Thursday, May 13, 2010
Jeepney Press May-June 2010 issue page 12-13
JEEPNEY PRESS CENTERFOLD
Carmina Mancenon: A Ray Of Hope
by Christopher Santos
Teenagers. They act as if time is running out but behave as if they have forever. Parties, gadgets, fads. They have evolved through lifestyles and activities unimaginable when I was young(er), sometimes bringing their folks to the brink of enrolling for modern psychology and giving a brand new appreciated meaning to single blessedness. But once in a rare while, there comes someone who makes us believe in the future, someone who defies the limits of age and makes us respect it instead, and someone who can see the bigger picture.
Carmina Mancenon. This 12th grader at K International School in Tokyo is a normal teen. Cute, charming, cheerful. At 16 years of age, she’s in that age group that usually make people’s eyes roll. Except, she makes their jaws drop in awe.
I’m sure that she, being just like any student, is a member of some clubs. Only, one of her group participations last November was with a 60 young activists, volunteers, and social entrepreneurs who were invited out of 1200 applicants from 44 countries who gathered in UK and took part in the Global Changemakers discussions.
I’m certain that she has a following but Carmina’s recent admirer is the British Council which handpicked her to be one of the final 6 youths to present at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
It’s safe to assume that youngsters enjoy summer fun and nonchalantly talking with friends about casual stuff. Nor is it surprising for them to appear these days in YouTube or be Googled. However, there is a life-changing difference when one appears in the internet with her previous speaking engagement carrying a topic geared towards establishing a micro-financed platform that links solutions for climate change, global bridging, and youth development. Her audience? This time, it’s the global leaders.
It’s normal for everyone today to make their social presence known in the internet through various networking and online marketing sites. Carmina is on board with that as well. Yet, Carmina’s collaborative work for “Stitch Tomorrow” (http://www.stitchtomorrow.org/
http://www.twitter.com/StitchTomorrow) serves a higher purpose as a realized and ongoing initiative to bring together privileged and underprivileged teenagers while tapping her very own interest in fashion.
Jeepney Press’ centerfold features uphold its legacy of covering personalities who inspire through their ideals and motivate through their contributions. But at a crucial time that clamors for much fundamental change, on a season for Filipinos to soon welcome a new mandate and leadership, and on a global stage that demands synchronized transformation, it is very fitting that we present to you someone who embodies true hope.
We initially wanted to present our featured guest in Jeepney Press as a regular teenager. True, but that would have been denying her of justice. We could have stated that she is different from the other teens. True, but that would have been such a cliché. To stick to the basic but truest sense of it all, Carmina is special. They say that greatness is really about simple individuals doing great things. To abide in this principle, Carmina, then, is simply great. As her own person, as a visionary, as a symbol.
And, proudly, as a Filipina.
Jeepney Press (JP): Tell us how your participation in the Global Changemakers program all started?
Carmina Mancenon (CM): I heard about Global Changemakers after receiving an informational letter from an admin member at my school about an Annual Global Youth Summit the British Council was to hold in London. International development and social service are both passions of mine as I have been involved in extracurricular activities focusing on these such as co-leading a Habitat for Humanity team and co-founding the Kanto Plains Science and Humanities Essay Competition, so I decided to apply and was ecstatic to be accepted. There, I learned from and with 60 passionate social entrepreneurs aged 16-19 as we collaborated in skill-building workshops organized by the British Council, that were designed to prepare us take action on pressing world issues and voice our opinions on world stages. We were ultimately initiated to be part of the Global Changemakers family.
JP: How did you learn about your being a selected presenter at the World Economic Forum?
CM: It was after the Global Youth Summit, actually. In London, I had been interviewed by a panel after making the shortlist, but we weren’t told who had been chosen. I found out when I got back to Tokyo on the Global Changemakers website.
JP: How did you feel? What was the first thing that came in your mind?
CM: I couldn’t believe it!! I had to check the website multiple times, just to make sure it wasn’t a glitch- hahaha! I jumped around a few times, screamed (I have to, I’m a girl) and called my parents. The first thing that came to mind though were the 60 people in the network of 600 Changemakers I was going to represent. I knew it was going to be a huge challenge, but I did my best to use it as motivation for me not to let them down.
JP: What’s the reaction of your folks? Your school? Your peers?
CM: I’m so blessed to be around absolutely wonderful people. I found my Facebook wall flooded with heart-warming comments, my cellphone kept ringing, but of course, no one could compare with how excited my parents were!
