Friday, July 14, 2017

Winnipeg Teen Fighting Mental Health Stigma, San Diego-Org Believing in the Power of Small Acts Win Gawad Geny Lopez Bayaning Pilipino Awards in North America 2017

Loizza Aquino (4th from Left) was selected as winner in the Youth Category for the 2017 Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Global Bayaning Pilipino Awards in North America

One is a 17-year-old teenager saving other teens with mental health issues so they do not end their lives. Another is an organization that tries to uplift lives by providing meals, tuition and school supplies to provide a better future for those they reach out to.

Fr. Nilo Tanalega, Project Director of the Gawad Geny Lopez, Jr. Bayaning Pilipino Awards, recently announced the 2017 winners for North America in the Youth and Organization categories. Loizza Aquino of Winnipeg, Manitoba was chosen as the winner for the Youth Category, while San Diego-based Building Lives for Better Future, represented by Jose “JC” Chan, was declared the winner for the Organization Category.

Youth Heroes All! Aquino (center) with the two other Gawad Geny Lopez Bayaning Pilipino Awards Youth Finalists at the TFC headquarters in Daly City, CA.

Aquino’s Passion Provides Peace of Mind
Watch her story:

Aquino shares that “mental health awareness became important to me after we lost someone in our school community to suicide. He happened to be one of my good friends that I grew up with.”  That life-ending action led to a life-changing idea that was the start of Peace of Mind 204. POM 204 is a youth-for-youth organization, composed primarily of high school students across Manitoba, that seeks to create a culture of compassion by letting people know that it is okay to talk about suicide and mental health issues.

Aside from providing a safe space for young people where they will not be judged, Peace of Mind 204 holds events calledYouth Against Mental Stigma (YAMIS) where they bring students together to talk about mental health.  They also invite subject matter experts like doctors and health care workers to provide professional advice and relevant information.
Peace of Mind 204 members L-R Sarah Baldwin, Arjay Certeza, Jeanette Reyes, Charles Apolinario, Loizza Aquino, and Abel Dawit

Regis and Wendy, parents of Aquino’s friend Miguel, whom they lost to suicide, are all praises for her initiative to eradicate the stigma against mental illness. Regis shares how “it’s incredible since she started Peace of Mind how people are more open to talking about mental illness. I believe that she’s saving a lot of lives without knowing it, because people are talking about it.”  Wendy echoes the same sentiment when she adds, “It’s one thing for an adult to try and start this program for the youth. You might get some that might listen to you but to have the youth doing it for themselves, I think that’s where they’re going to listen to their peers. If somebody speaks out then they’re going to say, ‘I’m going through that too. Wow there is somebody else.’ And they will be more likely to talk and to not feel bad or feel ashamed.”

When asked about how she felt when she received the announcement of winners, Aquino humbly expressed, “I personally think that any three of us deserved to be chosen. All three of us accomplished extraordinary things in our lives, and I can honestly say that Michael and Brendan inspired me in many ways. As I got to know them in Daly City, I was humbled and honored to be able to make it to the finals with them.” Aquino is excited to be going back to the Philippines for the global awarding ceremonies in August. This is the first time she will be making the trip back to the homeland since she was five years old.
Dr. Jorge Espinoza Rubio and wife Dra. Miriam Espinoza Romera started Todo Por La Miramar in Mexico,active partners of BLBF rep here by Norman Leonard,Wulfilda Cervantes,Juan Quemado,Jose JC Chan an

A Blueprint to Build Better Lives
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Making the difficult choice between food, shelter, or education is a great challenge for impoverished children. Building Lives for Better Future seeks to eliminate those obstacles.

Building Lives for Better Future (BLBF) is a non-profit organization based in San Diego, with satellite programs and projects in Pozorrubio, Pangasinan in the Philippines, and in Miramar in Mexico. BLBF aims to uplift the lives of the less fortunate by providing intellectual, moral, social, and spiritual support. 

BLBF Director of Student and School Affairs Salvador Idos explains that they targeted the poorest of the poor in Pozorrubio, Pangasinan – the children. They are “the least and the lost. Idos says “Itong mga batang ito ay inaalagaan namin; papakainin twice a day; pay their tuition fee; gamut sa school binibigay din naming. It is a life-transforming thing.” (We take care of the children by feeding them twice a day; pay their tuition fee; we also provide their medicines in school. It is a life-transforming thing.”)

BLBF’s various programs are thoughtfully created to sustain their support for the children in the Philippines, in Mexico, and for the homeless in San Diego.
JC Chan is surrounded by student and lay volunteers and other members of the BLBF core team.They all help in preparing food for the homeless at PATHConnections Housing,a transition housing

Founder and President Jose “JC” Chan explains how this is possible through Meals for a Cause. “BLBF provides daily breakfast and lunch for the senior citizens at the HOPE Adult Day Health Care Center in San Diego, California. As vendors providing healthy meals to the seniors, BLBF gets paid the meal allowance for every (senior’s) meal, which we then use to fund our projects.” Chan further elaborates, “for every senior we feed, that matches the food of our student in Mexico, student in the Philippines, or homeless in San Diego. It’s a great program. If we have 100 seniors, that’s guaranteed 100 students or homeless that we are able to feed.”

Upon receiving the notification that Building Lives for Better Future won in the Organization Category of the 2017 Bayaning Pilipino North America Awards, Chan was overcome with emotion. “As BLBF's leader I am grateful for the recognition of all our efforts especially since all of us work as volunteers often never seeing ourselves the powerful transformative work we engage in.  We are glad that seniors can enjoy nutritious meals; and that children of substance abusers, prostitutes, and homeless parents in Baja California enjoy schooling paid for by BLBF.”   

Chan adds, “I am especially thrilled by the transformation in the lives of our students in Pozorrubio, Pangasinan in the Philippines, who are attending schools on scholarships, taught and mentored by a very professional staff who help them attain a high academic record academically and socially. They also receive daily nutritious meals and medical care and other needed services.”  

A Trip Back to the Motherland for Awarding Night

North America Youth Hero Loizza Aquino and North America Organization Hero Building Lives for Better Future, represented by Jose “JC” Chan, will fly to the Philippines to attend the Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Bayaning Pilipino National Awarding Ceremonies.

The event will be held on August 3, 2017 at the Dolphy Theater at the ABS-CBN head office in Quezon City. Both Aquino and Chan will be in for a series of exciting activities and engagements before and after the awarding rites, like a tour of the ABS-CBN studios and Manila City Tour, among others.

It is indeed refreshing and inspiring to witness selfless people who show a passion for service, with their hearts big enough to embrace humanity. They are a true testament to the courageous spirit of the hero in each one.


For the complete story on Loizza Aquino and JC Chan of Building Better Lives for Better Future, visit

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