April 1, 2021 Manila, Philippines – Kleine Abrugena is the newest World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific (WYAAP) Regional Director of Operations (RDO). Born and raised in Manila, Philippines where the WYAAP headquarters is located, Kleine’s very first foray with WYA was in 2016 where he was a regional intern. Years later, he sustained his involvement through volunteering for the Human Dignity Curriculum and representing WYA in conferences around Asia Pacific.
Kleine in 2017 volunteering for a Human Dignity Curriculum pilot in Manila, Philippines
“WYA honed me to be more critical of the systemic issues our society faces and enabled me to understand the essence of putting the human person at the center of policies and cultures” – Kleine on what brought him to apply for a staff position for WYA.
1. What were you busy with prior to your role now as RDO and what made you apply for the role?
I served at the Philippine Red Cross for four years prior to my appointment as RDO. I led and supported sustainable development and disaster recovery programs under the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Office which entailed implementing and evaluating projects that dealt with providing communities and schools access to clean and safe water. Most recently, I supported the organization’s largest COVID-19 molecular laboratory on its data management and operations.
I applied for the role because I’m passionate about WYA’s mission. When I joined the organization five years ago, I was deeply moved by its programs and witnessed how these are able to transform young leaders of today. WYA honed me to be more critical of the systemic issues our society faces and enabled me to understand the essence of putting the human person at the center of policies and cultures. I also thought that applying to the role would allow me to give back to the mission that greatly supported me on a lot of aspects in life when I was (a bit) younger.
2. What is your fondest WYA memory, as a volunteer?
Definitely the Human Dignity Curriculum (HDC). HDC has always been close to my heart simply because the kids in Play, Learn, and Serve (PLS) during my regional internship have taught me so many things more than I’ve ever taught them. I still get to catch up with them from time to time through Facebook but mostly with their parents. The last time I saw them was in 2019, three years after we implemented the HDC in their community. I was so moved to learn that they can still recite the Dignity Poem we taught them.
3. Complete the sentence: In 3 years, I wish for WYAAP to be…
Known in places where we’re not known.
4. What do you do in your spare time? What do you do for leisure?
I love to read. I’m into Malcolm Gladwell’s works for non-fiction and Paulo Coelho for fiction. Listening to my favorite bands while reading is a package. I’m a hardcore fan of Imagine Dragons, OneRepublic, The Script, and AJR. I also enjoy exercising and driving.
5. How have you been keeping sane the past year?
My sister gave me a lot of potted plants that came with a plant rack during the onset of the lockdown. It was really cool and fun, I always thought I had a green thumb. A month after, they all wilted. I’d still say that kept me sane. But aside from this failed attempt to make my plants grow was working out at home and watching Netflix. It was pretty difficult balancing these things with work though, particularly when I got assigned to support our COVID-19 molecular laboratory for five months. My colleagues and I were taking shifts for 12 hours each so that was pretty tough but was still definitely worth it.
6. Name the top 3 or 5 people who have made the most impact on your WYA experience so far.
I can honestly name 10 (or 15). Every person I’ve come across in WYA is just so deserving to be mentioned because of the many things they’ve made me realize and reflect about life as well as their valuable contributions to society in such a young age.
There were a lot of friends who have made impact but I’d say Mary Imbong and Zarina San Jose were among the ones who made the journey incredibly one for the books. They were my “gatekeepers” for they literally opened to me a world I never thought I’d be a part of. I’m forever indebted, though I know they’d probably hate me for saying this because they’re just so humble and kind, so the least I can do is to just really step up my game and continue the mission they’ve introduced me to.
Next would be Miko Superable and Joyce Cedeño. If Mary and Zarina were the ones who opened the doors for me, Miko and Joyce were the ones who made sure that I won’t leave. From trusting and training me to becoming a Certified Trainer to supporting me in the transition of becoming a staff, Miko and Joyce are good friends whose creativity and skills are just incredible. They’re a bundle of joy to work with.
Lastly would be Ms. Aireen Navales of Play, Learn, and Serve (PLS), our partner for the HDC in 2016. It was apt to have met her and her family when I was still starting a career in the development sector because they inspired me to keep going.
7. What is your message to young people out there who are struggling at this time?
Acknowledge the struggle but trust the process. Take heart!
Welcome to the WYA Staff Family, Kleine!