Pinoy bags prestigious JFK Service Award

JFK SERVICE AWARDEE. JFK Service awardee US Peace Corps Philippines Youth Program Manager Roberto “Ambet” Yangco delivers his acceptance speech at the US Institute of Peace in Washington D.C. on May 19, 2022. He is the first Filipino national to get the prestigious John F. Kennedy Service Award. (Photo courtesy of US Embassy in Manila)

Roberto “Ambet” Yangco, a Filipino youth program manager of the United States Peace Corps Philippines, has bagged the prestigious John F. Kennedy Service Award.

The US Embassy in Manila said Yangco merited the award for his “exceptional lifelong service and leadership in supporting the Philippines’ most vulnerable youth.” Among others, the Embassy said, “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.”

Named after former US President and US Peace Corps founder John F. Kennedy, the JFK Service Award, is given only once every five years to two staff and two American volunteers. Yangco received the honors last May 19 from US Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn at the US Institute of Peace in Washington D.C.

Quoting US President Joe Biden, Spalm declared during the event: “It is time for us to lead not by the 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.”

As head of the US volunteer organization’s Youth Program in the Philippines, Yangco has reportedly deployed more than 300 American volunteers in orphanages, shelters, and youth centers across the country.

The US Embassy noted that throughout his 22-year career with the Peace Corps, Ambet 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.

US Peace Corps Philippines Country Director Jenner Edelman said Yangco “embodies the best of the US Peace Corps and Peace Corps Philippines. He has answered President Kennedy’s call to lifelong service, and is universally loved and respected by our Philippine partners, former volunteers, and staff for the passion and commitment he brings to his work and for positively impacting the lives of so many youths.”

Yangco grew up as a street child in Olongapo City, scavenging for food and sleeping on sidewalks. At 11, he was taken in by a local Catholic church organization supporting abandoned and underprivileged children. Ever since he has been “paying it forward” by dedicating his life to serving the Filipino youth.

A social worker by training, Yangco has served as an HIV/AIDS outreach worker, educator for street children, and community development officer. He rose up the ranks in the US Peace Corps.