It has been a blessed year. January began with me basking in the glory of service. At that time, nothing felt quite as alive as being a propagator of social justice in the grassroots level. I was a volunteer then, teaching English to adolescents in a far-flung rural community in Mindanao, Philippines. My students were the sons and daughters of farmers who toiled all day to give their kids the gift of education. Teaching was a challenge. Some students disappear for stretches at a time. When they come back they say that they had to help out at home or harvest in the rice fields. Education was a priority, but so was survival. Not surprisingly, they had difficulty learning English. With missed lessons and short attention spans, I noticed their diminishing interest in my subject. For them, it was pointless. Their future was set in stone, or more appropriately, in the rice fields. This broke my heart but not my spirit. I hatched a plan to convince them to dream otherwise. In one English class I prodded them to tell stories about their families and friends. They were excited yet cautious, but one-by-one their adventures came pouring out. By the end of the class, I pointed out they were already speaking in English, albeit in small doses. It was a pivotal Eureka moment for them.
Come August, I found myself cruising along the convergence of Asia and Europe on the Bosphorus Strait, in Istanbul, Turkey. It was the 5th World Youth Congress with a thousand budding world-changers in attendance. Two weeks of exchanging best practices and meeting delegates from countries like Egypt and Bulgaria was my idea of heaven. My perspective on global issues like poverty and quality education expanded. The Millennium Development Goals were common topics of conversation, something that never ran out in Istanbul. In a rare moment of silence, I remember being overwhelmed and telling myself: “someone has to tell these stories.”
I don’t believe in coincidences, only in the fact that all my choices have led me here. At the risk of sounding bold, I believe I was meant to be a correspondent. As I type this I feel my heart thump as I unite my voice with other women. Ours is voice that can stir a thousand souls with our warmth and compassion.
Right here, right now I know I want to share the extraordinary tales from my journeys.
From farmers to fellow world-changers, from kids in school to kids on the street, I feel privileged to know their stories. Because when I use my voice, I know it's not just mine. It's everyone’s I've ever met, every person that has touched me, every man and woman that has made an impact in my life. And the words I speak and the sentences that I type echo their heartaches, joys, experiences and struggles. And so I keep them intact inside of me, hoping that by being their storyteller, the world will know their stories.