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Finding Yourself and Others: Life Advice from Filipino Youth Advocacy Leaders

The youth leaders of Collab: Pitch Day’s advocacy panel

Reposted from our Medium account.

The youth are building the future.

This is the belief that guides Developh in all their projects, especially Collab: a by-students, for-students accelerator creating technology with mission-based organizations. It was launched last August 24 with Pitch Day, a one-day event where both students and advocates explore the intersection of technology and social good through ideation, community dialogues, hacking, and capacity-building.

One of Pitch Day’s events was an advocacy panel, where five youth leaders from various sectors were invited to speak about how they’re leading innovation and different movements. With added questions from the audience, the discussion included not only their advocacies, but also their life advice as well.

Below is a list of the panelists’ biographies, along with a summary of their answers.


The Panelists

Tia Narciso, Girl Power International

Advocacies: Women’s Rights, Education

Tia Narciso is a co-facilitator of Girl Power International Philippines. She is currently a student (taking up BS Psychology) at the University of the Philippines Diliman. Apart from this, she is a leader who is deeply passionate in the fields of medicine, literacy, and digital minimalism. With this, she has led numerous projects including the UP Psychology Society’s DIWA: Children’s Fair for Children with Special Needs and Soldier On: A holistically educational campaign for military orphans.

Macy Lee, Talang Dalisay

Advocacies: Mental Health

Macy Lee is a 17 year old speaker, writer, and activist. She founded Talang Dalisay, an accredited mental health non-profit here in the Philippines by the National Youth Commission and Mental Health Innovation Network based in London & Geneva. The organization has over 200+ members and 20+ partnerships with other NGO’s and schools. Currently, she is an incoming freshman at UC Davis this fall taking up international relations & economics.

Qjiel Mariano, Streets to Schools

Advocacies: Education, Children’s Rights

Qjiel founded Streets to Schools (STS) when he was only 15 years old. STS is a youth-led initiative actively advocating the children and youth’s role in fulfilling the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Change takes a long time, which is why it is important to start young, more so for the underprivileged. He believes that everyone should be included in protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all by year 2030 and beyond.

Bianca Aguilar, Developh

Advocacies: Youth innovation, Technology, Design

Bianca Aguilar is an artist and designer passionate about the intersection of technology + humanity. As a creative, she develops visuals to empower inclusive advocacies, such as feminism (Woman, Create) and mental health (Likha, Liwanag). She is also the Chief Marketing Officer of Developh: a global non-profit investing in student-led innovation to break the technology gap. Currently, she’s taking up AB Interdisciplinary Studies (CS Programming & Information Design) at Ateneo de Manila University.

Nicole Melisse, Redefy Philippines

Advocacies: Teen social justice management, Children’s rights, Education

Nicole Melisse A. Campos is the Pioneer and Chapter Director of Redefy Philippines. She grew up at the foot of the majestic Mt. Makiling, at the age of 17 she flew to New York to pursue her career of becoming a diplomat. Earlier this year, she has been to Yale University and Harvard University where she won the championship in the Social Impact Challenge of the Model United Nations, which led to the founding of “Redefy Philippines.” Currently, she is a freshman at the University of the Philippines Los Banos, Laguna under the College of Development Communication. Her passion for social justice and equity is ignited by the protest culture of the community she grew up in.


The Discussion

For those who haven’t found their advocacy, how do you pick the “one”?

  • Find an issue that resonates with you. Note the word resonate. An advocacy is a commitment; if you want to work on it, you must care about it, to the point that you spend most of your time on it. “How can you lead an organization when you don’t understand it completely?” Nicole said. If you still can’t find an issue you’re passionate about, she recommends volunteering. Try it out; you may discover your calling through serendipity.
  • Consider your past and future. In order to find your advocacy, Macy emphasized the importance of introspection. The people around you can be an inspiration. For example, she started caring about mental health because of her past: her autistic brother. In her future, she aims to understand how social media works alongside mental health. Both her past and future is integrated into her work for Talang Dalisay, whose services include autism scholarships and online campaigns.
  • Ask the right questions. As an advocate of quality education, Qjiel recommends learning about ikigai, the Japanese concept that means “reason for being”. When answering the 4-circle venn diagram, you have to ask yourself questions like “What are you good at?” and “What does the world need?”. When you learn about yourself and the world, you’ll find your raison d’être.
  • Follow your gut feeling. If you feel like you don’t know yourself well enough to find your own advocacy, Bianca advised to not take your hobbies and likes for granted; there could be advocacies hidden in them. For instance, she discovered her interest in mental health through true-crime documentaries. The way you spend your spare time defines who you are as a person.

How to win your friends/build a community?

  • Start out with volunteer work. Nicole said it was demanding at first, but it eventually became fun. Because of this, she told others she knew about her experience since there weren’t a lot of opportunities available in their area. They ended up joining her as well. Now, she has friends to talk to about advocacy in general.
  • Be a good storyteller. Speaking from his experience heading the non-profit Streets to Schools, Qjiel stated that gaining fame is near impossible. To get people’s attention, he had to prioritize them; this was the basis of planning the org’s activities. When people feel like they’re part of a bigger picture, they’ll get involved for sure.
  • Network through the use of schools and social media. Thanks to student ambassadors in numerous high schools around the Philippines, Talang Dalisay’s recruitment process was able to get a widespread reach. Macy also stressed the importance of checking who’s viewing your business profile (i.e. Linkedin); one of those people can be your next collaborator. Whenever Talang Dalisay got to collaborate with other nonprofits (like Developh!), she got to update them with the org’s advocacy (and vice versa).
  • Pay attention to every human connection you meet. Whether classmate or stranger, everyone has potential; Tia said that you’ll never know when you’ll collaborate with them on future projects. Make yourself easily findable online so that they can reach out to you anytime.

Raw piece of advice/call to action for the audience?

  • Keep going. It’s painful to reach out to multiple people only to get no response (like in cold emailing). Bianca said that there’ll always be someone who’ll say yes; you just have to find them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Consistency is the key to everything. No matter how little it is, what you do each day will build up to something big. If something happens, Nicole’s advice was to not let anything slow you down. Through consistency, goals are achieved.
  • Utilize your influence for good. You have more influence than you think. So instead of confusing people, educate them. Qjiel summarized this into the word “eduACTION”: using knowledge to persuade people to take action.
  • Tap on the unconventional. “It may be scary, but just go for it,” Macy said. If she didn’t take the leap of faith to turn her blog into an organization, Talang Dalisay wouldn’t have been able to help many people. So go for what scares you, because it will for sure change you.
  • Be self-aware. Know what you value and what you envision the world to be. According to Tia, that knowledge is the start of your influence as a person. When you know yourself well, you’ll be able to attract like-minded people.

Want to learn more?

To learn more about the panelists’ organizations, check out the links below:

Special thanks to the following people: 1.) Aryan Arora and Harvey Jay Sison for moderating the advocacy panel 2.) Glen Dellera and Angelica Casuela for documentation 3.) Gwen Ang, Benjamin Amper IV, and Rafael Maderazo for taking notes

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