Champions of Change: Youth Leaders at the 2023 CHAMP Forum

Contributed by Lana Andrea Imperial, Advocacy Intern

Your first plane ride is memorable for various reasons—but for young leaders Mikaela from Luzon, Cessy from Visayas, and Princess Mae from Mindanao, they will remember theirs not only as their first international travel but also as the beginning of their transformation journey.

Upon arriving in Singapore for the Child-led Advocacy and Meaningful Participation (CHAMP) Forum on August 1-3, 2023, the three changemakers cannot help but be filled with excitementand anticipation for the activity at Village Hotel Katong. There, they were able to connect and bond with fellow young leaders from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Nepal.

CHAMP leaders from Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, and Sri Lanka gathered for a face-to-face forum in Singapore

The CHAMP Forum organized by World Vision South Asia and Pacific aims to provide young leaders an enabling environment where they can actively participate and influence social change. The forum is a unique opportunity for these young visionaries to enhance their skills and acquire better understanding on the challenges faced by communities and what could be done to address them. Moreover, indicated in the name itself, CHAMP hopes to empower the most vulnerable and to transform children to have the capacity to lead dialogues that directly impact their well-being.

As soon as the activity began, the young changemakers in attendance did not hesitate to discuss the issues in their communities.

From left to right: CHAMP leaders Cessy, Mikaela, and Princess Mae from Philippines

“Hunger and malnutrition are among the social issues that have been affecting children for years however, some people tend to give this problem a very small amount of attention. We know it’s existing, we know it is happening. As a child leader, I want to persuade everyone to join us in our advocacy and in implementing solutions to these problems,” Mikaela, 16, shared.

They then zoomed in on the critical issues of violence against children and child health. Their collective goal was to create an advocacy action plan to tackle these pressing concerns. “I am advocating for food security through ways that even us, the children and the youth, can do. This includes raising awareness about hunger and malnutrition, and consistently participating in voluntary movements in our communities. Let us not turn a blind eye towards these problems. Together, let us make efforts so that no child is left behind, so that every child could have access to healthy food and nutrition,” Mikaela added.

Aside from the emerging trends in their respective communities, the CHAMP leaders also learned more about child hunger and malnutrition, shared their thoughts on digitalization, and listened to the inspiring story of Diversity and Inclusion Advocate Alister Ong.

Diversity and Inclusion Advocate Alister Ong shares his story to CHAMP leaders

“Each moment spent in the CHAMP forum is wonderful and remarkable. I was particularly inspired when Mr. Alister Ong shared about his experiences and how he handled challenges as a person with disabilities. I also recall him saying how important it is to know yourself better in order to become more authentic, empowered, and fulfilled,” Cessy, 19, reflected after the forum. “It fueled my desire to be more resilient, to help others unconditionally, to continue inspiring others, to become a young leader with greater fervor, and to be genuinely kind to everyone.”

Princess Mae, 20, also affirmed that through the testimony of Alister, she realized how crucial it is to listen to the voices of people with disabilities.

“Every individual has power. They only need to believe that they are powerful enough,” she emphasized.

CHAMP leaders plan their advocacy activities for the next months

By the end of the 3-day forum, the CHAMP leaders including Mikaela, Cessy, and Princess Mae agreed to facilitate a child-led research on children’s health and to initiate a campaign on alternative home gardening to promote food security in the next months. They may have already taken their flights back home but they remain committed to advocate for the rights of children not only as individuals but as a network of young leaders who believe that they can lead, impact change, and transform communities.

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