US government exchange alumni mount projects for Mindanao

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As part of its continuing response to the Marawi crisis, the US Embassy in the Philippines launched the P18.5- million worth campaign dubbed “For Mindanao”supporting 37 projects throughout Southern Mindanao led by Philippine alumni of US government-sponsored exchanges. Before this, they had already played a crucial role in responding to humanitarian needs in Marawi and surrounding areas.

These projects will address educational enrichment, economic development, and the psycho-social effects of conflict, among other pressing needs in the region. The year-long campaign will impact an estimated 13,500 people, focusing especially on out-of-school youth, university students, madrasa students, and women in Mindanao.

Following the Marawi siege, the group launches the ‘Meals for Marawi’ campaign, which fed more than 3,000 internally displaced people (IDP) in Iligan City PHOTO BY JASMINE DIMAKUTA

Since 1948, the US government has sponsored people-to-people exchanges that have built the leadership and professional capacities of more than 8,000 Filipinos from across the nation. Upon their return, many US exchange alumni collaborate with their fellow alumni and with the US Embassy to strengthen the bilateral relations between the United States and the Philippines. Their immediate response to the Marawi crisis and their engagement in the US Embassy’s campaign exemplifies the commitment of US exchange alumni to work together to advance the prosperity of all Filipinos.

Within hours of the outbreak of fighting in Marawi, US exchange alumni were on the frontlines of the humanitarian response. Individual exchange alumni and US exchange alumni chapters throughout the country contributed nearly P2.2 million in food, hygiene kits and clothing that assisted more than 20,000 people impacted by the crisis. US exchange alumni from universities around the country launched the ‘Meals for Marawi’ campaign, raising P85,000 to conduct Ramadan iftars that fed more than 3,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), while the US alumni chapter in Davao, in partnership with the Rotary Club, delivered food, clothing, and basic medicine to nursing mothers in IDP camps.


Another project involves the provision of long-term interventions by the EmpoWen, a women’s leadership and livelihood development program PHOTO BY OMAYYAH MACABATO

US exchange alumni complemented their humanitarian efforts with psycho-social activities to support more than 7,500 IDPs affected by the crisis. The Lanao del Sur Provincial Government awarded the U.S. alumni chapter in Marawi City for the success of their #MaraWe art therapy program that helped 817 IDP children in the city.

The US Embassy’s For Mindanao campaign builds upon these earlier programs by providing US exchange alumni with ongoing opportunities to contribute to the recovery to the Marawi Crisis and the overall development of Mindanao. In November 2017, the US Embassy awarded more than P9.7 million to support 17 community-based projects led by US exchange alumni, including agro-enterprise development; a roving toy library for IDP children; and Project YACAP (Youth Amplifying, Co-creating, and Advocating Peace), a youth-led peace advocacy initiative.

After helping with relief operations, the US alumni chapter in Marawi City provided art therapy for children PHOTO BY LANAO DEL SUR PROVINCIAL CRISIS MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE

“Project YACAP was inspired by our experiences as volunteers in the evacuation centers and by our friends who have been affected by the siege. The project will bring youth into the conversation on peace and security in Mindanao,” according to project leader Lynrose Genon, an alumna of the Philippine Youth Leadership Program, a month-long high school student exchange in the United States.

In the next phase of the #ForMindanao campaign, public school and madrasa teachers, as well as women’s cooperative leaders who have participated in U.S.-government training programs, can apply for fifteen P100,000 For Mindanao grants to help their schools and communities respond to local needs. Additionally, the US Embassy will support four alumni-led projects of Php1 million each, addressing the root causes of conflict and violent extremism. The grant competition is administered by Naawan HELPS, a US exchange alumni-led civil society organization based in northern Mindanao.

These alumni-led projects are just one part of the US government’s response to the Marawi crisis. To date, the US government has announced over Php1 billion for recovery and rehabilitation of Marawi and surrounding areas through the US Agency for International Development (USAid). The US government also funds extensive counter-terrorism, law enforcement, development, health, and countering violent extremism programs across Mindanao.

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