone he loves an all-important respite.

The 22-year-old young man knew that his attention and efforts must focus on his education and on how to finish his studies.

Then he learned about the Alternative Learning System (ALS) Program of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) through his brother, Rolegie, who attended. It was a blessing! Now, he has a chance to finish his high school studies as soon as possible and at the same time continue assisting his family financially.

Deriving inspiration from his parents and girlfriend, Jay was more than determined to pass ALS. Just like other ALS students who were able to pass, he must persevere. He knew that was the key to success—perseverance.

“I borrowed and read the modules and answered the sample questionnaires there. I learned how to write essays correctly. I also read and re-read the questions to make sure I understood them during the Accreditation and Equivalency (A & E) examination,” Jay said.

He added: “Because of my preparations, I somehow knew I would pass.”

Then, came the day of reckoning. Despite the confidence, the jitters and the butterflies in his stomach would not go away. The moment he learned that he successfully hurdled the test, the joy was indescribable!

“There were thousands who took the A & E exam and I was one of the few who passed,” he said.

Jay never thought of giving up because he knew “no one succeeds by giving up.” He thanked the Almighty God for guiding and giving him wisdom. He knew God is faithful.

Now, he plans to enroll in a Welding Course at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to get a national certification. He plans to work and save in order to get a criminology degree in a university.

Indeed, career and financial success is within sight. Everything is different now. A year ago, this wasn’t so, when everything was foggy and Jay was not sure where to go to reach his destination.

Perseverance did and Jason knew it.

 

CORRECTING ONE’S MISTAKES

by Glenda B. Gutierrez

 

“They are my inspiration,” declares 23-year-old Jonalyn C. Villaruel, referring to her two lovely children.

She was in her third year in high school when she dropped out of school early, blaming this misfortune on early pregnancy and bad influence of peers. However, she refused to accept that having a family that she had to care for was a hindrance in finishing her education.

Then, a life-changing blessing from God came into her life. It came in the form of three staff members of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) who visited her in her house. They told her about the Foundation’s Alternative Learning System (ALS) Program.

Jonalyn’s “angels”—former KKFI Community Development Worker Arvin Reyes, St. Peter United Methodist Church (UMC) Coordinator Ana Martin and former KKFI Instructional Manager Lovely Joie Orgado–convinced the young mother to try ALS.

They did not need to take too much effort, though. Jhona immediately enrolled because she immediately realized that ALS was the answer to her prayer. But it was not all bed of roses for Jhona.

“Nahihirapan po ako sa pag-aasikaso ng anak ko. Kapag may pasok po sa ALS ay isinasama ko na lang po sa St. Peter. Pagdating ng 4:30 o 5:00 p.m., nagpapaalam na po ako kasi magsusundo pa po ako ng anak sa eskwelahan,” she relates. (I would bring my youngest child to class with me because I found it difficult to look for someone to take care of my child. I also would ask permission to leave the class early to pick up my eldest from school)

She learned to manage her time the most efficient way in order to cope. Whenever she was not able to attend classes, she made sure that she reviewed the lessons at home. She also read modules during her free time.

She was ecstatic upon learning that she passed the Accreditation and Equivalency examination given by the Department of Education last April 17, 2016. Now, she is planning to enroll in college and find a good-paying job for her family.

When asked if she is ready to reach her goals, she answered: “Handa na po dahil sayang ang pahanon.”

Jhona is currently completing the requirenents for a 15-month training in bookkeeping at the Don Bosco TVET Center in Tondo, Manila and to be certified by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). She hopes to be a Certified Public Accountant someday. Their classes start November 2016.

Indeed, one’s mistakes can be corrected. Jhona is now steering her life to a brighter future.

ANSWERED PRAYER

by Rolly Boy Rejano

Translated by Glenda B. Gutierrez

 

“My name is Rolly Boy R. Rejano. I am 17 years old and I live in Tondo, Manila. I describe myself as a happy, simple, helpful, respectful, loving, and shy guy.

“My mother is Racquel Rejano, 34, a food vendor and my father is Rolando Rejano, 39, a jeepney driver. I am the eldest of three children. My siblings are Ledielyn Mae and Ruby Lance.

“Life is not easy but my parents continue to persevere to earn a living. Somehow, they are able to provide our daily needs.

“Despite the daily provisions, I lost focus and was influenced by my friends to cut classes and later on stop schooling altogether. I even had vices then.

“I almost lost hope, but two years later, I learned about the Alternative Learning System (ALS) Program of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. in our Barangay Hall. I really wanted to finish my studies so I enrolled in the program.

“ALS is not easy. I persevered and studied hard. I was really determined to pass so no thoughts of giving up entered my mind.

“What I did to pass the Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) examination was, first, I prayed, second, I reviewed and last, I focused on understanding the test questions so I could answer them correctly.

“And my prayers were answered by Jesus. Indeed, I was very happy to know that I passed the A&E exam. Now, I can slowly but surely achieve my dreams. I plan to continue my studies to become a seaman someday. This has always been my dream since I was a child. My inspirations are my parents and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“I want to earn enough money for my family. I know everyone wishes to have a better life. But this is my promise to parents.

“I am ready to face the challenges in life.  I know Jesus is faithful and will guide and give me wisdom. In His time, I will achieve my dreams.”

Turning his back on his ‘barkada’, drugs

by Glenda B. Gutierrez

 

Jacinto Jason Rigo, 20, is from the town of Tumauini in the province of Isabela, which is located north of Luzon. He is the youngest of six children. He moved to Navotas City to attend the Alternative Learning System (ALS) classes of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) that were being conducted in St. Peter United Methodist Church (UMC). This came about because his sister, Mary Jane, last March, prodded him to.

Financing his studies was not the main obstacle for Jason since the family could get by, albeit with only a little difficulty. His father, Pacifico, is a farmer who owns a small land that he himself cultivates. Jason stopped schooling for a reason other than money, or the lack of it.

He dropped out of school because he chose to prioritize his “barkada” (group of friends) above his studies. He loved hanging out with his friends that he thought going to school has become an unnecessary distraction. So he got only to finish Level 3 of high school at the Tumauini National High School.

Due to the influence of his friends, he experimented with drugs. But it did not take up a lot time before he realized that he was destroying his life. He know he got to get off drugs. He overcame this problem and vowed to turn his life around.

That’s when he heeded the advice of her sister. Jason was determined to finish school saying, “If I am not successful in passing the Accreditation and Equivalency (A & E) examination, I will look for a job and repeat ALS.”

He took his studies seriously this time by reading modules at home. He also did his homeworks and practiced essay-writing.

With his passing the A & E, his family is overjoyed. It is the culmination of his hard work. Jason is now back in his province and undergoing training on welding at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). He hopes to work abroad upon completing the course.

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Jason Rigo (front, first from left)

With the opportunities open to him, however, he is at a quandary. He now has to decide whether to work abroad or finish college. Those two options were not grim at all. Each holds a promise that can prove beneficial to Jason in the long run.

Yes! One can turn around one’s life. Jason is a testament to that.