How the Young and Not-So-Young Fil-Ams Can Work Together
By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City — Perhaps, the more challenging feat community leaders have to deal with is having to include the young and the young-at-heart fully participating in community activities and conversations on relevant issues.
In a recently concluded conference of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NAFFAA) in New York, bridging the gap between millennials and the first generation Fil-Am citizens surfaced to be a prevalent concern. Developing second-in-the-line leaders are dependent on how the understanding of two different generations are achieved, thus creating sustainable, relevant community organizations.
Young professional Kate Pangilinan during the NAFFAA forum said that one major roadblock in community engagement is the issue of burnout. The youth have to deal with academic and co-curricular activities and distractions while trying to juggle these with their responsibilities in the community.
The panel discussion, moderated by Rachelle Ocampo of Makilala TV, resolved that the younger generation should be given more influential roles and be empowered with decision making capabilities to hearten them to get more involved in the community organizations.
The NAFFAA forum on civic engagement and community empowerment was held at the NYU Palladium on January 31, 2015. Filipino waves of migration to the US began since the 1600s. But for purposes of discussion, the first generation Fil-Ams mentioned in the NAFFAA forum are those who came to the US since the 1960s and established or raised their families here.
In a separate interview, community leader Lumen Castaneda said that it is just a matter of dedicated effort and open-mindedness to reach out to the young members and leaders of the community.
Asked as to what challenges she encountered while working with the younger generation Fil-Ams, Castaneda said:
“The only challenge I have truly encountered with the younger generation is their reluctance to admit that your experiences are way ahead of them. When I was connected with the previous teacher’s organization, one or two of the younger set of officers would question projects I proposed without examining them first. But in the end, after realizing how it goes, they will also concede.”
Castaneda, a retired school teacher in the Bronx and New Jersey and founding chairperson of the group UNIFFIED, said that the younger generation want to show they know more than you, which might be true in some instances.
“As I said during the NAFFAA panel discussions, the younger generation have the innovative ideas, the energy to move mountains, that the oldies should listen and give them a chance. But I really do not find it hard to work with the youth which UNIFFIED is mostly composed of. I am the only oldie there.”
Castaneda added that it is a must for the older generation Fil-Ams to show the younger ones that the Philippines is beautiful country and that Filipinos are admirable for having survived the harsh living conditions because of their faith and love for family and country. (With a press release from the office of the Consulate General of the Philippines to New York. Photos by Lumen Castaneda.)