A survivor who escaped a dark and uncertain future
as a street child, John-Pierre now provides support
to other youth so they can do the same.
Follow his journey from street child to Impact Hero
through the timeline below.

John-Pierre-Life-Story

1976
Feb 02

Born to a wealthy family of sugar barons but an undesired child, John-Pierre spends his early childhood in the countryside of the island Negros with his nanny.

1984
Feb 05

Age 8: Unwanted, exposed to danger on the streets

Age 8: Unwanted, exposed to danger on the streets

Elementary school. John-Pierre moves back in with his immediate family, but suffers repeated violence and abuse. Desperate to escape this maltreatment, he finds refuge on the street, in church and with friends and relatives.

Even at this young age, he finds himself amongst street children who rely on drugs such as ‘rugby’ (sniffing glue) to distract themselves from hunger, and prostitution to make money.

1988
Feb 05

Age 12: Falling prey to sexual exploitation

Age 12: Falling prey to sexual exploitation

Though just 11 years old and moving from elementary to high school, John-Pierre falls prey to sexual exploitation on the streets.

1989
Feb 05

Age 13: Struggling to survive through drugs and sex

Age 13: Struggling to survive through drugs and sex

Soon, he is also targeted by a drugs cartel. Young and innocent-looking, children are often targeted to carry drugs between locations. He receives food and shelter from the drugs cartel in exchange for his work, but comes to rely on prostitution in order to earn money.

1993
Feb 05

Age 17: A lack of choices

Age 17: A lack of choices

After graduating from high school, John-Pierre continues to live on the streets of Negros Island. He finds work on a ship cleaning and waiting, but he soon loses his job after being discovered to be under the legal working age.

Desperate for food and shelter, he turns again to the drugs cartel who offer him both in return for his work as a courier. But again, they do not give him cash, and selling his body is the only option John-Pierre sees.

1994
Feb 05

Age 18: Training in the hope of better employment opportunities

Age 18: Training in the hope of better employment opportunities

With the support of his aunt, John-Pierre has the opportunity to take a Basic Merchant Marine Course and a local Maritime Academy in order to find better work on a ship.

1996
Feb 05

Age 20: chance to escape abuse and start afresh

Age 20: chance to escape abuse and start afresh

After graduating from the Visayan Maritime Academy, John-Pierre applies to work at a shipping company as a messman. He fails the medical check up when they identify his chronic tuberculosis, but he begs them to clear him for work – his first salary would enable him to buy the medicine he needs.

John-Pierre is lucky on this occasion. They take him on and he works there for nearly a year, and the ship enables him to get away from his home island and abuse he had suffered.

This is the last John-Pierre sees of his family until he goes to meet his mother in 2009, 13 years later.

Feb 05

Age 20: Falling back into the trap

Age 20: Falling back into the trap

At work, the drugs cartel discovers John-Pierre again on the ship; they also ride the ship to deliver drugs from Iloilo to Negros.

After his contract ends, John-Pierre chooses to stay in Iloilo – a safe distance from family – rather than return to Negros, but he becomes dependent again on the drugs cartel for food and shelter.

1997
Feb 05

Age 21: No way out

Age 21: No way out

Since they rely on criminal activities to survive, John-Pierre and his peers have frequent run-ins with the law. And try as they might to escape, they find themselves trapped as victims of the sex and drug trades.

Oct 21

Age 21: Self-organizing to gain access to support

Age 21: Self-organizing to gain access to support

Searching desperately for a way out, at age 21, John-Pierre starts to organize an informal group of prostituted boys (sex work and drugs couriers) with a hidden agenda to find better opportunities for the group, as well as access to health and social services from government.

1998
Feb 05

Age 22: A chance to provide support to others too

Age 22: A chance to provide support to others too

Recognised for his leadership and trust within the community, the government asks him to take responsibility for a chapter of the program. Seeing an opportunity to provide post-program support to himself and his peers, John-Pierre establishes Kabataang Gabay sa Positibong Pamumuhay (KGPP), as a spin-off of the original government program, with 17 other former participants.

Feb 05

Age 22: Finally, some help

Age 22: Finally, some help

John-Pierre finally finds help in the form of a Department of Social Welfare program. Though the Department wants to help more street children, they struggle to reach and be trusted by the very people they seek to help. So they offer him educational assistance in exchange for him reaching out to his peers who are also affected by drugs, prostitution and gang violence.

Though still early in his journey to break his reliance on drugs and prostitution to survive, the experience makes John-Pierre realise the potential for a support program to help vulnerable people. But he also realises that a short, one-off program is limited in its impact.

Feb 21

Age 22: Daring to dream

Age 22: Daring to dream

John-Pierre, his peers and beneficiaries at KGPP dare to dream of a different future. For example, one dream they have is to start a restaurant that would employ vulnerable youths that struggle to find work elsewhere because of their criminal records and lack of birth certificate, giving them the support and training they need to find a brighter future. KGPP is still young and not in a position to do this yet, but John-Pierre hopes it will be possible some day.

1999
Feb 05

Age 23: A lesson in what happens to those who try to escape

Age 23: A lesson in what happens to those who try to escape

John-Pierre – struggling to leave the clandestine world he is still connected with – is traumatised after a friend was tortured and killed by the drugs cartel he was affiliated with for trying to leave. His eyes were hollowed out, nails pulled off, and was thrown into the river – a warning to others who might try to do the same. The trauma and fear shatters John-Pierre’s hopes of leaving, and he nearly gives up. Its impact still remains to this day.

