DABAWENYO YOUNG LEADERS. Hilton Soberano and Malaya Dereka Genotiva from Davao City are among the eight scholars chosen for a four-month leadership program in Wellington, New Zealand, on Friday. (PNA Photo by Che Palicte)

DAVAO CITY--Two youth leaders from this city are among the eight scholars selected for a four-month leadership program in Wellington, New Zealand, on Friday.

Out of the 130 youth who applied for the program, Hilton Soberano and Malaya Dereka Genotiva were chosen for the Mindanao Young Leaders Programme (MinYLP), a four-month bespoke leadership initiative that aims to enhance the knowledge, skills, and confidence of young community leaders from Mindanao.

Hilton, a club manager of the Davao Durians Rugby Football Club, is responsible for strategic and operational activities and an active educator for club leaders as well as younger participants.

He is hopeful that the program will allow him to learn about sports as a way for development and peacebuilding and how sports organizations can further promote community and youth development.

“Sports is a very unique platform that we can use in terms of peacebuilding and development. It is very widely used like in New Zealand and I would like to apply it here in Mindanao through the skills, techniques and the tools that they use,” Soberano said.

Malaya, on the other hand, wanted to learn more about New Zealand’s good practices on governance, especially in upholding press freedom.

“I am hopeful that my experiences or my learnings in New Zealand will be applied critically in the context here in Mindanao,” she said.

Malaya worked as the production head and a reporter in an independent online media platform based in this city. She is also a volunteer for the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

From the 130 applicants from Mindanao, 30 were accepted for the screening and only eight passed and qualified for the program.

David Strachan, New Zealand ambassador to the Philippines, said the program aims to "invest in the future of Mindanao."

“We believe this is a tremendous historic opportunity to consolidate peace and stability in Mindanao. I believe that investing in our youth is investing in the future,” Strachan said.

The ambassador also lauded the partnership between UnionAID and International Alert Philippines for choosing the eight outstanding young leaders in Mindanao to be the first batch to go to New Zealand.

“New Zealand is committed to doing what it can to support peace and stability in Mindanao. We recognize the pivotal role the youth will play as agents of change,” he said.

The MinYLP young leaders will follow a group program in Wellington organized by UnionAID, a charity that educates and empowers working people in developing countries.

Like other scholars in the previous years, MinYLP young leaders will learn from New Zealand organizations and individuals, including local and central government, non-government organizations, and academe.

They will explore their particular areas of interest, develop and refine a research question on their chosen topics and prepare a proposal for a practical “change project” which can be undertaken on their return home. (PNA)