Through the search for Volunteer Champions, iVolunteer aims to recognize the efforts of volunteers who have made a positive impact in the community while adhering to the organization’s core values: Integrity, Professionalism, Inclusivity, Nationalism, and Change Leadership.
Despite the COVID-19 crisis, our 2020 Volunteer Champions stepped up to make a positive difference in their communities. The compassion they showed served as an inspiration for us all. They show us that there is hope in these trying times.
Cristian Louis Romeo, a 19-year-old youth leader who is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education, is our 2020 Volunteer Champion for Nationalism. He is an active volunteer who pushes for the progress and development of his community. His main advocacy is fighting for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership. Aside from being a good leader, he is a true patriot who loves and respects the country.
At a young age, Cristian’s willingness to help the community has pushed him to volunteer for different organizations. He started during high school when he decided to run for student council. It was then that he realized how individuals and systems work together, and the crucial roles that leaders play in the arena of social change. During his term, he focused on institutional reforms within their school, and encouraged more inclusive projects that more students can participate in. Cristian’s morals and values make him a leader who treats everyone with respect and is compassionate with people.
The 2019 Lakbay Kwento Program is one of Cristian’s most memorable experiences. It was organized by the Jesse Robredo Foundation where volunteers would share the life story of late Secretary Jesse Robredo. The goal was to promote good governance by empowering the local communities through books and storytelling. Pursuing social change comes down to making the right decisions at the right time and putting those into action, which is the responsibility of public servants.
During the pandemic, Cristian decided to look for opportunities that could help the students overcome remote learning. Together with his co-volunteers and as co-head implementer, Cristian launched Project Kababata to help the mental health of students as well as to prepare them for the modular learning of DepEd. They distributed alternative learning tools for the children of General Santos City. They also helped the students connect with their families and practice home-based, self-directed learning. Lastly, they provided activities for students to catch up on their educational backlogs.
As an advocate of good governance, Cristian also joined the Kaya Natin! Young Leaders’ Academy during the height of the pandemic. Kaya Natin! is a movement composed of public servants and engaged citizens who want to promote good governance and ethical leadership in the Philippines. The Young Leaders’ Academy aimed to train and motivate youths across the archipelago to promote peace and leadership. This experience taught Cristian how to better frame conversations with regards to politics and social issues.
Cristian also became part of the General Santos Youth Development Council, a group in-charge of drafting policies for youth development within the city. As part of the Global Mobility Committee of this council, he crafted policies in relation to improving the accessibility of youth development programs. The intention was to make it easier for students to know of any local, national or international programs that they could participate in to improve themselves.
Just this year, Cristian helped organize the first General Santos Youth Parliament (GYP) in partnership with the local government and the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation. Through GYP, student leaders across General Santos are given the chance to put their ideas and concerns into ordinances, resolutions and policies. It’s also an avenue for local and national leaders to listen and understand grassroot problems and look into possible solutions. Cristian’s involvement as the GYP Secretariat made him realize that there are a lot of students who are willing to help the government with social issues, if given the chance.
“Ang main advocacy ko talaga is good governance and ethical leadership kasi it all boils down to the government. Kung hindi good ang government, wala tayong ethical leadership, and wala tayong accountable leaders, mahirap nating ipaglaban ang education and other advocacies…Why I’m fighting for good governance ay para magkaroon ng space ang other advocacies as well.”~ Cristian Romeo, 2022
In the future, Cristian plans to create an organization that would more frequently conduct storytelling sessions on good governance, not just within General Santos City but also across Region 12. Together with his batchmates, they were already able to initially tap people from neighboring municipalities. For now, they are working on the branding, the structure and the materials that they will eventually use. Cristian believes that fighting for good governance is a never-ending process that takes a lot of time and patience.
Regardless of the circumstances, Cristian continues to dedicate his time to serving the community. In spite of the difficulties in changing mindsets when it comes to demanding for transparency and accountability from political leaders, he is proud of his Filipino heritage and nationality. He hopes to be able to provide more programs in the future to encourage more volunteers and to use his degree to someday impart his knowledge. His dedication for a progressive community makes him a good fit to champion nationalism.
Written by: Ayanna Plaza & Lorraine Rañoa, iVolunteer Philippines
Photos from: Cristian Romeo