John Piermont Montilla (A21 Young Leader, Jakarta 2010), has published his 2nd Starbucks Creative Update in his pursuit of helping the Philippines reach its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by 2015.
In the report, he describes the various ways in which his organization, The River of Live (ROL) Initiative, focuses on engaging youth leaders to address the concomitant problems of exploitation, drug abuse and sex trafficking affecting impoverished populations around the country. ROL works to connect with local governments and strives to “enable young people to address their risk behaviors and facilitate a dialogue that helps them share their…milestones” as they improve their lives and engender a sense of dignity. This entails supporting local chapters which address specific problem areas on a peer-to-peer basis. Supported by Starbucks Youth Action grants, the programs the Initiative offers also provide the foundation for new policies presented to local governments and stakeholder agencies so they may better tailor their services and outreach to these underserved populations.
The report elaborates on many of the success stories The River of Life has seen arise from its programs. In one instance, they helped an impoverished Muslim clan in Manila identify the specific barriers to HIV prevention/treatment services that their community faced. Armed with that information, they were able to help the Manila Social Hygiene Clinic build a timeline to incorporate better methods and practices in reaching at-risk populations within the clan. They have also provided a forum for MSM (males who have sex with males) engaged in the sex industry to air their grievances and anxieties, helping the health authorities adjust their services to account for the fact that many of these workers are straight-identified and are otherwise not reached by traditional, LGBT-centric, sexual health initiatives. The River of Life has also provided crucial insight into the growing online gaming addiction pandemic, and how this has provided a new avenue into the sex industry as many young men seek ways to subsidize their gaming through sex work. The River of Life also offers programs which help to reconcile and heal families that have been ripped apart by intravenous drug use, with success stories like “Jun’s”: “Because of our River of Life Initiative, I was reunited with my wife and son and I wish to redeem myself…and let them see my transformation.” A fundamental premise that Montilla and ROL Initiatives adhere to is that “there is no such thing as ‘hard to reach populations…,’ they are hard to reach because there is a mismatch between communications strategies, messages and messengers and the realities of the field.” Through Mr. Montilla’s efforts and ROL’s continued work, they will continue to build the tools necessary for stakeholders to properly align their resources to serve these populations as they approach the MDG 2015 benchmark.
Read the creative brief here.