JP: I saw in YouTube how magnificent you were when you were pitching your innovation/
proposal. Aside from the presentation itself, what was going on inside you during that exact moment?
CM: We were instructed to give the presentation with a maximum time of 5 minutes—an incredibly short time when you’re trying to propose an idea. To spice things even more, the World Economic Forum said that we could only have 15 slides which would transition automatically after 20 seconds. So I was really, really trying my best to get as much information about Stitch Tomorrow as I could out there while making it interesting at the same time.
JP: What did you gain out of the experience?
CM: It was an absolutely inspiring experience. The best part about it was being able to talk to the most amazing people from literally every field. Since it was basically the mirror image of our world, it allowed me to delve into any part and made me realize that our world has so much potential.
You can read a blogpost I wrote for the program here:
JP: How did the experience change you?
CM: As a young person, I’m inherently a dreamer. By going to the Forum, I’m learning to bridge a gap between idealism and realism—something I definitely needed beforehand!
Also, as a teenager amidst all these people who are immensely successful in their own way, I was surprised by how readily world leaders would genuinely listen to my take on situations, have deep conversations and get involved with our projects. It really showed me that no matter who you are- whether you're 16 or 50- there is always a way for whatever vision you have to become a reality.
JP: How do you balance your life and your time?
CM: I do things one step at a time! It makes things seem a lot funner, so I’m more eager to do things. I make a list of things I want to accomplish then tick them off as I go along.
JP: What part of your personal discipline and regimen will you never compromise?
CM: I pray every night with my family. I was brought up like that, so it’s not something I can see myself ever forgetting.
JP: What was your biggest challenge during the duration of the program?
CM: I realized that was precisely why we were at the World Economic Forum: to break through the outer shell of these leaders and touch their core. After all, these M&Ms are all shiny and varied at the exterior, but inside they’re all the same brown, soft chocolate. This was the ultimate microphone for us teenagers to voice our dreams for the world through passion and excitement.
Instead of choosing to conform or rebel, you learn to gear conversations into a two-way exchange. Soon, their reactions to your radical, young ideas shifted from raised eyebrows to warm smiles as you compromised for a viewpoint that combined idealism and realism. You learned from their wisdom, while they gained a new dimension from your excitement.
JP: How did you come up with Stitch Tomorrow – the concept, the name, etc?
CM: I think the key to getting youth motivated to get involved in social service and entrepreneurship is by merging it with what they are already passionate about. For instance, one of my fellow Global Changemakers
breakdances to eliminate criminality in his neighborhood. My co-founder and I thought to adapt this model to Stitch Tomorrow. A lot of teenagers today (myself included) love fashion, creativity and meeting people. Stitch Tomorrow allows teenagers to explore their passion, but do so for an amazing cause- eradicating poverty.
JP: What can we expect from Stitch Tomorrow, especially when it achieves its reach to the Philippines?
CM: You can definitely expect a lot of pretty clothes going around. On a more serious note, one of the core objectives of Stitch Tomorrow is to get privileged youth interested in volunteering to help underprivileged youth, so I’m hoping for a more collaborative atmosphere between the different classes in our country—maybe helping to bridge that gap.
JP: What can we expect from Ms. Carmina Mancenon in the next 5 years?
CM: I’m heading to Princeton University this fall, so for the next 4 years that I’m there, I’m hoping to soak in as much information and experience as possible to make use of that in my future endeavors. Stitch Tomorrow is also definitely a top priority on my list.
JP: What did you initially want to become when you were a child?
CM: I wanted to become a doctor or an engineer.
JP: What is your ultimate dream now?
CM: I want to involve myself in international economic development, or maybe medical engineering. I’m an open book at this point, really, but I definitely want to go into a field where I am given a platform to ultimately influence the lives of a lot of people.
JP: It’s sheer genius that you were able to combine your personal interest, entrepreneurship, social values and support. If you were to choose a dedicated field, how will you prioritize?
CM: Oh no! I don’t think I can. Every single one of them is important to me and I wouldn’t be happy doing one without the other. It would be an incomplete puzzle.
JP: Although poverty in the Philippines is common knowledge, how do you feel your presentation affected the image of the country?
CM: My intention was to get people to get involved in helping our country and supporting the ideas of youth social entrepreneurs like myself—I hope that’s what they see.
JP: At such a young age, who or what do you give credit to for the profound and mature awareness you have right now?
