MANILA, Philippines – Two Filipinos were among those named as Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP), an annual search by the Junior Chamber International (JCI), otherwise known as the Jaycees.
They are Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, president of MicroVentures, a social enterprise known for the multi-award-winning program Hapinoy; and Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvaña, Assistant Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines Manila, also known for his work with HIV/AIDS patients in the Philippines.
Aquino and Salvaña are joining 8 other outstanding young individuals from Botswana, Catalonia, Ireland, Madagascar, the Maldives, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. They will be awarded at the JCI World Congress in Taipei, Taiwan on November 20, 2012.
The awarding ceremonies will coincide with the organization’s 30th anniversary celebration.
In its website, the JCI said that “Although much has changed in the past 30 years, the 2012 JCI TOYP honorees represent the same values as those chosen in 1983 — service, determination and action through adversity to create a better world.”
The winners were determined after a worldwide selection process that included online voting of 20 finalists. According to the JCI website, over 15,000 votes were cast and finalists were once more subjected to a judging panel. After that, “Ten young active citizens were selected for their exemplary service to their communities and the world.”
Aquino: Helping people help themselves out of hardship
Aquino is being recognized for his “business, economic and/or entrepreneurial accomplishment” and for having “developed a sense of hard work, compassion and a desire to help people help themselves out of hardship.”
He graduated summa cum laude, valedictorian and university student council president from the Ateneo de Manila University in 1999. A few years later, he was appointed as Chairman of the National Youth Commission in 2003. In 2007, he and business partner Mark Ruiz founded Microventures, Inc., a social enterprise that supports micro-financing institutions to provide business development opportunities for the poor.
The firm became known for the Hapinoy Program, a social enterprise that offers an innovative twist on the sari-sari store concept to help poor nanays gain cheaper access to goods, training and support systems.
The JCI website points out: “The program helps local shops grow through business aggregation and personal development programs for the employees. Aquino’s philosophy on how to alleviate poverty focuses on making the people self-sufficient and giving them the tools and skills to produce sustainable solutions to issues in their communities.”
In 2010, Aquino was chosen as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) for the category Social Enterprise and Community Development. For their work in Hapinoy, both Aquino and Ruiz were named one of the PLDT SME Bossings, GoNegosyo’s Inspiring Young Entrepreneurs and Asian Social Entrepeneur of the Year by the World Economic Forum’s Schwab Foundation for Social Enteprises.
In 2012, Aquino represented the country as a panelist at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Upon learning of his inclusion into this year’s list of honorees, Aquino said in Filipino, “Napakalaking karangalan po na makabilang sa natatanging grupong ito. Ang ating mga kapwa kabataan mula sa iba’t-ibang bahagi ng mundo ang nagpapanalo sa atin at kay Dr. Edsel, at ipinakita nila ang kanilang tiwala sa kakayahan ng mga Pilipino.
“Ang buhay ng isang social entrepreneur ay hindi madali, pero paminsan-paminsan ‘pag merong ganitong pagkilala, gumagaan nang konti ang pasanin.”
He added, “This award is a validation of our work and a needed pat on the back. It means for us to go on and keep fighting, not to rest on our laurels.
“This award is dedicated to my co-founders at Hapinoy and other Filipino social entrepreneurs, the numerous youth groups that remain silent in their service and continue to inspire and, of course, ang aking mga bayani, ang mga Nanays ng Hapinoy.”
Salvaña: Passion for protecting others
Meanwhile, Salvaña is being recognized for “humanitarian and/or voluntary leadership… for his extraordinary work in awareness and treatment of HIV/AIDS.”
He completed his undergraduate studies in Biology, magna cum laude, at the University of the Philippines Diliman in 1996, and went on to pursue a medical degree at the UP College of Medicine, that he completed in 2001.
He then went on to study Internal Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine at the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
He became part of the Adjunct Faculty for Global Health at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but he soon found his homeland calling.
In 2008, Salvaña came home as a “Balik Scientist” of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
According to his profile in the JCI website, “Upon Dr. Salvana’s return to the Philippines, he discovered an increase of HIV/AIDS cases in his home country. He immediately took action and started a vigorous awareness and research campaign long before the Philippine government officially recognized the epidemic.”
The JCI website continues: “His early detection of the disease spurred government agencies to make HIV/AIDS policy a priority and initiated positive changes regarding testing and treatment. Dr. Salvana has since taken his campaign global, delivering educational, action-oriented speeches about the epidemic to the United Nations and the United States Peace Corps. Locally, he treats HIV/AIDS patients at the Philippine General Hospital and established the first Philippine HIV/AIDS fellowship program to increase care for the disease.”
In 2010, Salvaña — along with Aquino — was chosen as one of the 2010 Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM). In that same year, he was named by the National Academy of Science and Technology as the Outstanding Young Scientist for 2010, for his work in tropical medicine.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be selected as a TOYP World Awardee,” Salvaña said in an online interview. “This year, over 150 TOYM/TOYP (Ten Oustanding Young Men/Ten Outstanding Young Persons) country winners were nominated from all over the world, and to be selected over so many other outstanding young people who have made a significant difference in their own communities is overwhelming.
“I think that what makes an advocate effective is the urge to fix a problem or change something for the better because one feels it is the right thing to do.
“My job as a doctor is to try to save lives, and I felt that HIV was killing young Filipinos. So I was really just trying to fix a problem that I was trained to address,” Salvaña continued.
“The difference was that aside from practicing medicine, this entailed going out and increasing awareness through media and, of all things, producing a rock concert. It’s nice to get recognized for going the extra mile, but I was really just addressing the problem as effectively as I could. Having been selected for the award, I fully intend to use the extra publicity to push for more HIV awareness and to make sure that no more Filipinos die from HIV.”
A global search for “young active citizens (creating) positive impact”
The annual search for Ten Outstanding Young Persons honors 10 outstanding young persons under the age of 40.
“Whether through service, innovation, determination or revolutionary thinking, these young active citizens create positive impacts on a local and global level,” the JCI website says.
The JCI is a global membership-based non-profit organization of “young active citizens aged 18 to 40 who are dedicated to creating positive change in their communities.” It is present in over 5,000 communities across more than 100 countries worldwide. – Rappler.com