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River of Life Initiative, a recipient of the 2012 Starbucks Youth Action Grants from International Youth Foundation

For Immediate Release         

November 8, 2012


Philippine-based organization tackling HIV prevention among unreached young male sex worker groups is recipient of the 2012 Starbucks Youth Action Grant from International Youth Foundation

Manila, Philippines – My River of Life, My Toolkit for Change Initiative of the Kabataang Gabay sa Positibong Pamumuhay (KGPP), Inc. is among 19 youth-led programs in 18 countries selected by Starbucks and the International Youth Foundation (IYF) to receive support through the Starbucks™ Shared Planet™ Youth Action Grants program, a key component of the Starbucks™ commitment to communities


The River of Life Tools (ROL) is part of the community stewardship portfolio of the organization which seek to promote accountability of young at-risk youth toward own and their peer groups’ behavior change. Through a learner-centered approach for behavior change using appreciative inquiry principles for learning facilitation, the tools play a key role in connecting the most marginalized HIV community groups to their respective local testing and treatment centers. The tools is also useful for local governments in their effort to generate data and strategic information valuable for policy development, service delivery and HIV prevention, treatment and care programming tailored to the needs of diverse most-at-risk groups.


Through the organization’s social enterprise, the Peers Enabling Each other’s Recovery Social Network (PEERS Network Philippines) established in 2010 and is strategically operating in the corridors of exploitation in the country; the Youth Action Grant will enable the development of the River of Life Portfolios of youth groups afflicted by sexual exploitation, drug abuse and human trafficking. The project will also attempt to address the emerging driver of HIV risk behaviors among youth groups of boys 8-17 years old addicted to computer gaming whose subsistence to computer addiction is maintained by sexual exploitation.


Starbucks has been supporting KGPP since 2008 and for this year, the support will capacitate 30 emergent male sex worker leaders for the horizontal learning exchange with Iloilo-based members who pioneered the development of the ROL Tool. The exchange will develop an ROL package tailored to the context of Manila and Cebu based members and to initiate discussions and dialogue with stakeholders the explore the evolving vulnerability of male sex workers and address their role as a bridge population potential of transmitting HIV from most-at-risk to the general population. 


Prevention messages will tackle male-to-male sexual contacts, consistent condom use to both intimate and commercial sexual partners, referrals for HIV testing and confidential and private medical appointments to trusted providers for those diagnosed HIV-positive.


17-year old Mark Reynard Sakay, the Executive Vice President of the National Council of the association based in Tondo Manila said in his presentation:

The River of Life Tools helped me in becoming aware of the level of risk of my sexual behavior and this alarmed me that I am endangering my intimate partner who is also a sex worker and my commercial sexual partners who are my sources of income:… The Tools empowered me to protect them both"

In addition, I find it very difficult to mobilize my peers to get self tested for HIV or treated for STI at the social hygiene clinic due to our perceived unwelcoming and negative attitude of clinic staff towards our work. After our River of Life Workshop, this perception changed, my first STI screening was a very friendly experience, this was followed by an HIV testing and they were actually very accommodating. Dr. Diana Mendoza, the clinic physician made me as one of the clinic’s peer educators, and I received a training.

As a Peer Educator however, educating my peers is not enough… they would not believe me since I did not completed high school. So, other than educating them, I require myself to bring them to the clinic so that they will believe that what I tell them is true about HIV… and they believe.


The story of Mark is one among the hundreds of untold stories of marginalized yet promising young people leading positive change in their communities worldwide and Starbucks Youth Action Grants supports these youth-led development endeavors. Mark’s work is also one of the youth-led grassroots actions in which the association strives to capture and to communicate accomplishments to local and national authorities and link results to the Millennium Development Goals where the Philippines fall short in achieving its commitment in halting and reversing the trend of HIV and AIDS by 2015.


There is an estimated projection of HIV cases to reach 46,000 by end of 2015 from 6,015 HIV cases reported as of end of 2010 (Spectrum Projection, UNAIDS, 2010) and the Philippines suffered a setback by being identified as one of the seven countries with more than 25% increase of HIV infection. The latest HIV registry recorded that from 1984 to 2012, there were 8,576 HIV Ab sero-positive cases reported, of which 7,601 or 89% were asymptomatic and 975 or 11% were AIDS cases.  


Newly Diagnosed HIV Cases in the Philippines just this month of September 2012, there were 316 new HIV Ab sero-positive individuals confirmed by the STD/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory (SACCL) and reported to the HIV and AIDS Registry. This was 25% higher compared to the same period last year. Most of the cases (96%) were males. The median age was 28 years (age range: 16-70 years). The 20-29 year (57%) age group had the most number of cases. Fifty-four percent of the reported cases were from the National Capital Region (NCR). Reported modes of transmission were sexual contact and needle sharing among injecting drug users. Males having sex with other males (82%) were the predominant type of sexual transmission.


