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7) I'm Not Dead, but Thanks for Asking

Two months later I was caught in a deadly explosion in the Philippines. At least, that’s what Facebook thought when it notified me that morning asking me if I was okay. Frowning into my computer screen, I clicked on the notification.

John, are you alright? A bomb was detonated near you…

I assured Facebook I was in fact alright, for I wasn’t in the Philippines. I was at home living life as usual, but Facebook in all its technological advances had seen me friend several people from the Philippines during IYLA and had mistaken me for being in the country. That morning, a bomb had gone off, and I noticed that two of my friends who might have been near the blast had declared that they were okay.

Being in the States, we don’t often have to worry about those kinds of things. Being in the States, we can focus on big pictures and SDGs rather than fear for our lives on the daily. Here, the few explosions we (God forbid) witness are branded as extremists seeking to dismantle our way of life. In corrupted countries, explosions are the way of life. And that’s just me branding the Philippines wholly as a corrupt country. I assure you it’s not, but when Facebook thinks you might be dead, you have to wonder how life must operate in a place like that.

I’ll admit that when IYLA 2016 concluded I was skeptical at first. The program was over and its message had been etched upon me, but to me, it seemed that no matter how hard we fought, chaos would fight back just as hard. A nefarious equilibrium exists that everyone is caught up in, and all IYLA did was shed light on it. Sisyphus resurfaced. Problems continued into 2017.

This year's IYLA appeared to be struggling, what with political upheaval and the United States’ ever changing international presence. Whether new delegates were deterred or simply lacked the funds, the perspective count was far less last year’s population. Whatever the reason was, delegates were sparse. Without members, what good is any organization? If we can’t even accomplish basic human connection (the one thing I took away from the program), how can we fix the impossible problems this world presents?

Then I reconnected with past IYLA members. I was informed that a 2016 delegate named Kaye Revil was making waves in the Philippines. She had joined the delegation as the Vice Governor of the Masbate province, a high rank indeed. When I learned she had been elected as the president of the Lady Local Legislators League of the Philippines, I was impressed. When I learned she had achieved that feat because she had been inspired by the IYLA, I was stunned. Kaye Revil is currently one of the most powerful women in the Philippines, and the only Filipino woman to have spoken at the U.N., driven to her goals because of what we experienced together as delegates.

In the moment I knew that IYLA had worked. Regardless of size, regardless of money or lack thereof, the message had shone through. It doesn’t matter how bad the world’s problems are, all you need is one person with inspiration. Perhaps this vision will turn into action. But action must follow through, otherwise what good is the vision? I just needed to see it play out for myself to begin to believe again.

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