Friday, January 16, 2009

Making the country oh Keh!

Making the country oh Keh!
By: J. Vincent Sarabia Ong
The Philippine Star (Page F-3)
January 17,2009

Many of us plan our lives a day or at most a month at a time. Some even live up to the very next second. While we worry about paying our bills at the end of the month, 29-year-old Atenean theology professor Harvey Keh's concern has been 2010 since July last year. He put up the Kaya Natin! movement for good governance to get the country ready for the upcoming 2010 elections by encouraging the youth to register, being critical of their candidate choices, and developing them as future leaders.

Before jumping forward in time though, we must go back to Harvey's past to see that behind his mild manners is a man with a fiery passion for his country. He relates that service for others has always been in his blood because of his devout Christian parents. His father spearheads a microfinance foundation and his mother is an advocate of education. He remembers how they took the time to not spoil him and be aware of the poverty in the country. Later on, Harvey used these values when he joined the student councils of Xavier High School and Ateneo College.

The Great Equalizer

With his direct experiences with the poor, Harvey realized that the solution to poverty in the country was education, which he believes is the great equalizer. Soon, Harvey founded Pathways to Higher Education that gives scholarships to public school students and trains their parents in entrepreneurial and interpersonal skills. The foundation was set up via a four-year grant from the New York-based Ford Foundation and was started when Harvey was only 22, making him the youngest grantee of the organization. Though Pathways was still operational after the grant ended, Harvey discovered that scholarships were not enough because of the deplorable state of public libraries, where books were either lacking, tattered or already too dated to use. Hence, he partnered with Filway CEO and president Hector O Tagaysay who distributes Time Life books locally to start the AHON (Acts of Hope for the Nation) Foundation. The foundation was designed to set up libraries in public schools through cash or book donations, as recently done in Fully Booked.

Hunger For Hope

In 2007, Harvey sent a private e-mail that he would leave the country if certain celebrities became senators. Unknowingly, this e-mail was forwarded and reblogged, and his words were taken out of context. He says that the letter was meant to jolt people out of their complacency, but he honestly will never leave the country because he loves it too much. And true to his word, Harvey didn't just sit there and is now fighting the war against poverty on the other end — at the top through political change. Today, he is thinking about tomorrow through Kaya Natin that is composed of Governor Eddie Panlilio of Pampanga, Mayor Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija, Governor Grace Padaca of Isabela, Governor Teddy Baguilat, Jr. of Ifugao, and Mayor Jesse Robredo of Naga City. If you look at the composition of Kaya Natin, you will notice that the group doesn't judge people by their backgrounds as Grace Padaca is a journalist, Teddy Baguilat grew up as an Igorot, and Sonia Lorenzo is a housewife, but all have the clear commitment to serve people and a clean record to back it up.
Not a political party, Kaya Natin is composed of public officials and people from the private sector such as Ramon Magsaysay government service awardees or emerging leaders who can share their practices. At the same time, these members aim to inspire students through school tours. These tours have been proven effective as Harvey can see that students treat them like rockstars, asking for their autographs and photos. Through this, Harvey says that he is inspired to continue working because he sees that the youth have a hunger for hope.

Spread The Good News

Harvey says that everyday people like you can be part of Kaya Natin and turn the tide of 2010 through blogging. He adds that the youth can help the country by writing good news so the world can see the positive changes in the Philippines. He notes that there is a drought of good news on the web and young people can fill that void.

Regarding the coming elections, he says the youth should start blogging or e-mailing about the officials that they believe in. By doing so, their chosen candidates will have a better chance of winning because more people will know more about them. However, he urges that the youth register first so they can vote for their candidates in 2010. All this said, it is evident the power of the political will, thanks to technology, is not in the hands of mayors or senators.

The future is literally in our hands. It is just a matter of raising the hype and typing it out in our blogs, facebook shoutouts, and multiply pages.

Thank you, Harvey, for making us think of the possibilities of 2010 in 2009. Tomorrow is, indeed, ours.

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Links to Harvey Keh's foundations:

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