RJ Garcia, founder of the Appledrive Project and winner of the Western Union Hero Wish contest, advocates healthy eating for children in impoverished areas
The Appledrive Project, started by RJ Garcia—a businessman and migrant Filipino—takes to ordinary cities and towns around the Philippines as a way to spread the merits of proper nutrition and good hygiene. The initiative is now a catalyst that instills the concept of healthy eating in underserved areas around the country, with the help of volunteers and donations given by organizations who share the same vision.
“In 2011, while on vacation in Baler, I decided to buy hundreds of apples to give as souvenirs to elementary students,” Garcia recalled. “I was surprised to discover that most of the kids there had never eaten or seen an apple in real life. [The apple] was a mythical fruit that they knew from the letter A on the alphabet on the blackboard. I was so inspired and touched by the kids that I decided to organize more apple drives—and that’s how my advocacy started.”
His advocacy is now gaining a reputation for being a symbol of unwavering commitment for what he considers his calling. Garcia shares how growing up, he saw how his family had to contend with a lot of health issues: his father suffers from diabetes, a brother who lost his life to heart disease and a sister who battled breast cancer.
Because of this, being healthy, particularly when it comes to diet, became a primary focus of his life. And this inspired him to share the merits of his chosen lifestyle. Apples, more than any other fruit, stood for the concept that drives his initiative. Remember: “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” as the saying goes.
Despite this, he also knew that apples were a rather luxurious fruit. As a child, Garcia recalls how they could rarely afford to eat them. The Appledrive Project however hopes not only to give underprivileged children access to the fruit but teach them and their parents that while it may be cheaper and more convenient to buy candy, chocolate or other junk food, it’s more important to eat and live healthy.
It’s a simple concept that has engaged volunteers, piqued the interest of corporations who lend their support or even celebrities who want to get involved, and continues to gain traction. To date, Garcia’s Appledrive Project has organized 113 Appledrives across different communities around the country.
For this reason, Western Union has recognized Garcia as a Western Union Hero, which he sees an opportunity to further propel his healthy-awaiting awareness efforts to new heights.
“The Heroes for the Better campaign is Western Union’s way of putting the spotlight on the efforts and achievement of Filipinos around the world across different areas such as education, health, livelihood, science and technology, culture, arts, or volunteerism. These are people who have given their time, money, skill and expertise to make a positive change and we wanted to share it to the country,” explains Patricia Riingen, Western Union Senior Vice President, Southeast Asia and Oceania.
The Hero Wish contest, which was part of the overarching Western Union initiative, gathers votes from supporters of these different advocacies, where the winner will receive a cash prize of USD25,000.
Garcia’s Appledrive Project garnered an impressive 917,434 votes, which he credits to the support of various organizations, businesses, celebrities and networks from around the world who wanted to do what they can to push the project forward.
“The more people know about how much of an impact they can make at teaching kids how to eat healthily, the more people will want to get involved, and the more kids will learn about these better lifestyle options,” Garcia says.
The goal has always been to reach out to more communities, not just in the Philippines but all over the world as well. Charitable organizations in Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Malaysia, India, Albania and Pakistan have already reached out to Appledrive Project to host drives in their respective countries. And thanks to the honor and recognition that winning Heroes for Better brings, the initiative legitimizes the project and simultaneously allows them expand their reach.
About Western Union
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