MANILA — A 20-year-old nursing student from the University of Santo Tomas was recently recognized by US-based organization Youth Service America's Everyday Young Heroes for leading a literacy program.
The organization said that Qjiel Mariano was a “champion” for quality with programs that empower out-of-school children and youth, aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a list of 17 goals to address poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperous living around the world by 2030.
“Armed with facts, Qjiel and his team created Ladders to Literacy to help youth identify the needs of their communities and create a book that advocates for the fulfilment of the 17 SDGs. Not only has the program helped increase youth literacy rates, but it has also provided youth with the invaluable opportunity to advocate for the implementation of the SDGs in their own way,” the organization said.
“Qjiel is especially proud that this program is executed through a multi-sectoral approach as volunteers, parents, children, NGOs, and more collectively co-learn to solve existing problems at the local, regional, and national levels.”
Mariano has created chapters of his youth-led organization Streets to Schools to reach out to children amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, it added.
"Qjiel works alongside different stakeholders from communities across the Philippines, creating chapters of Streets to Schools that engage and impact indigenous youth, children in and out of school, and families.
"Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, he has rallied numerous efforts to be able to provide radios, hygiene kits, school kits, and more to ensure that distance learning can thrive among those left behind the most. Qjiel recognizes that the success of one SDG positively contributes to the attainment others and shows that through his work, all young people can contribute to their achievement," it said.
Mariano said "Ladders to Literacy" goes beyond education as it also helps children become aware of problems faced by their communities and how to resolve it.
"Ladders to Literacy is a community initiative in which we teach children how to read and write while simultaneously helping them recognize the problems in their community," Mariano told ABS-CBN News in an interview Friday.
"We then allow them to publish a storybook to measure their reading and writing skills while also being able to advocate the Sustainable Development Goals for other children to do the same," he added.
Mariano said that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic should not be a hindrance to educate children.
"Our projects during this pandemic involve ensuring that learning continues despite the difficult situation. We were able to assemble portable radio stations in Benguet, provide hygiene kits and school kits to indigenous kids in Maguindanao, Davao, and Benguet, gather donations all around the world and share them to children in Manila North Cemetery," the nursing student said.
"Aside from this, we are also recognized for the Alitaptap Children’s Rights Gaming App we are developing and our Karapatan at Kabataan Paligsahan ng mga Maikling Pelikula to help the public know more about children’s rights," he added.
He said the recognition is a good opportunity to inspire Filipino children to be proactive in nation-building.
"More than the recognition, it is a platform for me to use this influence to inspire other young people like me to create change in society," Mariano said.
"It is a humbling experience as I had my fair share of defeat and failures through the years, but I chose to keep on going because our children’s rights need to be valued, respected, and celebrated for years to come," he added.
Mariano noted how vital the youth's role is especially in times of crisis, such as the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
"Helping people is a natural response among all humans, and stories of hope like recognitions can be used to channel these empathetic actions to deliver relief even during these trying times," he said.
"We saw people go beyond their boundaries just to help out our frontliners, typhoon victims, and more. Young people must realize that they too have a very important role to fulfill as the future leaders of our country."
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