MANILA, Philippines – On May 19, Roberto “Ambet” Yangco became the first Filipino national to be honored with the prestigious John F. Kennedy Award for his exemplary work as the youth program manager of the United States Peace Corps Philippines.
The John F. Kennedy Service Award is given only once every five years to two staff and two American volunteers of the Peace Corps “who demonstrated extraordinary leadership and commitment to service, as well as a lifelong commitment to the Peace Corps’ mission of world peace and friendship”.
Yangco received the award from US Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn at the US Institute of Peace in Washington D.C.
Quoting US President Joe Biden, Spahn said, “It is time for us to lead not by example of our power but by the power of our example.”
“Ambet brings this to life in so many ways. He is described as an inspiration to all who know him, having dedicated his life to service,” Spahn added.
Being exposed to poverty at an early age, Yangco, who grew up as a street child in Olongapo City and experienced having to scavenge for food and sleep on sidewalks, did not neglect to look back on his humble beginnings even after he was taken in by a local Catholic non-government organization supporting abandoned and underprivileged children.
He has since been using the opportunity he has been given to turn his life around to also change the circumstances of the vulnerable Filipino youth for the better as a way of “paying it forward”.
Yangco has trained as a social worker and has served as an HIV/AIDS outreach worker, an educator for street children, a community development officer, and rose through the ranks in the US Peace Corps.
He has been serving with the Peace Corps for 22 years and has deployed over 300 American volunteers in orphanages, shelters, and youth centers across the country.
“Yangco received the award for his exceptional lifelong service and leadership in supporting the Philippines’ most vulnerable youth. Among other achievements, he has inspired Filipino at-risk youth to volunteer and later become social workers in their communities and leads one of the US Peace Corps’ top-ranked volunteer programs globally,” the US Embassy in Manila said.
Through his programs, Yangco has protected thousands of Filipino at-risk youth from homelessness, trafficking, violence, and drugs by helping provide them with education, job opportunities, and life skills development, the Embassy said.