The U.S. Peace Corps Philippines Youth Program Manager Roberto “Ambet” Yangco was honored with the JFK Service Award by U.S. Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn at the iconic U.S. Institute of Peace in Manila on May 19.
This is the first time that a Filipino has received this prestigious award, which is given only once every five years to two staff and two American volunteers across more than 60 countries. Yangco received the award for his exceptional lifelong service and leadership supporting the Philippines’ most vulnerable youth. Among other achievements, he has inspired Filipino at-risk youth to volunteer and later become social workers in their communities, and leads one of the U.S. 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 CEO 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.”
As head of the U.S. volunteer organization’s Youth Program in the Philippines, Yangco has deployed over 300 American volunteers in orphanages, shelters, and youth centers across the country. 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,” said Peace Corps Philippines Country Director Jenner Edelman.
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 nongovernment organization supporting abandoned and underprivileged children. Ever since he has been “paying it forward” by dedicating his life to serving the Filipino youth.
A social worker by training, 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 U.S. Peace Corps.
The JFK Service Award is named after former U.S. President and U.S. Peace Corps founder John F. Kennedy. It is highly competitive and given only to those who demonstrated extraordinary leadership and commitment to service, as well as a lifelong commitment to the Peace Corps’ mission of world peace and friendship.