“I experienced what it’s like for my own education to be threatened, and I think that’s a feeling that no child should ever go through.” - Lynn Pinugu
She is Eleanor Pinugu to the world - a multi-awarded Filipina and a hard working social entrepreneur. She was a recipient of the prestigious The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) award for social enterprise and education in 2013. She was also hailed as a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and was handpicked to represent the country in the WEF 2012 Annual Meeting in Davos.
To the Mano Amiga family, she is either Lynn, Ms. Lynn or Ms. Pinugu – the young Co-founder and Executive Director of the school who is constantly looking for innovative solutions to make quality education more accessible to the poor, and bring positive change in the Philippines. Her goal is to lead to sustainable scale-up of Mano Amiga in 15 new locations nationwide by 2025.
It was in her junior year in college at the Ateneo de Manila University when Eleanor Rosa Pinugu was faced with an uncertain future. Suddenly, her privileged life and all the luxuries that came with it were threatened when her mother lost her job and their business has almost gone bankrupt.
Pinugu, then a regular paying student taking up AB Interdisciplinary Studies, major in Journalism and Sociology, had to face reality and think of ways to be able to continue her studies. Luckily, there was an essay competition where the prize was a scholarship. Wasting no time, she submitted her piece and won, making her a scholar until she finished her college degree. But that turning point in her life proved to be more than just an awakening; the experience led her to make a personal vow – that is to be involved in education projects that would help less fortunate people gain access to quality education.
Years after graduation, Pinugu found herself in Mexico working as a missionary and promoting volunteerism in schools. During that time, she encountered bright and confident students from the Mano Amiga Academy who didn’t let poverty hinder their development in school. She was so impressed with the students that she made a joke to the principal, telling her to give her a call in case she wants to bring the school and its system to the Philippines. Little did she know that the call would actually come in 2008 and the joke would become a reality.
Going against the wishes of her parents, Pinugu decided to leave her well-paying job in the corporate world to serve as one of the co-founders of the Mano Amiga Academy in FTI, Taguig. As early as 2008, the school has been providing underprivileged Filipino children an advanced and globally competitive K to 12 curriculum as well as other opportunities to uplift the lives of their families.
Students fondly call her “Teacher Lynn,” as she personally handles their Saturday enrichment activities, giving them lessons on leadership, teamwork, and helping them develop their communication skills.
“We don’t baby them in the school. If you didn’t do your assignment, you suffer the consequences,” says the 29-year-old Pinugu.
But unlike other schools for the less fortunate, Mano Amiga Academy is helping parents to stand on their own and become more involved in the lives of their children by providing them livelihood and enlisting them as teacher assistants in the school.
“The parents volunteering for the school, for us, are the best way to get to know them. Whenever the parents volunteer as teacher assistants, they see how you run the school. You also form a personal relationship because you work with them,” she relates.
Six years into her chosen mission, Pinugu’s sacrifices are already starting to bear fruit. Slowly, she is gaining recognition for her work. Last year, she was one of the recipients of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) for social enterprise and education. In 2012, she was hailed as a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and was handpicked to represent the country in the WEF 2012 Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland along with fellow Global Shapers Anna Oposa and San Vicente, Palawan Mayor Pie Alvarez. Pinugu also received the Social Entrepreneurship Star Award at the 2012 Asian Social Enterprise Summit in Korea, and represented the Philippines in the first Microsoft Asia Pacific Conference on Youth Innovation in Singapore.
Taking things one step at a time, Pinugu is working on her dream of building a country where every child has access to quality education by expanding the Mano Amiga Academy system to 15 schools in Metro Manila and rural areas by 2025. She’s also starting to create a model curriculum which includes meetings with the parents and house visits to establish connection with the families.
In this 60 Minutes interview, the education advocate shares how one experience led her to change the way she sees education, and how easily a privileged person like her can give up everything for a life of selfless service and devotion to poor Filipino children. (Sara Grace C. Fojas)
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