The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) and the Ramon Magsaysay Transformative Leadership Institute (RMTLI) recently concluded the online leadership workshop dubbed as NEXTGEN Leadership Program, providing 25 promising young leaders from 9 countries with one-of-a-kind mentorship opportunities with the Ramon Magsaysay Awardees. This year’s NEXTGEN Leadership Program sharply focused on how young people can champion mental health in their respective societies and in the region at large.
“We are all well aware that mental health is one of the dominant global issues today. Research has shown that the pandemic has exacerbated this problem and millions of people have developed some form of mental illness such as anxiety, depression or even trauma,” shared Susan B. Afan, President of RMAF. “The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, through the generous support of our Ramon Magsaysay Awardee mentors, is positioning itself as a key-player in educating and building the capacity of youth to be leaders actively responding to this critical issue,” she continued.
Three Ramon Magsaysay Awardees who are doing impactful work on the psychosocial health of people and communities took time off from their busy schedules and carved out half a day to engage with the 25 NextGen participants, most of whom are also involve in the mental health issues in their respective spheres.
ANANDA GALAPPATTI (2008 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee from Sri Lanka) shared to the participants his personal journey, the ups and downs of psychosocial work, how to deal with burn-out, and the necessity of self-care to be able to continue with the mission to help. Ananda shared how he devoted himself to addressing the psychosocial consequences of trauma caused by years of war and conflict in Sri Lanka, and the impact of the 2004 tsunami and many other crises that affected the mental wellness of his people.
SOTHEARA CHHIM (2022 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee from Cambodia), a psychiatrist and mental health advocate who is healing his countrymen’s unique trauma, shared to the young leaders how to understand intergenerational trauma in the family context and to be aware of how individuals whose mental health are affected by any form of traumas should have enough democratic safe spaces to express themselves (and not feel discouraged), starting with their own family.
STEVEN MUNCY (2021 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for his work in Southeast Asia), a humanitarian who has been helping the displaced refugees to rebuild their lives underscored the power of empathetic listening especially when one engages other people whose lives are wounded because they have been displaced due to war and disasters. He also shared to the young participants the importance of fully understanding the entire context of the crisis that affected the psychosocial state of people, and to act on the roots of these crisis.
2021 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee Steven Muncy shared, “I'm grateful to the Foundation for bringing us together so we can learn from each other. Engaging with these young leaders was—and remains—important to me, primarily because they are committed to helping others. Further, they are open to exploring and pursuing both tested as well as innovative approaches to achieving positive outcomes.”
He added, “During our dialogue, I learned about creative efforts to address mental health and psychosocial support needs in various parts of Asia, challenges—some of which resonated with my own experience, how technology is helping these leaders reach different stakeholders in new ways, and the value of early thinking about scaling up and sustainability. I am interested in these cohorts’ development, both individually and collectively, and am happy to be a cheerleader from a distance as they journey on!
Afan concluded, “We want to ensure that young leaders of today are equipped with both the tools in addressing mental health issues and the values they need in order to selflessly serve their communities and Asia as a whole. There are no better mentors than our very own Magsaysay Awardees to impart these leadership gems.”
Twenty-five young leaders from Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Sri Lanka were mentored over two weekend virtual sessions where they exchanged ideas with the Ramon Magsaysay Awardees.
Park Byunggyu, a 29-year-old NextGen cohort from South Korea shared, “In the NextGen Leadership Program, everyone enjoys unity in diversity. Simple as it sounds, this is the X-factor that changes our lives. Thanks to similar experiences and shared passion for change, we connect with each other deeply—and feel heard, understood, and supported. Thanks to differences, we make each other grow in previously unforeseen ways. From this unity in diversity springs a bigger foundation for leadership. In this way, the program enables leaders to bring about possibilities forward.”
The NEXTGEN Leadership Program is the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation and the Ramon Magsaysay Transformative Leadership Institute’s (RMTLI) flagship program on youth development. This second cycle of the NEXTGEN Leadership Program is in cooperation with PLDT-Smart, one of the biggest telecommunications companies in the Philippines with advocacy on promoting mental wellness.
RMTLI aims to contribute meaningfully to the emerging discourse on youth mental health and wellness as part of its broader strategic initiative to continue to amplify the burning social issues especially as these concern and affect the region’s young population.