With more than 26 million users, the Philippines is the 7th largest country in terms of Facebook users according to Social Bakers.
While most people here use it to keep in touch with friends and family or play games, Facebook has become more than a diversion for at least one long time friend.
Armand Nocum, an acclaimed Filipino journalist who is now a legal public relations consultant, is making waves on Facebook that will hopefully help bring peace to his home island Mindanao.
Armand is the founder of the Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library (Kris), a non-government literacy advocacy group, that recently built at least one library in Zambonga City and another in Quezon City. Apart from libraries, the advocacy group also funded scholarships, donated books, and organized medical missions.
In a news report Armand says the Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library received P50,000 (about US $1,200) from a donor he met through Facebook. This helped the organization put to school its first five college scholars and 29 high school and elementary school students in Zamboanga City.
The article quotes Armand further saying, ““It’s ironical that what Mark Elliot Zuckerberg intended to be a dating site has turned into a socially beneficial engine now powering the education of very poor children who would have dropped out of school had their sad plight not be known to kind-hearted individuals in Manila and far corners of the world – courtesy of Facebook and the Internet.”
Beyond using Facebook, Armand set up a website for his 10 year old advocacy, www.krislibrary.com. The site contains news and information about Kris projects as well as being enabled to receive donations via Paypal and pledges for donations in kind as well as volunteer work.
Armand’s advocacy started in 2001 when he sought to help fellow Zamboanguenos, seeing the fate of his native city wrought in incidents of kidnapping, bombing, and other terrorist threats. He and his wife, Annora Sahi-Nocum, solicited donations for books and medicines (from companies such as Unilab and Shell) to be sent to Zamboanga. Along with other kind-hearted Zamboanguenos, they called themselves members of the Kariton Y Libro Group (KLG)–reminiscent of Armand’s childhood where he borrowed books from the public library and brought them home on his ‘kariton’.
In 2008, the A-Book-Saya Group (ABSG) was born–the brainchild of Armand and Ann. The name for the project was coined after the dreaded Abu Sayyaf Group. A-Book-Saya literally translates to “A book for happiness” expresses the group’s primary objective of making children in Mindanao happy through books and through education.
As donations came in, ABSG was able to establish the Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library in Manicahan, Zamboanga City on April 2008.
To date, hundreds of children living nearby visit the library. Furthermore, ABSG has also established a scholarship program, medical assistance projects, book-giving programs for public schools in Mindanao, and many more efforts.
Two years later, in 2010, Armand established another library in Quezon City — a place he refers to as his other hometown. Quezon city, apart from being the largest component city of the National Capital Region, is host to multitudes of poor informal settlers. Armand believes that promoting literacy and education among poor urban kids will help deter the proliferation of crime in informal settlements as well as contribute to their upliftment.
“Amid all the computer hacking, robbery and other crimes done through the World Wide Web, there is love and caring on Facebook and on the Net,” says Armand.