First ever regional leadership camp for out-of-school youth held in Zamboanga City

More than 40 out-of-school youth (OSY) from all over Zamboanga Peninsula gathered last December 12 to 16 at the Mercedes Retreat House in Zamboanga City for the first ever leadership camp of its kind in the region.

The Ateneo de Zamboanga University’s SUGPAT Program in partnership with UNICEF Philippines and the US Embassy in the Philippines organized “Kamp Kaya!”, a 5-day stay-in leadership camp for OSYs from Zambaonga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

The camp aimed at developing leadership competencies among the OSY campers and establish a network of leaders, innovators, and advocates from the OSY sector.

“Having seen the intricacies of issues and concerns of OSYs, we came to realize that the first step of capacitating the OSY to become creative peacebuilders and problem solvers is to capacitate them with leadership competencies and the right attitude for them to see their worth in making their respective communities a better and safer place for every young person,” Camp Director Kiko Miranda said on why they organized the camp.

The project also received funding from the US Embassy in the Philippines as a winning project in their Alumni Small Grants Competition.

Addressing a widening social divide

In Zamboanga City alone, the Comprehensive Barangay Monitoring and Information System (CBMIS) showed that the city has over 113,000 out-of-school children and youth. The rising number of OSY is indicative of a widening social divide.  

While those who are in the formal education sector have more opportunities to develop and become better, not much opportunities are afforded to adolescent OSYs who are critical agents of change.

UNICEF HIV and Adolescent Specialist Shirley Prabhu, who visited Zamboanga City to see the camp, said many OSYs in the Philippines have so much potential that have yet to be tapped.

“They have so many ideas, they have so much thoughts about what their future needs to be. That’s why it is important that we engage with them so that we can understand what they want for themselves,” she added.

Four pillars of the camp

Kamp Kaya was founded on four pillar themes: positive identity, leadership, aspiration, and volunteerism. For the entire five days, each of the themes had their speakers and activities. Night programs were also organized for the campers.

Dumaguete’s award-winning Youth Advocate Through Theater Arts (YATTA) spoke for the positive identity session, facilitated by its member artists Onna Quizo and Nikki Cimafranca. Campers were treated to improv activities and

US Government Alumni and YSEALI Professional Fellows Gelo Apostol and Rex Dayao also touched the hearts of the campers with their unforgettable sessions in the Leadership and Volunteer pillars respectively.

“Ang pagiging lider ay pagseserbisyo; pwedeng wala kang award, wala kang certificate, o wala kang posisyon. Nasa puso ‘yan. Hanggang sa nakikita mo sa puso moa ng pgaseserbisyo, sapat na ‘yon,” Apostol, who founded the Youth for National Building Movement (“Transforming tambays into tambayanis”), said.

A former out-of-school youth for 10 years also spoke during the Aspiration session.

Radam Jailani, an ALS-graduate who is currently a Grade 2 teacher in Mulu-Muluan Public Elementary School after failing the Licensure Examination Test and the ALS A&E exam on the first try, pulled some heart strings as he shared his life story to the campers.

“Despite all of the challenges I faced in life, I did not give up because I know that I have a dream that I need to reach. Let us not let our problems in life be a reason to give up, but instead use them as an inspiration to keep going,” the former seaweed farmer shared.

In the Aspiration pillar, four speakers who also shared about life’s trials also inspired the campers to keep on keeping on during the World Café session. They were Giovanni Paclibar, Rommel Vargas, Joel Porras, and January Cutin.

On the last day, the campers went to Camino Nuevo and Kasanyangan for their community immersions as part of the Volunteerism pillar.

Here, the campers were divided into two groups to volunteer for the community projects led by the SUGPAT-ALSPA Fellows themselves. A drug awareness seminar was organized in the community of Camino Nueva while an environmental clean-up and turn-over of PET Bottle Plants happened in Sitio Buguk in Kasanyangan.

Mini-Concert, Cultural Night among others

The five-day camp was also jam-packed with a lot of other activities such as the amazing race, world café, kite-flying, and ArtSpace and journaling activities together with their mentors Shareen Hayudini, Abubakar Basman, Zhea Alfad, Sittishaira Dompol, and Mary Claire Geduiquio who are young professionals and youth champions.

The “Bawat Pangarap” Concert became a highlight night activity where GMA Artist and TV Personality Nar Cabico graced the camp with a concert. He sang the official SUGPAT theme song, “Bawat Pangarap,” which he composed and performed especially for the SUGPAT Program.

The Sangguniang Kabataan Federation of Zamboanga City through its president, Hon. Cary John Pioc, also sponsored the Cultural Night where both campers and organizers were able to flaunt their traditionall attires from their respective towns in the South and witness performances by the Jambangan Dance Troupe of Western Mindanao State University.

Bawat Pangarap Mahalaga’

The core of the camp was helping OSY realize their potential, articulate their dreams, and create steps to achieve these dreams.

“When I listened to the campers talk about their dreams, I felt so proud that they are bringing back that dream, that ambition. That is very important for a young person—to dream and to believe that we can actually achieve our dream. I feel that the world will be much better,” UNICEF Philippines HIV Specialist Mario Balibago shared.

Yasser “Barbie” Usani, the only camper from Tawi-Tawi, admitted that his initial perception of the out-of-school youth are those who “give the community a headache” by being standbys and being reckless towards barangay officers. This, however, did not stay long.

“When I was able to enter Kamp Kaya, I was able to see that the OSY can go places. It’s just that their voices are not heard. I saw that there are opportunities for the OSYs and they are not just “tambays,” but Tambayanis (heroes).

Sulu Kamper Rufalyn Hussin proudly shared: “Just because we are out-of-school youth doesn’t mean we have no hope or we create problems in society. Just because we stopped schooling doesn’t mean we have no hope for our future. I admit I once lost hope. But when I got in Kamp Kaya, I realized that there is so much hope.”

“If you want to achieve that dream, have patience and pursue the dream. Endure all the trials that will come your way,” the 17-year-old OSY added.

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