Hamilcar “Ham” Chanjueco Jr., SPARK Program Manager, is one among of the 17 Filipinos that were chosen to participate for this year’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Spring Academic Fellowship in the United States of America. Ham, together with two other Filipino fellows, was hosted by Kennesaw State University in the State of Georgia under the Civic Engagement cohort.
Ham underwent an intensive five-week program that consists of an academic residency at Kennesaw State University’s campus examining civil and human rights through the lens of the U.S. civil rights movement, and educational tours in Alabama, Florida, and Washington D.C. examining present-day international civil and human rights issues including immigration issues, diversity and inclusion, women’s rights, and LGBTIQ issues.
Issue-specific forums are integrated in their program, a talk on women’s rights was included in the series. Prominent advocates from women’s organizations in Georgia were invited to discuss women’s issues in the U.S.
Ham shared that his visit to the historic city of Selma, the center of the U.S. Voting Rights movement, inspired him further to continue his work with SPARK! towards women’s empowerment and gender equality.
The program concluded in Miami and Washington D.C. He celebrated the International Women’s Day at the U.S. Peace Institute where he attended a forum on how film captures the role of women in war and peace.
Ham’s key takeaway from his fellowship is the importance of relationship-building and networking in peace-building initiatives and civic engagement. He recognized that meeting his 20 fellows from different ASEAN countries with different backgrounds and identities irrefutably widened his perspective.
As part of the follow-on activity of the program, Ham is set to present his civic engagement project in Singapore this June. Aside from his advocacy in women’s empowerment that led him to SPARK, Ham also pushes for LGBTIQ rights and equality which is the heart of his peace initiative in Mindanao.
YSEALI Academic Fellowship is sponsored by U.S. Department of State and is funded through a grant from the US. Mission to ASEAN.