John Piermont Montilla YouthActionNet Global Fellow of 2005 and the association’s National Council President said during the 15th National Council Strategic Planning held in Guimaras on October 27-29, 2012 that:


"The support of Starbucks has been significant in the 10 year efforts of the association in  blending community leadership, stewardship and entrepreneurship that crystallized into one unified behavior change platform dubbed as the “Me, My Peers and My Community: A Behavior Change Entrepreneurship framework. A framework that creates a peer environment that enables behavior change to happen in a fun, exciting and income generating."


"To measure behavior change outcomes, the River of Life serves as the tool to measuring behavior change performance, understanding the learning processes and styles of various peer groups, and keeping track of individual and peer groups’ progress toward their own behavior change goals and their life aspiration."


Recipients of the Youth Action Grants were chosen through a competition established by IYF and Starbucks in 2008 in order to makes grants available to young leaders who have completed IYF’s YouthActionNet® fellowship program. YouthActionNet® strengthens and scales up the impact of youth-led social ventures around the world. A committee comprised of IYF staff and Starbucks partners (employees) selected the final grant recipients.


To learn more about the Starbucks™ Shared Planet™ Youth Action Grants program and the planned activities of all 19 grant recipients, visit:




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About the Kabataang Gabay sa Positibong Pamumuhay (KGPP), Inc.

Kabataang Gabay sa Positibong Pamumuhay is an association of boys and young men thriving in exploitative working environments in the Philippines founded in 1998 and based in Iloilo City. Since its founding, the organization seeks to respond to needs young men who are victims of trafficking and exploitative labor that are neglected due to strong socio-cultural norms that considers their experiences a rite of passage. It works to address the health and social consequences exploitation brings about to their lives and well-being. Activities of the organization are linked to its three portfolios on community leadership, stewardship and entrepreneurship with the goal of transforming community groups of vulnerable youth into behavior change entrepreneurs who are able to co-create and outsource practical solutions to their everyday life concerns, rise above them and set their life stories as example of hope and positive change.

The organization has been recognized as one the most outstanding youth organizations in the Country in 2003 for its Iloilo Chapter  and 2008 for its Negros Chapter by the National Youth Commission and a  2008 recipient of the Coca Cola Foundation’s Coke Barkada Award for its work with HIV positive young people.


About The River of Life Tools

The River-of-Life tools (ROL) is a learner centered approach for behavior change programming using appreciative inquiry principles for behavior change facilitators, communicators and learners. It is composed of four tools, the Tree of Dreams, the Self-Assessment of Risk, the River of Life and the "I" Journal. Enrolled community groups facilitates it quarterly to generate individual and group outputs that used to stimulate behavior change and are showcased every year during an annual knowledge fair in line with the World AIDS Campaign.  It was developed by the pioneers of KGPP in Iloilo with the help of the Constellation for Life Competence (formerly AIDS Competence) based in Thailand during the organization’s implementation of the Skills for Life project funded by UNICEF Country Program for Children 6 (2005-2009).  The Philippine NGO Support Program (PHANSuP) selected the initiative as one of the Community Engagement Learning Case and was adopted as a tool for measuring behavior change for the Positive Living program implemented in Manila, Iloilo, Cebu, Zamboanga and Davao. 


The program was selected as one of the   Official Global Village Activity for the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) held in Washington DC at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. from July 22 – 27, 2012.

About the International Youth Foundation (IYF)

The International Youth Foundation (IYF) invests in the extraordinary potential of young people. Founded in 1990, IYF builds and maintains a worldwide community of businesses, governments, and civil-society organizations committed to empowering youth to be healthy, productive, and engaged citizens. IYF programs are catalysts of change that help young people obtain a quality education, gain employability skills, make healthy choices, and improve their communities. To learn more, visit:



About the Starbucks Youth Action Grants Program

The Starbucks Youth Action Grants program helps young people realize their natural potential to reinvent their local communities. The program is the primary vehicle through which the Starbucks Foundation invests in communities globally as part of the Starbucks commitment to communities where the company does business. Since launching the Fund in 2007, more than $1.5 million has been invested in programs around the world.

The Fund is integral to the company achieving its goal by 2015 of engaging 50,000 young social entrepreneurs to innovate and take action and, in turn, to inspire 100,000 additional individuals to take action in their communities. For more information, please visit





John Piermont Montilla

Rhea B. Penaflor

Gina Apostol


Kabataang Gabay sa Positibong Pamumuhay

Venturing boys and men thriving in exploitative environments to address the

health and social outcomes exploitation bring about to their well-being


# 252 R. Mapa St. Brgy. Tabucan, Mandurriao

Iloilo City, Philippines 5000

Tel: +63-33-3215118 | +639153291001


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