Young Heroes: Building a better world, one click at a time

A youth initiative in the Philippines tackles critical issues affecting young people including mental health.

Daniel Delfin, 19, peers out the window at his home in Cebu, Philippines. Daniel works as a volunteer for the Young House Heroes Initiative, a forum for youth to engage on issues and concerns around COVID-19.
23 September 2021

Daniel Delfin used to think that only superheroes could change the world. A shy and serious 21-year-old engineering student in Cebu, Daniel saw himself as a spectator of life and spent all his time studying, socializing and looking after his pet rabbit.

“I don’t believe in youth engagement and participation,” he used to say.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted his comfortable routine.

Forced to stay home by a community quarantine mandate, Daniel turned to social media, only to find himself disgusted by most of the content. He was bothered by the deluge of angry posts from his friends calling out the Government, using bad names and hurling expletives.

Late one night, when he could no longer stand the negativity, he decided to deactivate his social media account. But before he could hit deactivate, a call for volunteers for the Young House Heroes Initiative (YHHI) caught his attention. The first thought that came to his mind was, “Am I doing good service to my country?” Before he could answer his own question, Daniel signed up as a volunteer.

“It was my first time to join this kind of volunteer programme,” he said.

Led by the Council for the Welfare of Children, UNICEF Philippines and the Positive Youth Development Network, YHHI has provided a place for young people to express concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. YHHI tackles critical COVID-19-related issues affecting them, including lack of participation and engagement, and mental health issues. The programme also provides sexual and reproductive health information for adolescents, and addresses child protection. At the heart of the programme is a youth-led wellness chatline.

Daniel is one of 241 young volunteers – dubbed as heroes – whom YHHI trained to conduct mental health assessment calls and provide referrals to service providers. As a volunteer, Daniel reaches out to strangers to ask them how they are coping during the pandemic. He offers them emotional support by listening to their stories and engaging with them. Since he started with YHHI, Daniel has provided support to 55 young people. But as much as he has touched their lives, they have also given Daniel hope for the future.

“I was very afraid at first, but I’ve learned to love the project because I have an opportunity to help my fellow youth,” he said. “I gained confidence after passing difficult exams and assessments.”

For his hard work, dedication, compassion and warm personality, Daniel was recognized as one of the best YHHI volunteers. He has even signed up to do more: He has since become a YHHI facilitator and creates social media content as an advocate for the programme.

Daniel continues to encourage young people to take action, do what they love, pursue their dreams and help their communities.

“YHHI encouraged me to be a better version of myself, even beyond my own expectations,” Daniel said.

“Now, I believe that the youth can contribute to building a better Philippines if we act now,” he added. “I believe that as young people, we can help each other and our communities get through this crisis.”

Daniel’s story and others like his are featured in the State of the World’s Children report - On My Mind: Promoting, protecting and caring for children’s mental health.