The Cebu City Youth Affairs Office is staging International Youth Day today, and joining in the celebration is the nonprofit organization Basadours, which started out as a group of volunteer storytellers.
Youth participation in nation-building is crucial in how this country moves forward. Invited to take part of this annual event are youth organizations from different sectors, so I encourage everyone to drop by the City Hall grounds to visit the booths and get to know them more.
Members of the Basadours, which hold storytelling sessions and literacy development initiatives all over Cebu and its neighboring towns and provinces, were talking about how our booth will look like when my mind wandered to my student-leader days at the University of the Philippines Cebu College.
Before UP Cebu, I came from a Catholic school called St. Peter’s College of Ormoc in Leyte, and I was more of the nerd kid than the student leader. High school was challenging, so I promised myself I am going to expose myself to “everything” in college.
UP made that possible. As far as my 30-year-old memory can take me, I was an officer and member of 13 organizations ranging from course-related to advocacy related groups (e.g. LGBT, human rights, hometown, socio-political and socio-civic/education).
I was juggling academics and co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, a job that many student and youth leaders have been doing for decades. It was not always easy, but I look back to those days without regret.
I was pretty competitive and participated in various searches which awarded outstanding students and leaders. I won some and lost some. These episodes taught me to be better in what I do and what I want to become.
Between 2005 and 2007, I was a recipient of various conferences, congresses and summits. Every student leader knows what I am talking about: free trainings, free food, free travel, free accommodation. Plus you earn the bragging rights of being your university’s representative to prestigious events.
A banner/tarp is displayed within the school premises to honor you and your heart swells from pride because everyone knows the brilliant person that is you — and that’s multiplied 10 times or so depending on how many events or awards you attended or obtained.
During the recent Central Visayas formation program of the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines (TOSP), I discussed this matter with my fellow TOSPians and I told them that it was a good experience to be in the limelight and to see people applauding and cheering you on. Don’t we all, at some point, love the attention?
But the true measure of being outstanding — or being a youth leader for that matter — does not stop with the award or the recognition. It is what you do and continue to do 10, 20, 30 years down the road.
An award is never a culmination of what you do. It is not the pinnacle of success. Instead, it should encourage you to do more. I told my mother once that I am scared every time I get an award because people expect more from me and I am under the scrutiny of people who would be very happy to see me fail.
“Youth leader| is not a title; it is a responsibility that should be fulfilled with sincerity, passion and perseverance. In more than a decade of being one, I have met different types of youth leaders and I can now tell which ones are fake and which ones are sincere. I can see and smell them in the same manner that I can distinguish fake news from the legitimate stories. I hate it when youth leaders or youth organizations craft projects with the goal of getting an award. UP taught me “service before recognition.”
This is why being part of the Basadours bring me pride and joy.
We do what we do out of service and love.
What we do is simple: we tell and share stories and we make children happy. It is not easy especially when you have to manage 200 children at the same time. Then you see their faces light up when they find the story interesting and they ask questions afterwards (or write stories!), and we just know we’ve connected with them somehow.
The challenge now is to train more people to be storytellers and for them to understand how the entire business of storytelling to children works.
So a kind note to youth leaders: Do not stop thinking, crafting, organizing projects. But make sure that these projects are relevant to the community.
Do not just create projects that make you feel good. Initiate projects which do good and make good to the community.