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Blogs and Op-Eds by the Youth Co:lab team and contributors from our extensive network of changemakers. 

  • Writer's pictureYouth Co:Lab

A million, pretty please?

by Billy Joe Maamo

Billy Joe Maamo was one of the finalists in Youth Co:Lab's Survive to Thrive blog competition.

You read the title right. And I’m not kidding around.  Let me tell you a story. Imagine this… I was riding on a jeepney on my way to Ermita, Manila, while trying to fight the everyday dilemma of blaring horns of vehicles; the tension of traffic jam fighters made  even worse by the sweat and humidity of the afternoon madness brought about by the scorching heat of the sun.  Then suddenly, two young kids got into the jeepney and handed every passenger a white envelope while uttering the words “pangkain lang po”. They were wearing old, dirty rugged clothes and singing a song that was very familiar to me.

One of them was not even wearing slippers. I think one kid was around nine and the other was around five years old. I could sense that they had not eaten their breakfast yet because they looked pale.

Seeing the hopelessness in the eyes of these kids, I couldn’t help but to ask myself “Why does society tolerate this culture of apathy and allow such kind of drastic living for these kids at such a young age? Where are their parents who are obliged to fill their starving stomachs or send them to school? How about the government, what do they do to at least lessen the number of children battling with the everyday crises of life? Who’s solely responsible and who is really to blame?

First stop: Kanlungan sa Erma, Malate, Manila

It’s time to give back to the community. Honestly speaking, I was very hesitant at first to partake in this cause because it was my first time to be involved in an outreach program and I had the feeling that it was some sort of mandatory deed just to comply with school requirements. But every thought I had entirely changed when I encountered these brave young souls.

Believe me, the two-hour stay with these kids was surreal. It felt like they were on seventh heaven and I saw it in their sparkling eyes. They even performed a special number for us students. We ate, played, and bonded with them. But my favorite part was the moment where everybody had the chance to share their dreams and stories. Hearing them for the first time, I found myself sobbing and weeping tears coming down my cheeks. Words can’t even explain the feeling I had at that very moment.

After our visit to Kanlungan sa Erma, I realized that one of the best things that someone will receive in every outreach is the genuine smiles plastered across the faces of these kids – truly a feast for one’s heart and soul. It somehow reminded me that we could be heroes in other people’s lives even just for a day.

Second stop: Home sweet home

I was a bit tired but completely blissful due to what I had experienced earlier that day. My mind was filled with the idea of reaching out to these helpless kids. But I don’t know where and how I would begin. It hit me hard and made me realize that I was lucky enough to have food on my table, a decent wardrobe, and an opportunity to study and be somebody someday. Then I closed my eyes for a while.

Last stop: Dreamland

I became a youth advocate for these kids. I had a million in my hand and started by building a small community for deprived children where they had the chance to learn in a four-cornered classroom. It was so perfect. Everything fell into place. They were so happy learning and growing and becoming somebody they only dreamt about.

Until I was awaken by the snooze of my alarm clock. It was just a dream, a crazy dream of mine. How I wish it could be real.

Now in the gasp of reality:

I now know what I need. I certainly need a million! Not really monetary in value but a million of combined micro-efforts of concerned youths like you and me. A million of small actions will ignite one vision towards attaining social development goals. Let’s direct our energies in volunteering and reaching out to more people who find themselves in need in today’s generation. Or maybe, just like in my dream, we could build schools and restore orphanages which will transform, hone young minds, and prepare them for the future. This is the only chance they got and if we ignore it today, the hope of our homeland might be elusive in the years to come.

Indeed, the realization of this dream is not going to happen overnight. I hope someday we can turn this vision into reality. I know, for certain, they will be eternally grateful for this cause with a million dollar smiles on their faces in exchange for our kindness. Let’s act now, pretty-please?

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