Former Ambassadorial Scholar Rhoderick Samonte. Photo by Monika Lozinska-Lee/Rotary Images
Rhoderick Samonte knows what it's like not to be able to afford an education.
When the Philippine student was accepted into a master's program at Brandeis University but didn't have the money to attend, he was "at a crossroads, in between hope and despair."
"I was about to give up," says Samonte.
Samonte learned of The Rotary Foundation's Scholarships Fund Pool for Low-Income Countries two days before the application deadline. He applied and was named an Ambassadorial Scholar for 2004-06.
"My belief in service has been reinforced by my involvement with Rotary," Samonte says. "Education is not just a privilege. It is a call to serve."
At a crossroads
In 2006, Samonte found himself at a crossroads again. He was tempted to stay in the United States after he finished his degree, but he knew it was his responsibility to return home and help people there.
Back in the Philippines, Samonte dreamed up the Youth Entrepreneurship Service (YES) program, which seeks to provide microlending assistance to 100 youths from Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Philippines. He presented the idea to his former host club, the Rotary Club of Wellesley, Massachusetts, USA, and through a partnership with the Rotary Club of Bacolod South, the program was launched.
YES equips young adults with basic entrepreneurial skills such as dressmaking, cooking, and electronics repair. Once trained, they receive seed capital and start businesses. The goal is for them to form cooperatives and help each other earn and save money for their educations. In May, YES received a US$20,000 Matching Grant from The Rotary Foundation.
"I am truly grateful to Rotary for believing in this project," says Samonte. "The youth are the future of any community. What kind of community will there be if we do not give them the gift of education?"