As a University with culture of excellence in developing globally competitive and values oriented leaders and professionals, Sorsogon State University (SorSU) is proud of 4th Year Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering student, Ruize G. Angeles, who was selected to represent the Philippines in the Asia Pacific Regional Youth Leadership Academy at Banepa, Nepal last November 5-11, 2023.

The 5-day activity was organized by the Danish Red Cross Youth (DRCY) and Danish Red Cross (DRC) in Nepal in partnership with Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS), and in coordination with the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent Societies (RCS). Its mission is to gather young leaders from the Asia Pacific Region to develop their leadership skills, exchange experiences and give national input for the updating of the Youth Engagement Strategy or YES 2.0 of IFRC. The training also aims to build leaders, role models, and agents of change to make stronger volunteer communities, initiate, and lead youth activities in their national societies.

Angeles, who is the current President of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) – Sorsogon Chapter was selected as representative alongside Dir. Caren Garcia Yacub of Rizal Chapter to attend and represent the Philippine Red Cross at the Youth Leadership Academy approved by PRC Chairman Richard Gordon and PRC Secretary General Dr. Gwen Pang.

Together with youth leaders coming from 12 different National Societies of the Asia Pacific Region – the participants contributed, developed and updated the IFRC YES 2.0 and learned about the global youth campaign Youth Engagement Lived Leadership (YELL).

The Leadership Academy ran on three parts, (1) Leadership academy where participants discuss and conduct activities about the best practices along with Personal Leadership styles in the RC/RC (Red Cross and Red Crescent) Movement, along with the self-care kit-inputs, (2) the YES 2.0 and the (3) Youth Engagement Lived Leadership (YELL) global campaign.

In his journey as a volunteer, Ruize recalled how he was selected as the country’s representative, he shared experiences in the organization along with his life changing learnings, challenges and resolve on how to overcome difficulties and continue volunteering despite it all.

Where it all began: SorSU Health Services Unit

In 2014, Angeles was then a Grade 8 student when the Philippine Red Cross was introduced by the Sorsogon State University Health Services Unit through an activity. Years passed and the once curious interest turned into an amplified mission to learn more about the PRC. As his academic year level advanced, he continued to participate in more activities organized by Sorsogon State University and Red Cross (vice-versa). He became a member of the Sorsogon State College – College Red Cross Youth Council from 2014-2017, the Vice President in 2017-2018, and its President from 2020-2021.

Soon, Angeles became more active and engaged in the organization’s call. He was eventually given the opportunity to enter in the leadership level of Red Cross Youth. As part of this level, he was able to attend trainings that built up his personal and character growth. Among his attainments was being an instructor in different services, passing the National Trainers Training and becoming a Risk Management Instructor. After all the civic hard work, he was elected as the Sorsogon Red Cross Chapter President in 2021, a position that only motivated him to dream and do more.

On a mission: Braving Typhoon Odette, Covid-19 Pandemic, and a personal emergency

His rare determination and commitment to the organization along with a heart to serve people made him a qualified volunteer to accompany the response team in various situations. He shared three experiences that truly defined his volunteering.

The first was during the height of the COVID -19 Pandemic in March 2020, he was eager to assist during the provincial lockdown and was part of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Pandemic Response Team. Before deployment, Angeles attended the necessary intensive training for infectious diseases and was assigned in the disinfection of streets and some vehicles – the initial responders with the frontline services. Storms and natural calamities were continuous despite the pandemic, more so, Angeles was also exposed and trained to monitor natural calamities and helped different Local Government Units during clean up and evacuation, his team also conducted instruction on proper hygiene to evacuees. They also responded to patients who are in dire need of blood packs. Back then, Sorsogon Chapter has yet to have an existing blood bank and the nearest would be an hour ride to Albay, it was only in 2022 when the RC – Sorsogon Chapter established the first blood station that would benefit Sorsoganons and with less effort. When asked if fear of the virus ever engulfed him, he replied that fear of the virus in its primitive weeks did struck him and more when the news of a first case in Albay was reported, however they continued to respond. It was only after Sorsogon had its first case when youth volunteers were sent home for safety reasons.

Next, was his first deployment outside Sorsogon at Negros Oriental Province to assist in the Cash Relief Distribution after the Typhoon Odette hit the region last 2021. He recalled his first-hand experience to see the devastation. Angeles, along with other professional volunteers were one of the first organizations who’ve reached the area, here they listened to stories of victims, families who lost loved ones and their properties. He said “The fact that someone was listening made them feel that someone really came for them”, he learned how to work in emergency relief, beneficiary selection, and how actual distributions are done in vulnerable areas.

