Different. I embraced the reality of differences. My typical busy school life has never been the same since I joined the Asia Pacific Youth Exchange program. It was never easy at first but so far, I am loving it.
It is one of those rare chances of being chosen to represent your city to join in a very elite and reputable exchange program for the youth all over the Asia Pacific region. Having been selected as the first ever Junior City Mayor of Biñan in 2017, I got the chance to be one of the delegates of the 5th Asia Pacific Youth Exchange – Philippines (APYExPHL) held last January 2018.
The schedule of the exchange program coincided with our school’s College Week. At that moment, I was torn between joining APYExPHL and staying in school for the fair. It was not easy for me to decide since I was the Student Council President. A lot of duties and responsibilities would be left behind if I would join the said program. Then again, I was also the Junior City Mayor and it was my obligation to represent Biñan. I’m glad that I took the challenge of joining the 5th APYE Philippines.
As one of the official delegates, I was granted full access to all APYE’s major components. It was held at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Headquarters in Ortigas. I prepared myself enough for the two-week capacity building program – excused myself in my classes prior to leaving, turned over all the responsibilities for the College Week, and studied the program kit provided by the organizing committee.
The moment that I learned that APYE has been a platform for the most passionate and driven youth leaders, I felt quite excited to attend the program. I disregarded all my worries about the activities that were left in school and focused on the program itself. The Local Immersion is being said to be the heart of the APYE program and I must say that it’s true because I can attest to it. It’s my favorite phase of the program for this was where I got my life-changing experiences.
Throughout the immersion, I was exposed to the realities of Barangay San Antonio in Biñan. In the course of immersion, I acquired a once in a lifetime opportunity of finding out why the SDGs are really relevant today and what can be done to achieve it.
OPEN HEART, OPEN MIND, OPEN WILL
In the span of about two week under the Asia Pacific Youth Exchange Program, I was able to open my heart, mind and will to help and community where we stayed in the aim of also contributing to the fulfillment of SDGs. I was able to open my heart to those people that I wasn’t really familiar with – lived with them, sympathized with them, and stayed with them together with all their hardships. When I finally got along with those people who used to be strangers to me, I then opened my mind that my reality is not the reality of others – things that are normal for me are not normal for them. The things that I value aren’t the things that they value. There are a lot more that I need to see in the community and experience myself. Over all the things that we have gone so far, I finally opened my will to do something to make their lives and situation better.
I willingly offered everything that I could possibly give in order to craft a feasible project proposal for the community that we all started to hold dearly. We already learned to love them and their realities and we wouldn’t want to just leave them like the way when we first met them. We all became driven to make their situation better.
Sitting inside the classroom felt different for me. It gave me a feeling that I radically improved in some ways as a student. My lifestyle became less toxic and I started reacting on things more sensibly. It just proved to me that APYE has done numerous trainings and improvements in me as a person. It obviously empowered me into becoming a better individual who doesn’t only think inside her own reality but also thinks of the world beyond her sphere.
Right now, I am continuing my service in APYE Manila Inc. as part of the APYExPHL 2020 Team. I continue to work and volunteer for APYE despite my busy schedule in school for I believe that I still have a lot more to learn in APYE. I don’t really mind if it may be loads of additional work for me because I look more towards the purpose that it serves – empowering youth to make a difference. It has been also one of my personal advocacies. It is really such a great experience seeing the different realities in the lives of people whether it may be comfortable or uncomfortable for me. I learned how to appreciate the things that I have more than ever.
APYE made a great impact on me. It showed and let me experience the beauty of things that I haven’t really imagined myself doing like opening my heart, mind, and will to those people whom I wasn’t familiar with. The program also stirred in to me that I shouldn’t just love them like that and leave them in the same situation when I first met them. I need to do something to make their situation better.
I am forever grateful for all the experiences and I will never ever get tired of paying it forward. I trusted the process and so here I am today – I am an Empowered Champion of the Asia Pacific Youth Exchange!