United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency has appointed broadcast journalist Atom Araullo to be the organisation’s Goodwill Ambassador in the Philippines. In an exclusive interview, the newly designated ambassador has shared with MB Life his new role, his responsibilities, and the important role everyone should play, especially the youth to help refugees around the world.
As a Goodwill Ambassador
Araullo made history as the first and only Filipino chosen to be UNHCR’s Goodwill ambassador. He’s now one of the influential individuals who represent UNHCR around the world, among which are award-winning actress Cate Blanchett, “The Kite Runner” author Khaled Hosseini, and the American actor Ben Stiller.
“Nakatataba ng puso, nakakakaba rin dahil napakalaking responsabilidad lalo na sa panahon ngayon na ang daming mga pagsubok at dumadami pa ang mga refugee at iba pang mga displaced people sa buong mundo. Kaya natutuwa ako na nandito ako ngayon at mayroon akong oportunidad para makatulong,” Araullo said.
But what purpose does an ambassador serve? “Bilang isang goodwill ambassador, ako ang taga-spread ng message ng UNHCR. At taga himok sa publiko na makiisa sa mga kampanya at iba’t-ibang mga inisyatibo para tumulong sa mga refugee,” he explained.
“Syempre bilang isang individual, kailangan ko ring tingnan kung ano ang aking kakayahan at saan ako pinaka-makatutulong. At dahil isa rin akong mamamahayag, nakikita ko itong papel na ito bilang taga-kwento ng mga pinagdadaanan ng mga refugees para mas maiintindihan ng nakararami kung bakit kailangang nating tumulong,” he continued.
Take 2 Billion Kilometers #StepwithRefugees
The 36-year-old Araullo is now active in campaigning for UNHCR’s newest initiative: the 2 Billion Kilometers to Safety. This is a virtual walk or run where UNHCR is challenging participants across the globe to cover 2B kilometres — the same distance millions of refugees have to travel every year to reach their first point of safety.
“We want to show people the ordeal that refugees and displaced people have to go through. It’s not just important for people participating to feel that they’re doing something, it’s also important for the refugees themselves to see that people actually care,” Araullo said.
“Makita lang nila na madaming mga tao sa buong mundo na alam yung pinagdadaanan nila, at gusto silang tulungan, malaking bagay ‘yon. Minsan kahit yung ganung simpleng pakikiisa nakaka-boost na ng moral.”
The importance of youth participation
Araullo acknowledged the impact that Filipino youths can make in helping those in need. “Philippines is a very young country. If you’re looking at which sector is the most effective in spreading the message and is a real force in making and achieving the change that you want, it’s really the youth,” he said, adding that active participation in different advocacies has never been more relevant.
“Bukod sa sila yung pinakamarami, sila rin yung pinakapuno ng enerhiya, puno ng optimism, at sila yung may pinabusilak na intensyon.”
Araullo even said that the youth have the biggest stake “in what will happen in this world.” “So by engaging them, by explaining to them, and by discussing important issues with them, I feel like, they will naturally be empowered to take action.”
Araullo reiterated that one effective way to get involved is through the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety ongoing campaign, “It’s already showing our solidarity to the displaced.”
“The next thing is to be an active catalyst of change. To join the discussion, spark that kind of discussion. And who knows where that will take you? Maybe you’ll be more inspired to take more active role. If not, the fact that you know what’s going on is a big step toward making a contribution.”
Apart from encouraging the younger generation to take actions, the I-Witness documentarist has an important message for young Filipinos.
“Youth should not be wasted on the young. While we have this so much energy, we have this desire to change the world, and to create a better future, then, we should grab it. Life is not just about seeking success on our terms and trying to make a better life for ourselves, and for our love ones. It is really more about seeing what we can do to help others and the impact that we can do to help those in need. So I just want to encourage them to learn more about what’s going on, and to do their part,” he ended.
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