The third and personal defining moment was in 2022, when he responded to his father with symptoms of a stroke, this happened while he was conducting training for 16 Youth Instructors in Bacon, Sorsogon. After his sister called for help, Angeles quickly applied for the F.A.S.T. method – a mnemonic that stands to detect and enhance responsiveness to needs of a person having a stroke, the key identifying factors consists of Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time to call emergency services. The method allowed him to properly assist and provide the appropriate action. Had it not been attended immediately, Angeles said it would have been a severe stroke. Four weeks after the hospitalization his father recovered.

(Check this video for a detailed understanding of the FAST Method

While in Nepal: a stronger resolve

“We dreamt of improving the programs of Sorsogon. Through the years we’ve implemented and were given the opportunity to be highlighted by the National Office, they saw Sorsogon’s (Chapter) growth in the programs and the councils… Because from three councils in the 1980s, there are now 25 councils who are engaged in the community… (there are) college and high school councils. The National Headquarters saw that the Youth Program was emerging.”

Due to the project and programs of the Sorsogon Chapter, Angeles believed it a driving force of his selection. But before reaching Nepal, he first attended the IFRC Youth Engagement Strategy 2.0 Visioning Phase which was an invitation from the International Federation of Red Cross Youth – Global Youth Governing Board to make/conduct a revision of the International YES 1.0 of the RC movement in Manila last May 2023. He was pre-selected by the PRC National Headquarters along with three volunteers from Palawan, Cotabato, and Iloilo due to significant contribution to their respective councils. Here, they revised the YES 1.0, by applying global context, incorporating solutions to the issues and concerns of the generation, inserting Gender and Development, youth empowerment, different leadership strategic frameworks and other national/cultural context. Later in October 2023, he received a letter of invitation to help in providing input for the YES 2.0 as part of the Asia Pacific Region.

Like any first-timers, his first international travel was exciting. As an externally funded opportunity, Angeles shared his thoughts on visiting Nepal, since the Leadership Academy centered on sharing ideas, he and the Asia Pacific Team had a chance to see Nepal in that retrospect, he observed scarce water sources along with housing problems for some communities and earthquakes are of occurrence.

As the Leadership Academy ran on three parts, the 5-day activity focused on (1) Leadership academy where participants discuss and conduct activities about the best practices along with Personal Leadership styles in the RC/RC Movement, along with the Self-care kit-inputs, (2) the YES 2.0, here brainstorming and consultation among participating countries was held, they were tasked to identify global barriers in youth engagements and providing global solutions to each. The (3) third part is all about the Youth Engagement Lived Leadership (YELL) Global Campaign where the participants were taught about the methodologies, approaches, techniques and structure of the campaign that will help each chapter in their leadership engagements.

Different national societies experience different situations and environments when it comes to youth leadership engagement. According to Angeles, he was fortunate because in the Local Government Board of Sorsogon Province, the RC Youth president has a place in the local and national chapter while other countries don’t and sometimes have neither proper representation, council, or even a local youth council but instead a youth program not led by the youth. “I could say if the youth is given a voice, there will be a significant change in the program”. The YELL is a global campaign that addresses these types of concerns, the methods learned can also be applied to other organizations with youth leaders.

On the other hand, he recalled that during their stay at Banepa, Nepal, he walked around the Banepa Municipality, saw Mosques, Churches and Religious places and had a chance to go to the viewing deck of the Himalayas, a mountain range in Asia with one of the highest peaks in the world. He was with representatives from countries Denmark, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Maldives, Fiji, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Ukraine. From his acquaintance with them, he heard personal stories particularly with the Ukrainian representative, Angeles recalled that a lot of volunteers are having a hard time supporting the humanitarian response in Ukraine due the security and safety reasons, however some are lucky through senior level leaders to provide help to the community by providing health kits, clothing and food to the victims. On one occasion when a helicopter flew by their training location, the Ukrainian representative ran for cover and motioned them to do the same, Angeles said it was an immediate response done in areas of war and conflict.

The Heart’s self-care tool box

“Staying in Sorsogon State University for a very long time became a door that allowed me to meet a lot of people, especially the members of Red Cross Youth, they’ve become my family. Even though there are new faces through time, others have graduated, others are new members, I never felt that I was too old staying in the school nor was I different from them, just because we have senior high, junior high and first year students, truly Red Cross Youth is a really youth friendly space.”

