US Peace Corps honors Filipino volunteer with JFK Service Award

Published May 24, 2022, 5:05 PM

by Betheena Unite

The US Peace Corps has awarded a Filipino volunteer with the prestigious John F. Kennedy (JFK) Service Award.

Roberto ‘Ambet’ Yangco (Photo courtesy of the US Embassy in Manila)

Roberto “Ambet” Yangco, who heads the US Peace Corps Philippines youth program, became the first Filipino recipient of the prestigious award. He received the award on May 19 at the iconic US Institute of Peace in Washington.

The award is given only once every five years to two staff and two American volunteers across more than 60 countries.

According to the US Embassy in Manila, Yangco received the award for his exceptional lifelong service and leadership supporting the Philippines’ most vulnerable youth.

He was recognized for inspiring Filipino at-risk youth to volunteer and become social workers in their communities and for leading one of the US Peace Corps’ top-ranked volunteer programs globally.

“It is time for us to lead not by the example of our power but by the power of our example,” said US Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn, quoting U.S. President Joe Biden.

“Ambet brings this to life in so many ways. He is described as an inspiration to all who know him, having dedicated his life to service,” Spahn added.

As the manager of the US volunteer organization’s Youth Program in the Philippines, Yangco has deployed over 300 American volunteers in orphanages, shelters, and youth centers across the country.

The embassy said throughout his 22-year career with the Peace Corps, he has protected thousands of Filipino at-risk youth from homelessness, trafficking, violence, and drugs by helping provide them with education, job opportunities, and life skills development.

“Ambet embodies the best of the U.S. Peace Corps and Peace Corps Philippines. He has answered President Kennedy’s call to lifelong service, and is universally loved and respected by our Philippine partners, former volunteers, and staff for the passion and commitment he brings to his work and for positively impacting the lives of so many youth,” Peace Corps Philippines Country Director Jenner Edelman said.

Yangco grew up as a street child in Olongapo City, scavenging for food and sleeping on sidewalks. At 11, he was taken in by a local Catholic non-government organization supporting abandoned and underprivileged children.

Yangco has served as an HIV/AIDS outreach worker, an educator for street children, a community development officer, and rose through the ranks in the US Peace Corps.