As the co-founder and Executive Director of Mano Amiga Academy, 27-year-old Eleanor Rosa Pinugu, known as ‘Lynn’ among family and friends, has set her sights on improving access to high-quality education in the Philippines and empowering children from impoverished communities to transform their lives.

Following her stint as an international youth volunteer in Mexico in 2006 where she was impressed by the spirit of volunteerism embodied by the students she encountered at the Mano Amiga Guanajuato School, Lynn was inspired to set up Mano Amiga Pilipinas in the city of Taguig in 2008.

Nonprofit Mano Amiga Academy is part of a global network of more than 30 Mano Amiga schools that have been established in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico and Venezuela.

“I had the privilege to work with many Mexican student volunteers who were themselves former beneficiaries of social programmes, and I believe it is these students’ genuine desire to serve their communities that plays a key role in the development of the learning facilities at the Mano Amiga School,” Lynn said.

The Altius Foundation, which operates the Mano Amiga Schools across Latin America, would later engage Lynn to spearhead the development of the school system in the Philippines and manage fundraising efforts for the establishment of the Mano Amiga Academy. Her efforts in extending education opportunities to economically disadvantaged children were recognised by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which invited her to attend the 2012 WEF Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, as one of 70 ‘global shapers’.

As the head of Mano Amiga Academy, Lynn is responsible for evaluating how to make the best use of technology solutions work more efficiently and improve collaboration with community partners. In April 2012, Lynn was invited to participate in the Asia Pacific Innovate4Good@Microsoft summit in Singapore — which further enriched her knowledge and exposure to the transformative power of information technology (IT) to address a social need and make the world a better place.

“Despite being initially apprehensive about not being ‘techie’ enough, the summit really helped in opening up my perspective on the use of innovative technology to address operational challenges. The summit showcased the latest Microsoft technologies and demonstrated how young people can leverage the latest technology platforms to bring about social change,” Lynn said.

The Asia Pacific Innovate4Good@Microsoft summit prompted Lynn to step up the integration of IT technology across the education programmes at Mano Amiga Academy, and adopt relevant products and services that significantly enhance the learning experience for its students across a wide range of enrichment programmes and training seminars.

“Beyond providing access to high-quality education, one of the key initiatives at Mano Amiga Academy is to get more youth volunteers involved as role models for our students. We have noticed how increased interaction with youth volunteers has helped in improving our students’ social skills — instilling in them the confidence to make the most of the learning opportunities, transforming their lives,” said Lynn.

YouthSpark is a Microsoft companywide initiative designed to create opportunities for 300 million youth in more than 100 countries during the next three years. Through partnerships with governments, nonprofits and businesses, Microsoft aims to empower youth to imagine and realise their full potential by connecting them with greater education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. We want to empower youth to change their world.

Access a full list of Microsoft YouthSpark programmes.