As a student leader, Ruize Angeles reflected that it’s very important to acknowledge that you are still a “human”. On his part, exhaustion often comes due to expectations from senior level leaders, own expectations, targets and dreams. From the years of service there is one thing that he continuously reminds himself as he juggles volunteering and academics. “I remind myself that we won’t be a humanitarian organization if we, leaders, ourselves are not humane to ourselves. It is important for us to acknowledge that we are only human”. He said that there are things one cannot achieve and cannot achieve yet, there are things and situations that will make a person tired and in dire need of rest, those are the times one must opt to follow the instincts of the body. There are also instances that working too much might disrupt the quality of the output. He furthered that it’s alright for a student leader to stand down, if the targets are not met today there is always tomorrow.

“When we get exhausted, take some rest, do your hobbies, take your coffee, go out and eat, go out with your friends, get in touch with your long term friends. It’s really important na maging tao ka pa din (to be human), sometimes being too harsh to ourselves in achieving goals and targets before the end of the year, is where exhaustion happens”.

Academics and Volunteering

In balancing his academic activities, Angeles confessed that it’s hard for a student leader to balance curricular activities along with personal ones. Yet, despite being a “priority” he categorizes the Red Cross Youth as a “want”. He acknowledges the need to put first his academics even if it requires sacrificing RC activities. “Good leadership requires trusting your mentees and trusting your members” he knows more opportunities will also arrive. For his travel in Nepal, he was lucky to not have so many academic requirements because of the activities on campus that time. “Maybe it’s God’s plan na lumabas ako that time.” (English Trans: Maybe it’s God;s plan for me to go out at that time). He admitted that he also feels unrest every time there are targets and goals set for the organization. “As a student leader who works at school and red cross, prioritizing many things, every time I get up there is exhaustion due to the targets and projects.”

When asked what makes him push through despite the difficulties he replied “It’s the fact na mahirap kami. I grew up financially challenged. I never thought to stop because I believe my family and I need to get out of this situation. Luckily for me, I’m in SorSU, our teachers and students are supportive to one another…I really feel that I’m at the right place and right time, having opportunities in RC and at the same time studying at a prestigious school which has a great Engineering Program.”

Despite financial struggles he said he finds joy in his work in the RC. He felt fortunate to be able to be sent to another country, and for being enrolled in a school with an understanding Faculty “the school understands – the teachers understand our situations. They are considerate especially during the pandemic… It’s a very good thing for us student leaders and not fortunate financially… We never felt that we were left behind as students…the people around me make me feel that I am not left behind.“

Further he said, “I was raised by my parents to help. I am always reminded that di porket mahirap tayo ay wala tayong matutulong…I think for everybody naman, pagnakakatulong tayo there is something inside us na nabubuhayan tayo, every time we help different people in different ways, there’s a feeling inside that na binibigyan tayo ng “power to live” (laughs). Kapag nakakatulong ka, you make other people happy… for now dahil I can’t provide financially for different people I could still manage to help them in different ways, RC really helped me in my character development specially to who I am right now along with the University, faculty and staff, who developed me on who I am right now, (and the Lord) definitely.”

(English Translation: I was raised by my parents to help. I am always reminded that being financially challenged does not mean you cannot help others… I think for everyone, when we help, there is something inside us that makes us alive, every time we help different people in different ways, there is a feeling inside that gives us the “power to live”. If you can help, you make other people happy… For now, I can’t provide financially for different people, but I could still manage to help them in different ways. The RC really helped me in my character development, along with the University, faculty and staff, who developed me on who I am right now, (and the Lord) definitely.”

What’s next?

“Personally, I continuously dream for tomorrow.” Angeles looked far in the interview room and implied that it’s hard to put into context the words “What is next”. “But I’m dreaming for a bigger Red Cross in Sorsogon.”

The Sorsogon RCY will soon have an election of new members for the new term in 2024 and Angeles hopes that these new set of well calibrated leaders will continue their own legacy, build their own dreams, write stories and will not stop the work that they have started in the chapter. He internalized that despite his term ending he still has more in store. Reflecting from this, he envisioned that there will be more student leaders willing to serve the public in SorSU.

“I dream that Sorsogon State University will produce more leaders going out of the country representing not only the school but the country, showing that Philippines is not only receiving, but giving ideas and innovation.”

Written for Website by SorSU PIO, photos courtesy of Mr. Ruize G. Angeles.