CM: My parents! They both center our family relationships around God, reminding me of my blessings and responsibility to care for those around me. I was also brought up to value education, and I think that helped give me a better approach to the world. And when they disciplined me, I could tell they did it with love.
JP: How is it like growing up and living in Japan as a young Filipina? What kinds of struggles do you have regarding culture and identity?
CM: I love it - I wouldn't have it any other way. Contrary to "struggling", I think it has actually given me a stronger sense of identity. I've attended an international school here since grade school, so I've been exposed to many different cultures, from British to Indian. Yet my parents always made it a point to never let me forget where I come from. We speak in Tagalog everyday and my mom cooks (the best!) Filipino food. This made me really want to learn about my own country, the Philippines.
Being part of a Japanese-Filipino Youth community at my church really helped me satiate that curiosity, and beyond that create bonds with Filipino teens that share my culture. When I hear someone say to me "This is what they do in the Philippines", I really take every word in. It's like a pixel of a picture of the country I never got to fully experience. I think I'm getting closer to completing that picture.
I have been given the chance to get the best of both worlds- internationalism and nationalism.
JP: Do you have any other hobbies/interests?
CM: I enjoy travelling, singing, shopping, eating, tennis, and laughing.
JP: Who are you a fan of?
CM: I don’t have one public figure that I really look up to, since I admire certain qualities in different people. But Queen Rania comes very close! She’s outspoken, smart, caring and pretty. I had the opportunity to sit in one of her sessions and meet her at the WEF. She’s definitely amazing.
JP: When’s your next trip to the Philippines? What’s your agenda then?
CM: I’m going to the Philippines December this year!! I’m so ready to visit! I haven’t been to the Philippines for quite some time- around three years now, so I just want to take in all the culture and spend time with my gorgeous family. Hopefully my experiences themselves would naturally guide me to make Stitch Tomorrow most effective for its end user—the Philippine people.
JP: Given the chance, what system in Japan will you strive to implement in the Philippines?
CM: I adore how refined the Japanese are in handling situations, and it reflects on the state of the country as a whole. It would be great to see that more in the Philippines.
Also I would implement the IB curriculum that my school goes by into the public Philippine education system. Two years as an IB student really served as a solid ground for me to grow as a truly international student, open to new ideas.
JP: What kind and level of support do you expect from specific organizations, including the Philippine government?
CM: I expect open-mindedness. I expect them to listen. I expect them to give us a platform, advice and resources. After going the World Economic Forum, and reflecting on how the support of world leaders in my (a teenager’s!) project shaped my determination and ability to get Stitch Tomorrow in action, I’m convinced that not only is the sincere support of these institutions beneficial—it’s needed.
JP: How do you see the Philippines in the future? What do you think is/will be the greatest strength and resource of the country?
CM: At this point, I think the strongest resource of the country would be the people themselves. Hopefully there would be strong political or entrepreneurial leaders willing to give the populace the resources, especially education, to thrive career and business-wise, developing our economy, and in turn our country.
JP: What’s the most fun part in all of these (media coverage)?
CM: Getting to see first-hand a lot more teens start to care about social issues in a different light, or at least get involved.
JP: As a youth, what challenges are you facing with Stitch Tomorrow?
CM: A challenge for me, especially right now that I'm in the middle of revising for my upcoming IB exams, is trying to achieve a balance between Stitch Tomorrow and schoolwork. Social entrepreneurship and service is addictive since you really get to see results right away. When I read applications blooming with passion, it makes me want to keep working on Stitch Tomorrow because I know how many more people we can reach if I do. I'm getting better at this whole time management thing, though I'm still excited for summer when I can focus on Stitch Tomorrow without feeling guilty about procrastinating on schoolwork.
A bigger challenge for me in terms of the nature of Stitch Tomorrow is trying to manage the team. Since the whole concept of Stitch Tomorrow is focused on making it as international as possible, that also means having a team from different countries- we have members from Switzerland to Indonesia to Australia. I'm looking forward to having an executive team though since I'm sure they would be able to regulate this a lot better as a group.
JP: How much Tagalog do you speak?
CM: I wish I could say I’m fluent. I do my best to speak Tagalog at home, so I can understand it well, but I have an accent when I speak, which sort of sucks.
JP: What’s your personal resolution for 2010?
CM: Learn Japanese before I leave for university. Language is not my strong point.
JP: What’s your message to the Filipinos, its youth, and the Filipinos here in Japan?
CM: Try something new everyday, act with passion, and know that anything is possible.