We speak with Kristian Rivera, founder of “The Spectrum”
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Pride doesn’t end once June does. It’s a movement that carries on to all months, weeks and days of the year, every year. And because we’re celebrating The Kids These Days in July, it seems only fitting that we highlight the youth making strides in the Pride movement—and we’re are kicking things off with Kristian Rivera.
Kristian Rivera is a 20-year-old founder of two youth-led non-profit organizations. He has witnessed firsthand just how much passion the youth has, and what they can do with their time, effort and skills. After all, he has Project Talidhay and The Spectrum to show for it.
In his own words: Project Talidhay
Project Talidhay’s mission is focused on conducting “social welfare activities” in my province, Pagadian City. These activities involve skill-based programs that have a long-term impact on children who are in dire need of assistance. While most children-centered organizations in the Philippines put more emphasis on donations, in Project Talidhay—although we give gifts, conduct feeding programs and donate clothes—the core advantage is that we always provide that extra step for our beneficiaries with these social welfare activities. We want to consistently uphold the vision of “small kids, big dreams.” This means that their dreams are not solely dependent on donors. We want to build their capabilities and help them grow.
From a team of five when we started, now we are a team of 15; all of us are youths from different walks of life. We’ve also garnered three sponsors and more than 10 donors. That said, we also have our struggles, including a lack of resources, materials and potential connections. But we are continuously doing our best to meet our objectives this year, believing that small steps lead to big results.
In his own words: The Spectrum
I started The Spectrum when I was an incoming Freshman. This August, I will be in my third year of studies in Political Science.
We have produced hundreds of pieces and distributed thousands of credible news stories with our platforms on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. Whenever I ask our volunteers why they are still doing the work despite the trolls and backlash, they always say that they believe in the cause of the organization. Some say we are biased, but we will not back down with because we know that we are biased—to the truth, to human rights, to civil society and to what is for the common good.
The Spectrum has been able to partner with three international organizations, mainly in ASEAN countries. With power in numbers, The Spectrum provides an avenue for public discourse, as we have been able to conduct three webinars on digital journalism and social issue topics ranging from good governance to environmental practices.
My co-founder, Janelle Boquida, has imparted courage and hope since she also became the head of The Spectrum’s Entertainment Desk, giving her expertise and insights in her own field. We were colleagues back in Senior High School in radio-broadcasting. When we are reminded of our mission, it simply allows us to carry on with our work, which is to spread facts and help people understand the truth while telling the stories of thousands of Filipinos.
So we sat down with Kristian to discuss more—about the youth, about their passions and what’s coming up next.
Wonder: What do you want to say to people who look at the youth and still don't believe that they are capable of so much?
Kristian Rivera: People should see the youth as promising individuals. Because, regardless of the political turmoil, we still want to shape the future, even if it is uncertain. In fact, the youth truly understands minorities, and the youth is a key agent of change and progress. It simply means that the youth are more capable of building hope.
W: In your life, have you had people doubt you and what you do? How do you get past that and continue to strive?
KR: Yes. I have been doubted countless times. To strive? I think it's really important to believe in yourself and all that you are. It's good to be reminded that what I am doing now is not just for myself, but also for the communities and the advocacies I have been fighting for. Sometimes, it's as simple as believing in yourself with conviction, because people will continuously doubt you if you yourself don't know what you are doing.
W: If you could speak to your 10-year-old self, what would you say?
KR: I would tell him that the world is bigger than you think it is and your worries aren't as important as you think they are. Just enjoy the moments with your friends and family. Because eventually, when you mature, that's when you start thinking of others. Namumulat ka, at kapag namulat ka, gustuhin mo man o hindi, parte ka ng komunidad (You will open your eyes, and when that happens, even if you want it or not, you will realize you’re part of the community), and the world is not that kind.
W: And now take us 10 years into the future. What kind of future do you hope to have?
KR: I would be very happy to have a future where my kids aren't afraid to identify themselves as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, if ever. A future where indigenous people own what they own without being threatened; a future where journalists aren't intimidated or killed. Just a simple future where families are not displaced because of war, and kids can play safely in their streets.
W: What is your advice to anyone who has a dream but doesn't know where to start?
KR: If you aspire to become a community leader, start by asking yourself what field you are in and what people need in that particular community. From there, you can start small while thinking big. You can volunteer, run for student council, create a LinkedIn profile and find job opportunities, or enroll yourself in online courses! Sometimes, you have to understand that it's better to create your own opportunities rather than just wait. You also have to cultivate your confidence, because to achieve these dreams, you have to believe that you can. And lastly, face the fear of failure. If not a dozen, there will be hundreds of failures you will experience. Remember that when you dream, it's a learning process, and it's not a one-way ticket to success.
W: What are the biggest challenges for the youth today?
KR: I would say mental health. My friends and colleagues, including myself, have been through mental instability, and it affects much of our time and confidence. The youth are experiencing this because they are more exposed to physical, emotional, and social changes, including exposure to poverty, abuse or violence.
W: What is the goal for 2022?
KR: One of my major goals is to create and develop more leaders while continuing my engagement in the community by implementing civic-consciousness projects. I am also aiming to attend more conferences and training to build more of my leadership capacity and raise more funds for my two NGOs to sustain our projects. On a side note, I am also hoping that in 2022, I can spend more time with myself, my family, and friends.
In case you were worried, rest a little easier, because if anything, we’ve learned this: The youth are kicking ass.
Art Pis Trinidad