Facebook representative to Filipino youth: Create empathy online and offline

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Clair Deevy, Facebook Asia-Pacific head of community affairs. News5

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — When Facebook Asia-Pacific head of community affairs Clair Deevy was six years old, she went to the zoo with her father, mother, and sister. Seeking a sweet treat, she asked for an ice cream, but wasn’t allowed to have it. So, she got angry and threw a tantrum.

Her father took her aside, and what he told her remains with her to this day.

“Okay, you’re not gonna get an ice cream,” he said. “That’s not gonna change. You now have a choice about what you wanna do with the rest of your day. So your mom, your sister, and I, we are choosing to have a lovely day at the zoo, and we’re not going to let you ruin our day. You have a choice though. You can be angry, that’s completely up to you. You’re gonna have an angry day and you’re not gonna say anything, and that will be your day. Or you can choose to (say), ‘I’m upset I didn’t get an ice cream, but I’m still gonna have a good day at the zoo, and the energy that I wanna put out to people is a positive one’.”

Her father didn’t tell her it wasn’t okay to be angry, or that she had to be happy. It was her decision to make.

“But I also understood that it wasn’t my choice how other people had to react. So I had an impact on them, but we each choose what energy we put out there. So I ended up having a very nice day at the zoo even though I didn’t have an ice cream,” Deevy said.

She was one of the first speakers at the Think Before You Share Digital Youth Summit, held early this month in Taguig City, where 70 youth leaders gathered to learn the best practices to make their advocacies succeed with the help of social media. Facebook and education non-profit Mano Amiga Philippines partnered to host the event, and digital influencers such as TV personality Bianca Gonzalez, Save Philippine Seas executive director Anna Oposa, and journalist Karen Davila provided mentorship.

According to Deevy, 66 million Filipinos use Facebook every month, with an average Filipino spending four hours a day on social media, including Facebook.

“With all this information coming in, we need to really ramp up the education on how people can think critically… You need to understand what is opinion, what’s fact, what’s satire, and how do you go through all these things,” she said.

She continued, “Once you have information, we wanna create empathy.”

As the young Filipinos in the audience think about their advocacies and the persons they want to be online and in their communities, Deevy also suggested that they ask themselves how they can create a place of “warmth, safety, and information,” and how they can help spread that to other people.

For her part, Mano Amiga Philippines co-founder and executive director Eleanor Pinugu discussed just how her team was able to use social media to raise funds to keep their school from closing down.

Four years ago, they were told they could only stay in the temporary structure their school was located in for one more school year. The community reasoned that their children were not of school age and so didn’t need the school there, and felt that it posed a security risk to them, as the school catered for children from urban poor and informal settler families, according to Pinugu.

She thought about her options: close down school for good and trust that the fundamentals they equipped their students with would be enough to help them thrive when they moved to a public school afterwards, or build a new, sustainable school that can be scaled to other locations.

The team consulted architects and experts and found that by going for the second option, they would have to raise P80 million in eight months. School trustees found them partners to help them purchase a new property for the school, slashing P20 million from the target. They were left with P60 million to raise.

Pinugu said she thought about selling a kidney, but went with a more reasonable strategy: using social media to share their story. The message: “Please help us, or else we’re going to close down.”

Part of the strategy was to share videos such as one shown at the youth summit. The video shows a girl getting ready for school inside her family’s shanty, then brought to Mano Amiga by her father. The video goes on to say how the school needs a helping hand, as it can only accommodate 100 scholars, and a new campus being envisioned can house over 1,000, with bigger grounds and more classrooms. More scholars can fulfill their dreams, and more mothers can receive skills and leadership training. Ultimately, they will be empowered to lift themselves out from poverty.

People watched and shared the video, and started a “powerful clamor for the school to keep on operating,” Pinugu said. They were able to raise 20 percent of what they needed, and they were able to break ground in the new location.

Through social media, they kept sharing stories about the school to encourage people to keep helping and supporting them. They also gave updates on the construction, and shared stories of the impact on their different students, including one who studied in Mano Amiga as a child, and met school volunteers who mentored her in ballet. Now, said Pinugu, the student goes to high school in Makiling Performance Arts High School.

The team found more and more people who served as the school’s ambassadors. For example, Marvin Agustin joined “Deal or No Deal” in September 2015, and helped them raise money through the show. By October 2015, they had enough funds to start the next school year in the new school.

They also needed help cleaning and preparing the new structure, and with social media, volunteers answered their call.

“From a small, temporary… structure, we were able to build a campus,” Pinugu declared.

It is still unfinished, as they have only raised enough funds for the first phase of construction, but as they continue sharing their stories, Pinugu believes they will eventually get to the campus they want to have.