What Matters To Me: Lynn Pinugu, Co-Founder Of Mano Amiga Philippines And She Talks Asia
In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.
Lynn Pinugu has dedicated her life to empowering under-represented groups. She has made her mark as the co-founder of Mano Amiga Philippines, a school providing high-quality, low-cost education to underprivileged children; and of She Talks Asia, which gives a voice to women from a variety of backgrounds. Here, Pinugu introduces her work in her own words.
When I was in university, my parents underwent a financial crisis. Luckily for me, there was a journalism competition that awarded its winner with a scholarship—and I won. I got that scholarship because I was lucky that the opportunity was available, but I wouldn’t have gotten that if I weren’t a good writer. It got me thinking about other children from underprivileged backgrounds who might not have access to that kind of opportunity, particularly in basic education.
A few years after graduating, I decided to go to Mexico to be an international youth volunteer. When I was there, I came across Mano Amiga, a network of schools spread across Latin America. These schools have produced renowned doctors, engineers and the like from children who came from the slums and whose lives were completely transformed by a good education. So I made a joke to the principal, saying: ‘Hey, if you ever decide to bring this to the Philippines, give me a call.’ Oddly enough, they did.
In the Philippines, we often say it’s a great country to be a woman because women can become presidents. Unfortunately, that opportunity is not available to many women here. Many of them are hindered by the narrative they grew up with, which is to conform to traditional gender roles. I want the girls enrolled in my school to feel like they can break through the glass ceiling. That’s what my second project, She Talks Asia, is all about: creating these discussions in safe spaces, where women from all socioeconomic backgrounds can come together and discuss what issues are important to them.
Maintaining a sense of humility and knowing that you can’t be the best in everything enables you to keep learning
— Lynn Pinugu
I love hanging out with the kids since they always renew my sense of wonder—especially when they’re in kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2. They tell you the funniest stories. They’re also very, very honest, which hurts sometimes. Sometimes they tell me, ‘Ms Lynn, mukha kang pagod ngayon’ (‘you look tired today’), because they see my eyebags. While amusing, their honesty is really humbling too.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned along the way is to be humble. When I was starting, I didn’t have any background in education or running a non-profit or social enterprise, and because of that I was always hungry to learn. Maintaining that sense of humility and knowing that you can’t be the best in everything enables you to keep learning. It allows you to understand that you can make mistakes and see that every setback is a learning opportunity.
Lynn Pinugu's charity Mano Amiga is Gen.T's CSR partner in the Philippines—one of eight across the region for 2019.