FOR Junbert Pabon, 21, of Barangay Bata in Bacolod City, children in conflict with the law (CICLs) should not be branded and should not be deprived of opportunities since many of them are just victims of circumstances.

Pabon, who volunteered at the Social Development Center (SDC) in Bacolod back in 2016 where CICLs are sheltered, realized that something should be done to eradicate the stigma against these children.

Cramped into a single cell, surrounded by a dilapidated edifice with no activities, resulted in CICLs to revert back to committing infractions against the law once they are released from the SDC, he said, adding that once caught, they are returned into the facility.

To break this seemingly never-ending cycle, Pabon, who is also a member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement, coordinated with the Boy Scouts of the Philippines in creating an auxiliary unit of the organization inside SDC.

“We gave them a sense of community and even after their stay at the SDC they have a group to go to in order to deviate their attention from committing infractions against the law again,” he said.

“We give them certificates and medals also which many of them did not experience before,” he added.

In fact, one of the residents of SDC used the certificates and medals Pabon gave him and presented it to the court to hasten the decision of his case.

Pabon’s advocacy on helping CICLs was recognized by the World Organization of Scout Movement prompting them to include him as among their three nominees for the Kofi Annan Changemakers initiative.

Named after the former United Nations (UN) secretary general, the movement works to make the voices of young people count by giving them the chance to dialogue and seek counsel from experienced leaders on issues of deep concern, whilst affording the opportunity to leaders to better understand the preoccupation of young people.

Each year, a select group of 12 young changemakers will come together online and in-person at Geneva, Switzerland for an intergenerational dialogue for impact and will have a chance to interact with leaders from the high-level network of Kofi Annan and the Kofi Annan Foundation in searching for ways to build their capacity for positive action.

Fortunately, last year, Pabon was one of the two Filipinos who joined 10 other chosen young changemakers from different parts of the world including those from Malawi, Ghana, Uganda, Colombia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, India and Zimbabwe.

Before flying to Switzerland in November, Pabon and the rest of the young changemakers regularly met since August with their mentors, mostly retired officials of the UN, to help them on project management and train them on resilience and mediation.

The Kofi Annan Foundation also gave them financial aid to continue, 140 Swiss Francs (P200,000) that, for his part, he will utilize to develop his projects for the CICLs inside the SDC.

Pabon intends to use the grant to give livelihood to the residents of SDC, wherein they will be provided with technical and vocational courses and later receive certificates from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), which they could use to apply for a job

Aside from that, he also plans to have a psychosocial support or a one-on-one approach to help the CICLs at SDC, Pabon said.

If there is one lesson he learned from his experience as a "changemaker," that is, opportunities are not meant to measure you, rather to support you, Pabon stressed, adding that it is fulfilling to know that he is not alone in his mission.

He also learned to listen to others before talking so “you could understand them and this affirmation gave me a sense of purpose.”