US Ambassador-designate Sung Kim enlivens crowd in first appearance
With a record number of affiliates in the country, it was but fitting for Filipino members of Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) to mark the program’s 3rd anniversary in a grand scale on December 3.
YSEALI is the US government’s signature program to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia.
Dubbed “YSEALI YOUnified,” the whole day activity saw 640 youth volunteers running community outreach projects with more than 4,400 participants in 33 locations across the country.
Projects included a mental health awareness program in Albay; outreach to survivors of Typhoon Lawin in Ilocos Norte; an underwater clean-up on Danjugan Island in Negros; a leadership camp with indigenous youth in Iloilo; English literacy sessions for out-of-school youth in Sulu; and an agri-entrepreneurship workshop for drug surrenderees in North Cotabato.
In Manila, the culminating YSEALI YOUnified activity brought together almost 200 university student leaders to look at ways to work together and address challenges and opportunities for the youth in marine conservation, social media, education and social entrepreneurship.
Enlivening the Manila participants was US Ambassador-Designate to the Philippines Sung Kim who addressed the students barely 48-hours after arriving in the country.
“The YSEALI program is a terrific program, I have to say. I came from Washington where the program enjoys tremendous support. In fact, President Obama himself is a huge fan of this program and has participated in some of YSEALI’s events,” the top diplomat said in his first public engagement in the country.
“I think it’s wonderful that we are celebrating the third anniversary here in the Philippines because you are actually responsible for this program. Frankly, I can’t think of a better place that would introduce a program like YSEALI because there’s tremendous energy, creativity, innovation and commitment to public service here,” the Ambassador-Designate added, revealing that the country has a record of 15,000 members.
“I wish I were younger because then I would join the YSEALI program. But I’m a little bit over the age limit,” Kim added, eliciting laughter from the young crowd.
In closing, Kim reminded the student participants that leadership also means public service and public welfare.
“Please remember that being a leader also means public service and public commitment and I think what you did today, engaging in various public service in the country, is a tremendous model of what leadership really means,” Ambassador-Designate Kim finally noted.
YSEALI members from the nine other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states also participated in the celebration by conducting additional 70 youth-led projects across Southeast Asia, engaging more than 9,000 participants.