More than just a good girl

[caption id="attachment_41515" align="alignright" width="389"]ALEXANDRA ‘Alex’ Eduque’s exceptional volunteer work at Habitat for Humanity Philippines leads her to create sustainable programs and eventually win the Most Outstanding Volunteer Award (left) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. ALEXANDRA ‘Alex’ Eduque’s exceptional volunteer work at Habitat for Humanity Philippines leads her to create sustainable programs and eventually win the Most Outstanding Volunteer Award (left) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.[/caption]

It all started with her participation in a school project.

Along with fellow classmates from the International School Manila, then 15-year-old Alexandra Amanda Madrigal Eduque volunteered to help build homes for the poor at a Habitat for Humanity Philippines (HFHP) site in Cavite. The weeklong service learning experience left such an impact that she decided to continue volunteering even after her school project.

While other privileged teenagers spent their two-month summer vacation traveling the world, going shopping, and attending parties, Alex spent hers building houses for the families of Baseco in Tondo. At that time, she felt that she wasn’t just building a roof over their heads but was helping rebuild the lives of the people who were then recovering from a fire.

That meaningful interaction with the HFHP home partners further inspired Alex to get involved and share more of her time. On her 18th birthday, in lieu of gifts, she asked her friends to donate money instead. The funds she raised enabled her to build 18 houses for the poor. Alex has not left Habitat since then, creating programs as its youth ambassador, and later on, as its institutional ambassador.

Eight years later, she found herself winning an international award for her invaluable contribution to HFHP and bringing pride to her country.

[caption id="attachment_41520" align="alignleft" width="346"]INSPIRED by the warmth, and hospitality of the Habitat communities, Alex Eduque continues to organize programs for their holistic growth. At right, Alex is seen with celebrity ambassadors Nash Aguas, Yeng Constantino, and Matteo Guidicelli. INSPIRED by the warmth,
and hospitality of the Habitat communities, Alex Eduque continues to organize programs for their holistic growth. At right, Alex is seen with celebrity ambassadors Nash Aguas, Yeng Constantino, and Matteo Guidicelli.[/caption]

RECORD-BREAKING FEAT

“I’m still in disbelief over my win. I feel like I’m walking on clouds and it’s not real. It’s because I really did not expect it all. It was just so overwhelming to have won the IFC Choice Award, not only because it was the first for the Philippines, but also it was a reassurance that you’re doing the right thing, and you actually have the seal of approval from everyone,” shares Alex, now 23. “When I got onstage, everyone in the room who voted for me was standing up and cheering me on. They did not know me prior to that night. They only knew about my story and Habitat through a two-minute video clip. I was in complete awe of their warmth, definitely one of the best moments of my life.”

Alex is the youngest and first Filipino to win the Most Outstanding Volunteer Award and the top plum, the IFC Choice Award during the 2013 Global Awards for Fundraising in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She is also the first recipient of the latter, besting 12 other finalists in the competition organized by Resource Alliance, a charity group in the United Kingdom.

The Global Awards for Fundraising is the first international awards program that brings together non-government organizations from various countries. Finalists in the categories Big Idea, Small Budget, Innovative Fundraising Campaign, The Global Fundraiser, and Outstanding Volunteer sent a video of their work in their respective organizations and were screened by a panel of judges. The top award was chosen by the 1,000 delegates in the awards ceremony, including the finalists.

According to the jury,  “Alexandra’s voluntary work, spanning advocacy and fundraising, impressed us all through laying the foundations for lasting impact. ” More than that, Alex believes that it is her age which symbolized  the promise of sustainability; and her constant evolution from her involvement with Habitat and her establishment of MOVE.org Foundation that made her win the awards.

“What makes this victory sweeter for me is the testament that God really has a plan, and that He makes things fall into place at the right time. With this whole hullabaloo of pork barrel scams where NGOs have become stigmatized, it’s harder to convince a donor to donate to a worthy, non-bogus NGO. But somehow, I hope I was able to restore the public trust in NGOs even in the slightest bit, and bring back prestige to our country, that no matter what it is going through right now, there are worthy causes that are doing what they are supposed to do,” she says.

BEYOND VOLUNTEERING

While Alex grew up with a lifestyle of the rich and famous, she says that her immersion in Habitat communities made her appreciate life more and discover her capacity to serve to others.

“It was the interaction with the homeowners, and seeing how they were more than content with basic necessities. In fact, a lot of them don’t even have basic necessities. It was their warmth, hospitality, and finding it in themselves to invite you for lunch when all they can serve is one piece of tuyo for 12 children,” she relates.

At 20 years old, Alex founded the HFHP Youth Council with fellow volunteers and children from influential families, Kaye Yang, Isabel Francisco, Henny Zobel de Ayala, and her sister Michaela. Through the council, she has raised over P100 million, built 500 houses, mobilized over 8,000 volunteers, and spearheaded HFHP’s disaster response program which benefitted 28,000 families.

She continued her work in Habitat even while she was finishing her Political Science and Urban Studies degree at Columbia University in New York.

Seeing the need for holistic transformation in the Habitat sites, Alex decided to form her own organization, MOVE.org Foundation in November last year as a partner-in-mission of Habitat.

“Habitat’s mission is to build houses and rebuild lives. They have the building for the houses, but to rebuild lives, I really believe it takes more than housing. Housing is the first and most essential foundation but you need to go over that. One of the ways to do that is through the grassroots level, by providing education. So MOVE.org was founded, aiming to convert daycare centers in poor barangays into preschools so  the children will be more prepared for kindergarten,” she explains. “What gives us a distinct trademark is its multifaceted approach. We educate parents alongside through livelihood, and values formation. It’s really educating a family and moving them up one at a time.”

MOVE.org’s pilot project is a preschool in Navotas, which caters to 50 kids.

EVERYONE’S DUTY

Alex says her philanthropic endeavors were inspired by her family, especially her grandmother who has helped the underprivileged through her own organization, the Chito Madrigal Foundation.

“I’m in awe whenever people think that what I’m doing is something so extraordinary when to us, it’s something that we had to do. It was ingrained in us when we were kids. It was our duty to give back. Now, what’s extraordinary is the amount of time I’ve chosen to give back, and how much of my life I’ve chosen to devote to giving back. I think everyone should do good for the greater good. It’s everyone’s duty,” she says.

Through her own advocacies, Alex hopes to make a name for herself, and achieve beyond what her family has already accomplished.

“For someone who’s born with fortune and blessings, you’re born with that pressure to have to live up to your family name. You can’t disappoint. Any wrong thing you do, someone’s going to pick it up and just stigmatize it forever,” she adds.

Alex calls on fellow youth like her to find ways to share their blessings and help build a better country.

“To the youth out there, find your passion and strike a balance. Start small. All great things start from small beginnings. It doesn’t have to be monetary, you can share your time. Doing good is not just a fad, doing good will never go out of fashion. Even something as small as putting a smile on someone’s face will go a long way. And it doesn’t really matter how much you help out, it’s you actually helping out that matters,” she says.

(This month, Kenneth Cobonpue’s  lamps are being sold for 20 percent off, the proceeds will go to MOVE.org’s programs.)  

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