Written by: John Vincent Mañosca

JFK Service Award recipient Roberto ‘Ambet’ Yangco delivering his acceptance speech at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, DC (Photo Courtesy of the US Embassy in Manila)

QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES – The United States Peace Corps (USPC) has awarded Mr. Roberto ‘Ambet’ Yangco the prestigious John F. Kennedy Service Award on 19 May 2022 at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, DC. He becomes the first Filipino to receive this recognition.

Yangco (fourth) together with the other recipients of the JFK Service Award (Photo Courtesy of US Peace Corps)

The JFK Service Award, named after the former US president and co-founder of USPC, is given to current and former Peace Corps staff who have demonstrated “exceptional service and leadership,” and aided in furthering the missions and goals of the organization, according to their official website. One of these goals is “to help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained volunteers”. The award is given every five years.

Yangco, who has been working at the USPC for 22 years now and is serving as an important link between USPC and PNVSCA, was presented with the award “for his exceptional lifelong service and leadership supporting the Philippines’ most vulnerable youth”, said the US Embassy in Manila.

Yangco facilitating a workshop encouraging out-of-school youth to continue their education
(Photo Courtesy of the US Embassy in Manila)

As program manager of USPC’s Children, Youth and Family (CYF) Program, he was able to inspire at-risk Filipino youth and other beneficiaries to follow in his footsteps and become social workers in their own communities.

“[Yangco] has devoted the past 20 years to promoting the mission of the Peace Corps and that his commitment to service has helped protect Filipino youth from homelessness, trafficking, violence, and drugs, through education, work, and life skills development,” said USPC in their press release.

As a child, Yangco lived in the streets of Olongapo City, Zambales, scavenging for food to survive. He was taken in at age 11 by a Catholic non-government organization supporting underprivileged children. Eventually, he became a social worker, advocating for causes including HIV/AIDS, among others. He was also a community development officer and educator for street children before joining the USPC.

Mr. Yangco is an active member of PNVSCA’s National Volunteer Resource Pool (NVRP). The NVRP is composed of practitioners, academicians and experts on volunteer management tapped by PNVSCA to assist in its technical assistance initiative.

Yangco (second) together with his family during the JFK Service awarding ceremony last 19 May 2022
(Photo Courtesy of Ambet Yangco’s Facebook profile)

“All Glory to God and the good people he used in helping me in my journey from my childhood in the streets of Olongapo City to this momentous occasion of receiving the JFK Award,” Yangco posted on his Facebook page. “Heart filled with gratitude determined to continue fighting the good fight.”

PNVSCA, the national agency mandated to promote and advocate a culture of volunteerism in the Philippines, is extending its warmest congratulations to Ambet for winning the JFK Service Award, and for being an inspiration not only to volunteers and volunteer managers, but also to everyone else. Ambet is an active member of the National Volunteerism Resource Pool that PNVSCA organized in 2020 to provide technical assistance on volunteerism to development partners, both at the public and private sectors.

The author is currently the Volunteerism for Development Communication and Advocacy Program (V4DCAP) Officer of the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency.

Visit PNVSCA website (www.pnvsca.gov.ph) and PNVSCA Facebook (facebook.com/PNVSCA) for other stories and information on volunteering.