MANILA, Philippines - "It's time to build," said 21-year-old Alexandra "Alex" Eduque who founded the Habitat for Humanity Philippines Youth Council in 2010. We ought to build homes, relationships, trust and teams amongst our circles and beyond our circles, said the bright-eyed political science student from Columbia University in New York, who comes home and joins builds every chance she gets.
Indeed, here is a new generation of youth leaders, whose young hearts and idealism, coupled with hard work and sacrifice, take a walk and take a hammer, to build a home for someone else. The problems that occupied their time used to just cover homework, fitness and dating. Now, they take their country's problems as their own too. Together, they brainstorm, meet and donate their own allowances and schedule for those who need it more-the people who have less.
It wasn't hard for Alex, who chairs the Youth Council and has been helping Habitat since she was 16 years old, to make her young, willing and able team of "helpers" grow.
"I've invited my friends to go on builds and they've seen my passion for it. A lot of people really want to help out, they just don't know how, or they're looking for ways to do so. So when you approach them, it's so refreshing to see them, not really go out of their way, but to give what they can, their time to build. For them, it's not the money, it's their time."
Also making time out of her busy academic life is Isabel Martel Francisco, President of the Habitat Youth Council. Isabel is a senior at International School Manila who serves as Editor-in-Chief of her school's NewsFlash Magazine, and has been a volunteer at Virlanie Foundation since 2010. Her devotion to Habitat came from exposure to a Habitat build.
Kevin Yang, the current Habitat Youth Council vice president and a junior at International School Manila, is part of several charities like the Ronald McDonald House charities, UNESCO Global City, and Hands on Manila. Kevin shares some ideas on how other youth can join the charity bandwagon: "The youth can give in any way they can, small or big may it be dropping off old clothes donations for the victims of typhoon sending or going on builds to help the victims themselves. Every action will make a difference."
Simon Tantoco, Habitat Youth Council's communications officer, says "It is important for the youth to be socially aware of the current state majority of the people in our country are, in order for them to change their priorities and look for ways to uplift the lives of those who work the hardest and get paid the least."
"I come from a family who has been doing public service for generations. I see the joy and fulfillment they get whenever they give, and I think I have inherited that trait. It is a mutual feeling between you and the people who you help in Habitat. Whenever you help build their house, you experience the joy and fulfillment their family experiences. This is why every time we have meetings, projects, projects, I look forward to creating ways to help make their lives better," he added.
Pedro T. Roxas, who is Habitat Youth Council's secretary, was inspired by his mom's involvement in Hands On Manila. Now that he has a hand on the Habitat Youth Build himself, he can't contain his excitement. "I believe that it is of crucial importance that the youth of today get involved with charity because it is the youth of today that will be the leaders of tomorrow. If the youth get accustomed to doing charity work at an early age, they will be doing it for the rest of their lives."
These youngsters, from age 18 to 21 now make up the Habitat Youth Council who think of fundraising partnerships and events, and mobilize groups to join builds to help Habitat for Humanity.
They have also organized numerous successful fundraising concerts and events in the past year including the launch of Habitat Watch by Swatch.
Their next event, set tomorrow, January 14, 6pm, at the Greenbelt Fashion Walk is particularly important because in it, they will announce their quest for 2,000 volunteers and as many sponsors as possible to make build homes for 200 families displaced by Typhoon Pedring in Barangay Tanza, Navotas, Manila.
At the said event, Habitat will also announce the Habitat Youth Leaders Movement the Alex Eduque Legacy Project which aims to find and develop 200 youth leaders like Alex to help elevate socially-conscious volunteerism to a whole new level. Habitat will also thank and acknowledge the following schools and sponsors that have partnered with them for this momentous build: Krispy Kreme, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Ralph's Wines, Washington Group of Companies, iFlick Photobooth, and Panasonic. University of the Philippines-Manila, Ateneo de Manila University, University of Sto. Tomas, Rizal Technological University, Technological Institute of the Philippines, Collegio San Juan de Letran will be sending their student leaders.
Habitat Youth Build 2012, which is set on May 12, aims to attract 2,000 Filipino youth volunteers from all over the world to help build homes in the Philippines. The thrust to involve the youth spans through the Asia Pacific region, where students and young professionals in countries like China, India, Indonesia and Thailand are also mobilized to give their time, sweat and networks to advance Habitat's mission and vision.
Joining Alex, Isabel, Pedro, Simon and Kevin as young Habitat advocates are ABS-CBN soap star Matteo Guidicelli, singer and theater actress Cris Villonco, Eugenia Zobel de Ayala, and Alex's and Kevin's sisters, Michaela Eduque and Kay Yang. They join Kris Aquino, Manny Pacquiao, Derek Ramsay, broadcast journalists Karen Davila and Arnold Clavio, TV host Kim Atienza, former beauty queen Margie Moran-Floirendo, and basketball star Chris Tiu as brand ambassadors for Habitat for Humanity.
Habitat for Humanity Philippines (HFHP) is a pioneering non-profit organization that serves Filipino families in need of decent homes. Visit www.habitat.org.ph or www.facebook.com/habitatphilippines for more details.