By Johnson Badawi (YES 2010-2011, Philippines, hosted by PAX in Troy Mills, IA)
My experience in the U.S. as an exchange student was life-changing. It transformed me into an active global citizen who values the celebration of differences in and engagement with the community. During my exchange year, I got the chance to participate in community service programs that strongly influenced my present day work and interests. While I frequently volunteered at the library arranging books, I also remember participating in a community service project where we cleaned, painted, and repaired parts of a cabin. I thought it was a wonderful experience, but what struck me most was the way the community came together and unified for a cause without expecting anything in return. Being a part of volunteer projects, I met brilliant individuals who changed my life forever and inspired me to extend my service to the community and inspire positive and meaningful narratives.
Ever since coming home to the Philippines, together with my fellow YES alumni, I have been engaged in community projects. After I finished my degree in Psychology, I began working freelance as a research assistant on understanding the role of mental health on peace and conflict studies. At the same time, I manage projects focused on responding to the recent insurgencies in my community.
Living in a province with peace and security issues, I witness how individuals are recruited to proliferate destructive acts. That is my pain point that drives me to contribute my energy to efforts that provide better options for my people. My team works on a project named #ForMindanao that reaches out to communities and gives them an opportunity to take the lead in solving their issues. This initiative believes in the power of mobilizing the community to identify their existing needs and opportunities. Sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines and in partnership with different institutions, the project highlights and amplifies the positive stories of the people in different media platforms (traditional and social media).
Since launching the #ForMindanao campaign, there has been a tremendously positive impact on the community people. They were empowered to implement innovative solutions for inclusive economic development, quality education, peace and stability, and more. The people capitalized on the trust given to them to contribute to rebuilding their hometown that was affected greatly by the siege. #ForMindanao has assisted the lives of approximately 43,000 Mindanaons. Consequently, we share these impactful narratives and our best practices in media and in our speaking engagements in local and international events.
Being part of this field has its unique challenges, but the fulfillment of touching the lives of people is so powerful and moving. As I continue with this work, I will always go back to my experience in a small town in Iowa and embody the values I gained through genuine service and community engagement. Hosted by PAX, I am deeply grateful to my host family, friends, and mentors for giving me a safe avenue to discover myself and explore my purpose in life. Even after my exchange year, the people I met from around the globe continue to nourish and inspire me personally and professionally.
Right now, I am planning to pursue my Master’s degree and am actively looking for scholarships and opportunities that will nurture my talents and potentials. I want to be an established peace psychologist and/or expert community development worker. Moving forward, I will definitely continue to grow and take on the challenge to make a dent in this universe…one community at a time.
Get to know more about #ForMindanao on the #ForMindanao website .