JFK Service Award conferred on 1st Filipino recipient

March 3, 2023

MANILA, Philippines — The United States Peace Corps has honored its Youth Program Manager in the Philippines with the John F. Kennedy Service Award for extraordinary leadership and commitment to service, the first Filipino recipient of the prestigious award, the US embassy in Manila announced yesterday.

US Peace Corps Philippines Youth Program manager Roberto “Ambet” Yangco was honored with the JFK Service Award by US Peace Corps chief executive officer Carol Spahn at the iconic US Institute of Peace on May 19.

This is the first time that a Filipino has received this prestigious award, which is given once every five years to two staff and two American volunteers across more than 60 countries.

Yangco received the award for his exceptional lifelong service and leadership supporting the Philippines’ most vulnerable youth.

Among other achievements, he has inspired Filipino at-risk youth to volunteer and later become social workers in their communities and leads one of the US Peace Corps’ top-ranked volunteer programs globally.

“It is time for us to lead not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example,” Spahn said, quoting US President Joe Biden.

“Ambet brings this to life in so many ways. He is described as an inspiration to all who know him, having dedicated his life to service,” Spahn added.

As head of the US volunteer organization’s Youth Program in the Philippines, Yangco has deployed over 300 American volunteers in orphanages, shelters and youth centers across the country.

Throughout his 22-year career with the Peace Corps, he has protected thousands of Filipino at-risk youth from homelessness, trafficking, violence and drugs by helping provide them with education, job opportunities and life skills development.

“Ambet embodies the best of the US Peace Corps and Peace Corps Philippines. He has answered President Kennedy’s call to lifelong service, and is universally loved and respected by our Philippine partners, former volunteers and staff for the passion and commitment he brings to his work and for positively impacting the lives of so many youth,” Peace Corps Philippines country director Jenner Edelman said.

Yangco grew up as a streetchild in Olongapo City, scavenging for food and sleeping on sidewalks.

At 11, he was taken in by a local Catholic non-government organization supporting abandoned and underprivileged children.

Ever since, he has been “paying it forward” by dedicating his life to serving the Filipino youth.

A social worker by training, Yangco has served as an HIV/AIDS outreach worker, an educator for streetchildren and a community development officer, and rose through the ranks in the US Peace Corps.

The JFK Service Award is named after former US president and US Peace Corps founder John F. Kennedy. It is highly competitive and given only to those who demonstrate extraordinary leadership and commitment to service as well as a lifelong commitment to the Peace Corps’ mission of world peace and friendship.