“I was hopeless. I thought I don’t have any chance in life”. These were the words of Morsalin Abdullah, a Muslim youth from Barangay RH 12 in Cotabato City. Before he became one of the youth leaders of the Applying Binding, Bonding and Bridging for Peace (A3B4) in Mindanao Project, he was just a quiet young man who had limited participation in barangay activities due to his background.

He came from a poor family who had no means of enrolling him to a formal school. This prevented him from gaining the self-confidence to mingle with other people. The poor situation of the Abdullah family made Morsalin to work in General Santos City at a very young age. He lived with his elder sister and, when he saw the difficult life of his sister, he found work to help the family’s situation. He was accepted as an Instrument technician and while working he realized that he wanted to finish his studies. A year after, he went back to Cotabato City and enrolled in the Alternative Learning System (ALS) program at Roxas Elementary School in Barangay RH 12.

When the A3B4P project came in 2016, Elena Cedeno, one of the selected women leaders, was a street educator and at the same time the facilitator of the ALS class where Morsalin was a learner. She suggested to include Morsalin as one of the key youth leaders of the project.

The first activity he attended was the Culture of Peace (CoP) training for youth. In this activity, he was still shy, quiet, and non-participative. As time passed, he was able to attend different activities such as the Peace Advocacy and Reflection Session, Youth Meeting/Presentation of Youth Peace Agenda, Reflection Session of TRLs, Identification of Peace project meeting, Youth Camp, Conflict Resolution and Round Table Discussion, Leadership Training and Feedbacking of youth, and Inter purok clean-up drive where he was tapped as the convener of youth in RH 12.

He slowly gained confidence because of the knowledge he acquired in attending seminars. Through the workshops given to them, he also got the chance to practice talking in front of people. Eventually, he became a member of the Pag- Asa Youth Association of the Philippines (PAYAP) and later became the PAYAP president in the barangay. He also became federation president of the organization’s city level, and a board member of the organization until now. In 2017, he was also elected as president of the youth organization organized by A3B in their barangay.

As the president of youth organization in their barangay, he led the youth in different activities outlined in their youth agenda such as promotion of proper segregation of the waste materials, seminar on anti-illegal drugs, and clean up drive in the barangay. He was sent as the representative during PAYAP Seminars, and a UNDP planning activity related to the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) conducted in Cebu, Manila, and Davao. The knowledge he gained in the different activities and the experiences he had had in all the seminars he attended was used in influencing the SK Chairman of barangay RH 12 on what activities and program to prioritize for the youth sector.

In 2017, Morsalin also passed the ALS examination which gave him the opportunity to go back to formal school as a senior high student. Morsalin is considered a model for other youth– from being an out-of-school youth (OSY) to a formal education student. He is an example that there is still a chance for anybody to change his/her life.

Indeed, the project became a catalyst of change in his life. Now, he is giving back and doing his part in changing other’s life by being an adviser to some youth especially the members of his organizations.