In the face of tragedy and difficult times, there is always hope at the end of the tunnel. Kim Jong-ki, whose son died of suicide, shared his hopeful story at the recent NEXTGEN Leadership Program: Youth Advocating for Non-Violence Online, organized by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF). Kim was also one of the speakers during PLDT and Smart’s Better Today Conversations, a virtual storytelling series on mental health and wellness.
Kim is the founder of the youth non-government organization Blue Tree Foundation. “In hopes of building a happier and more peaceful world where [the] youth can dream and hope, I have been passionately screaming ‘non-violence’ for 26 years since 1995,” Kim said during the RMAF event.
When PLDT and Smart launched their mental health and wellness program through Better Today, Kim reinforced his message of hope on how to create and build a more empathic culture within the community.
Empathy is more than just a buzzword. It is having a deeper understanding of someone else’s experiences. It is, in a way, entering the chaos of another person. Living out empathy is one of the ways in which PLDT and Smart reinforce their commitment to advocate mental health and wellness, especially in the digital space. This includes hyper-collaboration among like-minded individuals and organizations such as the RMAF.
“At PLDT and Smart, we have a program called ‘Better Today’, our collaborative initiative and platform in line with our advocacy to educate and empower Filipinos towards digital wellbeing, family and child online safety, and youth empowerment and changemaking,” said Cathy Yap-Yang, FVP & Group Head, Corporate Communications at PLDT and Smart. “Two of the most critical and key components of our Better Today program include mental health and our efforts to combat online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC). This is where we live the word ‘empathy’, as we care for the welfare of our children in the conduct of business – online and offline.”
Yap-Yang also shared that under the Better Today program, PLDT and Smart also have initiatives that aim to combat OSAEC. She emphasized hyper-collaboration in building the anti-OSAEC program of PLDT and Smart. This includes partnerships with global and local organizations and institutions, including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Department of Education, National Privacy Commission, UNICEF Philippines, Kids for Kids PH and SaferKidsPH.
According to Kim, he faced many challenges as he built the Blue Tree Foundation. One of his key efforts include destigmatizing school violence and raising awareness about it. Kim shared that in Korea, the issue of school violence is being tackled as one of the most important social problems to address and overcome for the betterment of the youth. He mentioned how the rate of school violence has decreased from the 20% to 3% range. “The level of national awareness of the issue [on school violence] has significantly increased. Anyone can now receive education, counseling and treatment related to school violence,” Kim said.
Kim recognizes that there are still gaps that need to be filled when it comes to school violence. He underscored the importance of research and policy in building a more sustainable program. Kim shared that annually, the Blue Tree Foundation conducts the National School Violence Survey for the past 20 years. Kim transformed his grief and loss into something meaningful by creating a platform to combat school violence and to champion mental health and wellness amid the tragedies he has experienced.
During PLDT and Smart’s month-long mental health efforts for Mental Health Awareness Month in May, PLDT also partnered with RMAF in creating conversations on hope. Through the RMAF, Cecilia Garrucho, the President of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), shared an inspiring message on how today’s youth have a unique gift to transform their future into something brighter and more hopeful.
“We are grateful to the RMAF for sharing our values and our vision of empowering the Filipino youth. We hope that our initiatives encourage our youth to stand up, speak up, and advocate for non-violence online. We’re here to back you up. All you have to do is lead the charge – you, the youth of today, steering your world, our world, for a better tomorrow,” Yap-Yang said.
Better Today is PLDT and Smart’s collaborative platform for the promotion of wellness, safe spaces, and changemaking in the digital world. The program emphasizes the companies’ commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), particularly UN SDG #3: Good Health and Well-Being.