Ms. Rorich Saura of the Philippines visited Utah in March 2018 as part of the Women Leaders Promoting Peace and Security program. Throughout her life, Ms. Saura has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to educating at-risk out-of-school youth as a strategy for achieving peace.
At just 20 years old, Ms. Saura became the youngest person ever elected to a position in local government in her municipality situated in Mindanao, a high-conflict area of the southern Philippines. As the chairperson on the Committee on Education, she observed that most of the youth and adults in her community engaging in criminal activities were school drop-outs who lacked access to employment opportunities and were easily lured by the financial incentives and propaganda of local leftist rebel groups. In her political role, Ms. Saura authored and advocated for an ordinance to give educational assistance to financially-disadvantaged students who wish to enter college, ensuring that more individuals had the opportunity to build a future.
Since her stint as an elected official, Ms. Saura has continued to work to advance access to education for the disadvantaged. She now works as an Education Program Specialist for Alternative Learning System (ALS), a government department that is in charge of teaching out-of-school youth and adults who lack basic education and literacy. While working in the ALS program, Ms. Saura has visited some of the most remote places in her province to raise awareness about educational opportunities, including camps used by rebel groups.
Ms. Saura has personally preached to crowds about the importance of education and how it contributes to peace and order. Ms. Saura’s outreach efforts have resulted in members of rebel groups enrolling in the ALS program. Like her initiatives as an elected official, Ms. Saura’s work not only helps disadvantaged people economically, but helps increase peace and stability within Mindanao by providing people with greater opportunities to succeed.
During her time in Utah, Ms. Saura met with People Helping People (PHP) a local nonprofit that seeks to teach low‑income women how they can build better futures for themselves and their children by becoming and remaining successfully employed. Their unique employment approach helps low‑income women develop the tools, knowledge, and self‑confidence necessary to compete for better jobs, seek raises and promotions, and become financially self‑sufficient.
Ms. Saura was drawn to PHP since, like the ALS program, it serves disadvantaged groups on how to become more successful economically. Specifically, Ms. Saura was intrigued by PHP’s efforts to help their clients win back their self-esteem, and came to understand the importance of self-esteem in realizing personal success. Inspired by PHP, Ms. Saura launched People Building People to build the self-esteem of both teachers and students, the latter of whom often lack a sense of self-worth due to extreme poverty and lack of opportunities.
Ms. Saura recently completed a self-esteem workshop with the teachers under her direct supervision and is pleased to report they responded very positively and were willing to express themselves emotionally through a range of different exercises. Ms. Saura herself had the opportunity to learn more about the teachers under her supervision and witnessed firsthand how the self-esteem workshop helped her team become more aware of one another and build stronger relationships.
Her work to build the self-esteem of those involved in the ALS program has already been recognized. In December 2018, Ms. Saura received a Plaque of Recognition during a division conference for the implementation of People Building People. Ms. Saura plans to expand the self-esteem exercises to students at the beginning of 2019, and will first focus on jail inmates.
Ms. Saura has pledged to keep UCCD posted on her progress and thanks the United States for the IVLP program which she says “touches many lives.” The UCCD team is very impressed with what Ms. Saura has been able to accomplish from such a young age and are thrilled she was inspired by a small Utah nonprofit to implement new strategies to improve her work. The teachers and students under her supervision are lucky to have a leader dedicated to their success. We expect Ms. Saura to continue to accomplish many amazing things in the future.