When I Met a Kid Named Jepoy
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04 October 2017 When I Met a Kid Named Jepoy

Written by: Erica P. Curatcha

As part of our #NationalVolunteerMonth celebration this coming December, we are featuring the nine winning entries of our Volunteerism Story Writing Contest. The first story in this series features Erica's experiences and insights on her engagement with the youth volunteer organization named I am Making a Difference"

"To whom much is given, much is required in return." - Luke 12:48 - one of the most famous passages in the bible. And I believe my life is all about that scripture. I was reared by not so well-off family but honed enough to not give up on life. I never imagine that I will be a volunteer. All my life I was so used to being sheltered and taken care of. I was a scholar since elementary until college. Blessed enough to achieve all my dreams through the help of other people. Yet, I have this strong urge to help the poor and needy. I have this great dream to help others and be Jesus to them just like how other people blessed me. This experience taught me to be selfless, generous and value the importance of education not just inside the four walls of the classroom – more than the subjects taught and the holistic development of each and every learner.

The same dream that was brought up during the Youth Mainstreaming Workshop by the United Nations Development Assistance Fund and National Youth Commission held last July 31, 2015, that one of the challenges about today’s youth in relation to participation is the lack of interest to local and national issues or what they call apathy, and being passive to these challenges which should start in schools or universities. This is because of various factors such as being self-centered of today’s youth, no exposure to real life’s challenges, and love was not fostered at home or within their individual families. Having been exposed to student leadership and politics since high school I saw how these students and children fought so hard to be able to finish studying. Thus, I made a promise to myself that I will be part of the country's solution rather than the problem.

I was so driven and passionate to help others and I used youth to become a catalyst of change. I influenced and honed them to be a leader like me. Just how I changed the life and perspective of a student, Rian Simon. He was a shy little boy who happened to be in 1st year high school and to my surprise when he became a fourth year student he was also the President of the Student Council. I thought I was destined to lead a pack of leaders and my life was for school governance.

Yet in reality, every hero faced a problem, a hindrance to their success. The dream of helping and serving others was teste d by our Creator. It was not an easy journey. It was a path that was lined in my palm and in the end will just leave traces. I was accused and condemned of something that even in my wildest dream I never thought of doing. I was not able to graduate on time. All my dreams were shattered. They took the piece that I had worked so hard. All of the friends that I knew turned their backs as if we never crossed paths. The name that I built over the years was tainted with dirt that even I cannot clean and remove. Every one looked at me with disgust. From someone who was idolized by everyone, I became the talk of the town. The life that I was enjoying suddenly turned into a living hell. Every single day I thought of committing suicide. I wanted to die so butterflying hard. I developed this certain mindset that people will look down at me. Whatever you do people will judge you. I lost my faith in humanity and in government.

But I am M.A.D. (Making A Difference) came, it was offered when I least expected it. I am M.A.D. (Making A Difference ) is a volunteer organization that conducts a three-day outreach program for youth volunteers engaging children (grades 4 to 6) to enable them to be passionate future Filipino citizens championing love for others, love of the environment, love of country, love of parents and love of G od; to empower them to be catalysts of change as young as they are; and to embrace them to nurture their passion to make a difference by providing their basic educational needs as scholars. As a volunteer and as a graduating Psychology student, I saw how reality seeks to provide these experiences mainly to the children who are ages 10 to 12 because according to a Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, he believed that one’s childhood plays a vital and active role in a per son’s development as he/she gets old. Therefore, instilling in them the most powerful thing in the world – love as young as they are. So that when they become future leaders of the Philippines, love for other people, the environment, the country and God is already implanted.

My intention was to sublimate all my demons and negative emotions. I was exposed to harsh reality. I couldn't imagine how life can be this hard for those children. My life was changed 720 degrees when I met a kid named, Jepoy. He is from Floriblanca, Pampanga from the tribe of Aeta. He was a shy little boy, never wanted to be touched nor held. I compared him to the sensitive plant which can only be found in the Philippines. For three days that I got a chance to meet him and know his story, I was so ashamed because I wanted to give up on life why Jepoy wanted to live. His parents died when he was still young. He experienced discrimination literally and figuratively. He never experienced going to school, having a decent meal and went to the City. After three days of ma king a difference I saw how he opened his life to us. He let me hugged him and shared his s tory. He never told "I love you" to anyone but right at that moment I heard him saying those things to his Grandmother, I knew that God wanted me to live to do something significant for our country. I tried my best to provide them hope which I once lost. Just like Jepoy, I met difference kids with difference stories that melt my heart and touched my soul.

Every single time that I give my hands to those kids they also get my he art and soul. I gave a piece of me that I know I cannot get back. Then I realized, there is more to life than what I thought of. Every single time, I was dumbfounded. I became addicted to volunteerism. Those children that I have met taught me to live life to the fullest, to enjoy every single moment, to dream for others and to raise up when you have fallen. Every time I wanted to give up on life they always remind me to hold on and move forward. It is in I am MAD that I learned that true giving and loving can make you cry while being genuinely happy at the same time. It is in I am MAD that I learned to love God beyond words and through actions. It is in I am MAD that I learned the importance of education.

I am proud to say that I am Erica P. Curatcha, now the president of I am M.A.D. Through my leadership, we were able to put up a MAD Camp producing builders that are now implementing 10 MAD outreaches all over [t]he country. We were recognized as one of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations in Malacañang Palace and will continue inspiring children and youth to make a difference.
I am a volunteer, a simple girl who has a big heart for the less, the least and the last. And am proud to say that “I am M.A.D.!”.

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