Saturday, 26 December 2009

Why 2009 wasn’t so bad for our country

By Harvey S. Keh
Manila Bulletin

When one would look back at 2009, images of the gruesome Maguindanao massacre, Typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng, the impending eruption of Mt. Mayon, the Katrina Halili-Hayden Kho sex scandal and political bickerings would dominate the year that is just about to end.

Yet, despite all the negative news and our seeming inability to move forward as a nation, there are also several inspiring and uplifting stories that continue to make us feel proud of being Filipinos.

This year we saw the emergence of Filipino youth-led social enterprises such as Rags2Riches, Hapinoy, Bejeweled and Chains for Change to mention a few. These social enterprises bank on the ingenuity and innovativeness of the Filipino youth towards helping uplift the quality of life of marginalized communities all over the country.

The wonderful thing about social enterprises is that it does not only help solve society’s most pressing problems but more importantly it is able to generate enough profit for these positive changes to become scalable and sustainable.

The Ateneo School of Government has also seen a marked increase in the number of people who are enrolling in its social entrepreneurship program since more and more Filipinos are seeing this as the new way of being able to contribute to nation-building.

As we gear towards the upcoming 2010 national elections, we have also seen youth-led organizations such as Youth Vote Philippines create campaigns and projects that are aimed at encouraging the Filipino youth to register for the upcoming polls.

This campaign was brought to different colleges and universities all over the country and was able to encourage several thousands of first time voters to go out of their way to register. Given that more than 50 percent of our country’s voting population is comprised of Filipinos aged between 18-40 years old, the power of the youth when harnessed properly will be able to actually elect the right kind of leaders for our country. Youth Vote Philippines has also opened an online portal which will enable young Filipinos to access information about the different national candidates who are running in the 2010 elections. This will help all of us choose the kind of government leaders that our country sorely needs.

During the latter part of the year, we were again given pride and honor through the selection of our very own Efren Peñaflorida as this year’s CNNNN Hero of the Year. Efren has shown us that the Filipino youth can become a catalyst for positive change in our country if he or she decides to do so. Through the efforts of Efren and his friends at the Dynamic Teen Company in Cavite, thousands of out of school youth and street children are given proper education thereby giving them a better chance of achieving a better quality of life in the future. Efren’s very humble beginnings have shown that one need not be rich and powerful to be able to become a changemaker in our society.

Finally, this year also saw the bayanihan spirit in action as we have seen during the massive rescue and rehabilitation efforts for the victims of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. Although many of the victims were not known to us, many Filipinos here and abroad went out of their way to share their resources with those who needed it the most. More importantly, we saw young Filipinos taking time to volunteer to sort, pack and deliver the relief goods in the different evacuation centers all over the country. This has shown that amidst great tragedy the Filipino spirit will continue to prevail.

Now, as we enter 2010, I look forward to another year full of stories of hope and inspiration as we enter a crucial time in the history of our young nation. Let these stories of hope in 2009 continue to inspire us to be part of the change that we want to see. Let us work together so that 2010 will not only be a new year for all of us but more importantly a new life and a new beginning for our country.

Harvey S. Keh is director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo School of Government.

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