2010 Young Laureate, Environment
The Philippines, Born 1985
As a child, Reese Fernandez-Ruiz moved around often with her missionary mother. Exposed to the suffering of others, she was inspired to find solutions to solve social problems. Fernandez-Ruiz went on to win a scholarship to attend Ateneo University where she took a degree in management. Deeply committed to helping others to improve their lives and alleviate poverty, she has used her skills to train people to become social entrepreneurs, giving them the means to confront many challenges, from rebuilding housing after a cyclone to teaching organic agriculture to farmers.
Published in 2010
Risk-taking, optimistic, dynamic, and Eco-Ethically innovative.
Happiness for me is being at peace with what you do. I am most happy when I take time to be quiet and explore nature. These are the moments when I get to truly listen to myself and feel the peacefulness inside which comes from the knowledge that the vocation that I chose and the advocacies and values I live for, are intrinsically connected.
This quote got me through so many obstacles in life: "One day, you will look back and realize why things worked out the way they did". It also motivates me to give each challenge my best shot, trusting that the future will be worth everything as long as I don't give up on the current challenge.
I have so many role models and I try to learn from each person I encounter. Fr. Ben Nebres, S.J. (President of Ateneo de Manila University) and Tony Meloto (former Executive Director of Gawad Kalinga, and a Ramon Magsaysay Award Recipient). They inspired me, and my team with their involvement in Gawad Kalinga Ateneo (a nation-building movement in the Philippines), to never give up on our country. All three have experienced different revolts and revolutions in the country and they still chose to believe that the Philippines has hope and that we can all work together and bring out the best in each other.
The lives of Maya Angelou, Mother Teresa, Anita Roddick, my Mom, Dad, and my Rags2Riches team and community members, inspired me and continue to inspire me. What makes them real life heroes or heroines are not the big things they accomplish for themselves, but the inspiration they give others to move into action as well. The ripple effect of positive change that starts (and not ends) with a single individual is what could change the world. My personal unconventional hero is my brother, Aram Fernandez. I admire him so much for his strength. He made all of our challenges a lot lighter to bear because of his positivity and humour.
The Rolex Young Laureate award has been instrumental in sharing the advocacy of Rags2Riches and allowing more people to engage and participate. We have received so many inquiries on sales and volunteer opportunities from all over the world! It is good to know that as we grow and scale up, there will be people from all around the world who will be supporting us.