CNN hero champions mentorship in young leaders camp
Whoever said that treasures are hidden in the garbage could not have predicted what lay in store for Efren Peñaflorida. The driving force behind Dynamic Teen Company’s Kariton Klasrum and 2009 CNN hero, “Kuya Ef” was one of the most-anticipated speakers at the first-ever ARC (Asiawide Refreshments Corporation) Young Leaders Camp conducted recently in Antipolo City.
Efren’s difficult past—growing up in the slums near Cavite’s open-pit dumpsite and cemetery—is a gripping story in itself. And yet what made the camp participants (composed of freshman and sophomore college students) greet him like a rock star is that not only has he overcome the odds, he is humbly yet grandly paying it forward through an alternative classroom project that is now being replicated in different parts of the country, and soon in Indonesia.
Starting small and facing great odds are things that ARC, the licensed Philippine distributor of RC Cola, knows well. A young leader in the soft drinks industry, the company, for almost nine years now, has been harnessing its strength of knowing the market intimately, engaging in relationships instead of transactions, and helping to safeguard nature. On the way to becoming the world’s most successful bottler of RC Cola, ARC has provided career growth prospects to deserving high school students who were otherwise living dead-end realities; they are currently employed in supervisory positions within ARC.
The story of Kuya Ef and others like him underscore the importance of mentorship as part of the process of growing up a leader.
With the clarion call, “Lead, Create, Change,” the ARC Young Leaders Camp put together the most potentially capable future leaders and gave them the opportunity to develop their capabilities through engagement activities and to learn values from positive role models.
The reality is that for every ‘dementor’ a troubled child encounters, there’s a compassionate teacher or parent who can mentor and help turn things around for the individual.
Resource speaker Emanuel Bagual or “Kuya Em,” a wise 19-year old, about the same age as the camp participants, and already heads an offshoot advocacy group, MY Rights or Mind Your Rights, recalls growing up “sa dagat ng basura”. Though Eman struggled so much, so young, he realized that there were people who actually cared and recognized his worth. The man dreams of becoming a lawyer so he can help save more kids in peril.
Kuya Ef and his fellow hero-leaders are considered successful by today’s standards despite their bleak beginnings. Yet they know from experience that the true measure of success depends not so much on the number of achievements one has attained but in believing that you are success.
This celebration of the uniqueness of individuals is the very same code that the RC Cola brand lives by and is an underlying principle of the legacy that the company seeks to build in the country.
Embracing one’s self is also remarkably demonstrated through 11-year-old leader, Chris “Kez” Valdez, who was also a speaker at the youth camp. Truly, one is never too poor or too young to give back.
The lessons were not lost on the first batch of ARC Young Leaders, which has decided to name its group, Kilubansa, after an ancient god of healing. Past setbacks and trials to come could only deepen and embolden the participants’ affirmative response to the worthy challenge presented to them throughout the ARC camp: “You have been chosen to lead.” Hope is resilient, and thankfully, it is also contagious.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.