I realized after five years in college that the experiences we share with others can touch more lives than what we think. In my case, Ideas Positive brought one of those stories that seemed to stand out during my time as a Public Health student of the University of the Philippines.
Nowadays, whenever we use social media, we can’t help but get bombarded by distractions. These could range from people who share photos of their food to video clips of whatever it is that’s trending online. The truth is, there’s so much going on that we sometimes forget why we “Like” something in the first place. We forget the stories behind the pictures and the people behind each frame, but once we take notice, they demand to be seen.
I realized after five years in college that the experiences we share with others can touch more lives than what we think. In my case, Ideas Positive brought one of those stories that seemed to stand out during my time as a Public Health student of the University of the Philippines. Ideas Positive opened up opportunities that enabled me to grow as a person.
I first encountered the youth program of Unilab Foundation in 2012. My upperclassmen were part of Ideas Positive Run 3 as Team Kabataang Katipuneros. Their project involved the use of malunggay to solve malnutrition in Brgy. Lapaz, Nueva Valencia in Guimaras. Leo Estrada, my fraternity brother who was part of the team, asked us to join them in one of their regular medical missions in communities. Although I didn’t do much but carry boxes of vitamins and sort them for the doctors, it was the start of something bigger for me--in ways I didn’t expect. Their team eventually won Third Place, and the project affected the barangay in a positive way. It made me think that maybe lifting a few boxes during my free time did a little good, somehow.
Flash forward to my fourth year in college. Our professor in PH 195 (Public Health Practice) required us to have a community immersion during our second semester. This time, our group for the subject included the Team MAMAsitters of Ideas Positive Run 5 at Brgy. Pangilihan in Janiuay, Iloilo.
The time we spent there was meaningful, despite the struggles of planning and implementing health projects in a remote place. The team helped put up a refurbished health center and a tricycle ambulance for pregnant mothers through Ideas Positive. These are the things that we might not have been able do as students alone. The most memorable part of the project was during Mothers’ day, when we saw the joyful tears from the mothers as their kids embraced them and gave them personalized cards. I wasn’t surprised that the team eventually won Second Place for their project, and I know that the genuine happiness of the community was worth all the work.
Little did I know, I would be once again part of something special during my fifth year in college. This time, I became one of the supporting members of Team Dugong Bughaw of Ideas Positive Run 6. Unlike the previous year, I had more time on my hands, with only one subject left until graduation. I thought it was going to be a walk in the park, but I was wrong. It was my first time to experience a city-based project for Ideas Positive, and the challenge was to start a youth alliance among ten universities in Iloilo City to raise awareness on HIV and AIDS.
One might think it’s easy because the community is not some far-flung area in the mountains. On the contrary, it was challenging because of the stigma and the fear of being associated with an HIV project. Also, it was hard to get different organizations, student leaders and school administrations, with agendas and schedules of their own, to believe in something that has not been done before in Iloilo City.
I continued to work with the team every day, visiting different schools and organizations to make the project a reality. It was not easy being turned down several times, but the team was persistent. They believed and eventually made me believe as well. Their passion was as infectious, if not more, than the virus they are fighting against. I’ve seen how their efforts resulted in the creation of the successful youth alliance among ten universities; the training of a core group of peer educators; and activities both outside and within the youth alliance–the biggest of which was a forum attended by over 1,500 students.
They started a movement which I want to see through until the end. Win or lose, I believe they already accomplished so much just by establishing a solid foundation for an alliance between the universities. As I end my five years in college, I can’t help but reflect on “puer salutem advocati,” the words inscribed on our batch pins as Public Health students, which means “young health advocate.” These words resonate with this dedicated group of advocates, and truly mean something for me, now more than ever. This is just one story behind some pictures you might see somewhere online–one small light, scintillating.
Julius Nafarrete, Jr., or Kimbo to his friends, has been a volunteer for Ideas Positive teams for three runs now. He is a graduating Public Health student of University of the Philippines-Visayas.