Since she was young, Ms. Rorich Saura has stood out as a leader in her community. When she was 20 years old, she became the youngest-ever Barangay Councilor ever to be elected in Mindanao where she became a chairperson on the Committee on Education.
Today, Ms. Saura is a highly-regarded and committed educational leader in a high conflict area of the Philippines, Mindanao. She has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to educating at-risk out-of-school youth in Mindanao as a strategy for achieving peace in the region. She has also served as a model for other teachers from Mindanao who participated in the USAID-funded and Peace Corps-implemented Padayon Mindanao Train to Teach Camp. In March 2018, Ms. Saura had the opportunity to travel to the U.S. where she participated in the Women Leaders: Promoting Peace and Security program, arranged by the Institute of International Education.
During her visit to the U.S., Ms. Saura explored how social programs, including education, health, poverty, employment and environment stabilize communities, examined strategies for conflict resolution and mediation, such as religious schools, tolerance and interfaith dialogue, and observed policies and programs designed to prevent extremism among youth. Ms. Saura’s group met with a variety of professional resources including the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, the Women's Business Center, the University of Utah Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, Utah Women in Law Enforcement, and the Utah Women and Leadership Project at Utah Valley University.
This year Ms. Saura has endured incredible hardship. Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of her brother deeply impacted Ms. Saura who was determined to turn her grief into advocacy, demonstrating an inspiring act of citizen diplomacy. Ms. Saura writes, “I decided to organize a workshop to continue my advocacy in building people and to recollect myself”. The workshop “focuses on building self-esteem and confidence to combat depression amidst pandemic”, especially in impoverished communities whose conditions have worsened as the result of COVID-19. Of the group’s 16 participants, a majority are high school students who have experienced higher rates of anxiety, depression, and stress since the pandemic began.
Two notable workshop activities were “Planning my Future” and “Round the Clock”. During the “Planning my Future” activity, participants wrote down short and long-term goals to learn the importance of goal-setting and planning.
During the “Round the Clock” activity, participants stood amongst their peers, sharing with each other the things they admire, appreciate, and respect. By allowing only positive affirmations, the participants are able to build their self esteem and develop confidence.
Ms. Saura is an inspiration to our organization and to her community. Her emotional resiliency, selflessness, and dedication demonstrate the power and reach of citizen diplomacy. We remain grateful to educators, like Ms. Saura, who have adapted to the challenges of the pandemic, empowering others to follow.