By Lover Rose Joy R. Antigua
Youth Formation Coordinator- Agusan del Norte Division
Lover Rose Joy R. Antigua. writer

Aldrin, 17, walked in long, brisk strides as he carried his huge backpack. His middle-aged, female adviser barely strolled along, in between heavy, exasperated breathing.

Nevertheless, both were brimming in excitement; their faces glowed in anticipation as they approached the entrance of a huge convention area. Aldrin, his adviser, and 801 others were going to attend Caraga’s first- ever International Youth Camp.

Organized by the Department of Education- Caraga in partnership with the International Youth Fellowship and the Local Government Unit of Butuan City, the 2017 International Youth Camp was indeed one of the region’s largest convergence of young leaders and advisers to date. Held on October 28-29, 2017 at Almont Inland Hotel, the event anchored on the theme: “Change. Challenge. Cohesion.”

 

Brief Background

 

In 2013, the UP Population Institute and Demographic Research and Development Foundation conducted the 2013 Young Adult Fertility Survey in Caraga.

The study showed significant cases of risky behaviors among adolescents such as drug use, suicidal tendencies, high teenage pregnancy rates due to premarital sex. With the advent of today’s technology and easy access to vast amount of information coupled with a high sense of curiosity and exploration, the adolescents could be vulnerable to higher risks, putting their families, the country and their future life at stake. If this trend goes unabated, how can the Department of Education achieve its vision of “Filipinos who passionately love the country…contribute meaningfully to building the nation?”

 

How can the department spark the flame of the nation’s hope and keep the youth from engaging in these risky behaviors?

Delivery of quality classroom instruction is very important, and so are the education support services we give them. One of these is the venue for learning practical life skills as such making decisions, value formation, learning independence, working in a team, leading people, and doing sacrifices. These skills can be learned through a holistic approach to education in which both the intellect and the heart are developed. Given this understanding, DepEd Caraga partnered with an organization that focuses on holistic education for the youth.

International Youth Fellowship representatives meet with DepEd and LGU officials

Meeting the International Youth Fellowship

 

A Christian- based global youth initiative, the International Youth Fellowship is a non-profit organization with central headquarters at California. It is dedicated to the spiritual, intellectual and emotional growth of young people worldwide. Some of their programs include, among others, missionary work, alternative means of secondary education, cultural exchanges, performance arts and youth camps.

For founder Pastor Ock Soo Park, the IYF’s dream is to allow young people to open up their hearts and learn to accept the people around them and to lead them to happiness and the longing to create happiness for others.

Performers from Libertad National High School, Butuan City

Embracing Change

 

DepEd Caraga aspires for a lasting change that springs from a well-formed mind and heart of the youth. At the camp, participants attended the Mind Lecture Series facilitated by IYF’s roster of International Speakers. Life- changing topics included “Desire and Mind- Control,” “Listening and Hope,” “Heart Care,” “Consideration and Competition,” “Right Mind-set,” and “True Education,” among others. In these activities, participants were able to share their insights, realizations, and commitments.

Jazelle Ann Cesar, SSG President of Magallanes National High School, Agusan del Norte, says:
In most times, the youth would yearn for the instant: instant food, instant kabarkada, instant ka-relasyon. After the lecture, I realized those are merely succumbing to human desires. Would that make one a better person? A superb leader? I guess not. Mind- control is something we, the youth, must polish in order to become the best leader we want to become.

Participants during one of the outdoor activities

Surpassing Challenges

 

As teacher-advisers convened at a function room, their ‘baby sharks’ went around the vicinities to find some treasures and perform daunting tasks. They did a Scavenger Hunting game where groups had to decode a secret encryption. They also had unique breakout academies on culture, art, and mind recreation. Each academy was a test of group dynamics, transformative leadership, reasoning, and self- control as they engaged in overcoming various challenges set before them.

Working in Cohesion

 

We may be diverse but we are united,answered the winning group in the Challenge Category when asked what made them succeed in the energy- draining, mind-bending Scavenger Hunt.

With this activity, the young leaders and their advisers understood that differences in perceptions, age, societal and cultural norms remained a challenge for working together. But with their learning experience at the camp, they also realized that working in cohesion is not that complex at all. An open heart is all it takes to start the flow of ideas from one mind to another.

The youth trying to accomplish a given task they called “mission.”

Celebrating Culture

 

Aside from a journey of leadership, the 2017 International Youth Camp was in itself a celebration of varied cultures. Since day one, participants witnessed a series of spectacular Filipino and Korean cultural dances. The Cultural Night, sponsored by the Local Government Unit of Butuan City, put the distinctive Philippine culture on the spotlight as told in elegant dance and song numbers from the multi-talented students of Libertad National High School.

Performers from the Libertad National High School, Butuan City

Looking back to see the future

 

Aldrin, now heading toward the exit, walking with slow calculated steps, his huge backpack still hanging on his shoulder, with his mind savoring the lessons he had learned at the camp. Suddenly, a smile flashed on his young face, his eyes shimmered in anticipation, his heart filled with hope. He paused for a brief moment. Then he began to see his life-goals for the future.