2000
Feb 05

Age 24: Small steps towards independence

Age 24: Small steps towards independence

Determined to get through university, John-Pierre is fortunate to find a number of part time jobs at the university and a scholarship to provide cover food and supplies. It’s not all plain-sailing, but he can finally begin to overcome his reliance on drugs and prostitution to survive.

Feb 05

Age 24: Behind the cloud, the sun still shines

Age 24: Behind the cloud, the sun still shines

John-Pierre sets his sights on studying at West Visayas State University. When he visits to get information on the entrance exam, he discovers that applications close that day, so – unprepared though he is – he decides to take the exam on the spot.

At the end of his admissions interview, John-Pierre is asked to draw a random proverb from a box. The phrase he draws is “Behind the cloud, the sun still shines”. Having so far hidden his involvement with the drugs cartel from the school, John-Pierre starts to cry.

Surprised, the interviewer asks why he is crying.

He replies, “I have a dark past that I want to leave behind, and I’m desperate to find a path to escape it. If I can study here at this university, I can escape for good and realise my dreams”.

He talks openly and honestly about the drugs cartel. Hearing his story, John-Pierre’s interviewer also ends up in tears and promises to help him find his path out.

2003
Feb 05

Age 27: Graduation and recognition

Age 27: Graduation and recognition

Age 27, having worked a series of part-time jobs to pay his way, John-Pierre finally graduates from West Visayas State University. His work with street youth starts to gain international recognition, and he wins a prize of 50,000 pesos from ‘Ten Accomplished Youth Foundation (TAYO) and is recognised by the International Youth Foundation, travelling to London to receive his award.

2004
Feb 05

Age 28: Working with the UN

Age 28: Working with the UN

In 2004 UNICEF partners with KGPP to implement a country program for children on HIV and AIDS from 2005-2010. This launches a project known as ‘Skills for Life’.

Feb 05

Age 28: Launching an independent KGPP!

Age 28: Launching an independent KGPP!

When government funding dries up, John-Pierre launches KGPP as an independent entity in order to keep it going (spun-out of Dept for Social Welfare), and becomes its Executive Director of KGPP (2004-2010).

Feb 05

Age 28: A clearer goal and life mission

Age 28: A clearer goal and life mission

John-Pierre, whose life has thus far been driven by fear and his fight to survive, has the opportunity to reflect upon his life when attending the World Youth Peace Summit in Thailand.

He decides to confront the source of his fear, and forgive both himself and the people who have caused him so much pain in the past. He reconsiders the pain, abuse and exploitation he has experienced, and realises that if he can overcome these hardships, then perhaps he can give hope to others who are in a similar situation.

Finally, he sees a brighter future to work towards.

Feb 05

Age 28: Deciding between opportunities

Age 28: Deciding between opportunities

John-Pierre receives a scholarship from the Ford Foundation to study a master’s degree at De La Salle University. But at home, he has just received a grant from UNICEF to run a new KGPP project. John-Pierre – being the only person qualified to lead the project – is forced to take the difficult decision to leave study and instead implement the new project.

2009
Feb 05

Age 33: Reconciliation with his mother

Age 33: Reconciliation with his mother

Builds up the courage to go to see his mother for the first time in thirteen years. For the first time, John-Pierre’s mother shares her life-story with him, including how she was just 16 when John-Pierre was born – too young to know what she was doing – and how she didn’t love his father. She apologises for the harm she has done, he forgives, and they make peace with each other.

2010
Feb 05

Age 34: More recognition and a chance to expand

Age 34: More recognition and a chance to expand

The ROLi is recognized as a case study of good practice by the UN World Health Organization, and KGPP also receives a small grant from the US Embassy to run the program in a number of other cities in the Philippines. KGPP eventually expands to operate 16 chapters across the Philippines.

Feb 05

Age 34: Deceit

Age 34: Deceit

Though John-Pierre has built KGPP on a shoestring by dedicating his own government salary to fund its activities, he discovers that some of his most trusted staff – a couple – have defrauded the organisation of 2 million Philippine Pesos (approx 40,000 USD) over the period of 5 years. The dream he had been working so hard towards – to build a restaurant that would provide employment and opportunities for the most vulnerable boys – is shattered.

Feb 05

Age 34: Developing new programs to help vulnerable youth

Age 34: Developing new programs to help vulnerable youth

Launches KGPP’s first River of Life Intiative (ROLi) with his peer Mark Sakay, in collaboration with Starbucks Youth Action Grants and the Peer Enabling Each other’s Recovery Support (PEERS) Network – a mentorship program run by KGPP leaders. He develops an effective scorecard rubric for participants to monitor their progress as they rehabilitate themselves.

2015
Feb 05

Age 39: Working for government

Age 39: Working for government

Starts working at the Department of Social Welfare, where he first sought help many years ago.

2016
Feb 05

Age 40: Reconciliation with his father

Age 40: Reconciliation with his father

Tracked down by family who finally convince him to return home and meet with his father – as he is on his deathbed with lung cancer – for the first time in 20 years. Though behind so much of the pain he has carried through his life, John-Pierre finally forgives his father.

2018
Feb 05

Age 42: A springboard to greater impact

Age 42: A springboard to greater impact

Selected as Earth Company Impact Hero 2018! With Earth Company’s support, John-Pierre start to plan to build the restaurant, accommodation and academy to support vulnerable youths he and his peers had dreamed about!