Saturday Success Story #28: John Michael Dellariarte of I CAN make a difference

By Alpha Miguel-Sanford


Things happen when you least expect it  – so goes the saying.

John Michael Dellariarte, did not expect the start of his advocacy campaign when he was involved in an academic requirement for his medical course inLakewood, Zamboanga del Sur. He went to this place with the purpose of getting a school project completed but he discovered more than that. He realized what the community truly needed and he responded with a simple strategy.

John said that “it all started with my project. It was a solar reflector made from aluminum soda cans and cardboard. The community we adopted had problems with drinking water, we tested several sited and turned out positive for fecal coliform. In essence people there were drinking water contaminated with human and animal feces. Then, we proposed the solar reflector. you put your drinking water in a PET bottle put it inside the reflector then expose it to sunlight. The water is ready to drink after 2-3 hours of exposure. So then, we needed to collect cans for the reflector. I formed a group of volunteers and proposed a plan to them. we came up with a campaign called the “I CAN” make a difference (collecting cans thus “I CAN). a campaign to collect 5000 aluminum cans. The campaign ran through schools, universities and some food businesses in ZamboangaCity.”

John and his I CAN team are currently constructing a health center which is made from soda bottles filled with cement mix. This project is innovative as it responds to two things: environmental rescue (of plastic bottles) and promotion of health and wellness.

John is leading his TEAM in best direction possible. He has his eyes set for environmental and health awareness. He wants more people to be knowledgeable of these issues. He envisions telling everybody his story.

And this is his story:


AMS: Tell us about yourself. Your background, your education and your current project.

John: I am John Michael F. Dellariarte. I’m 26 years old, raised as a Roman Catholic and with two siblings. I am a senior medical student at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University School of Medicine. My premed  degree is in Political Science, then I went to nursing and finally I am now in the medicine field.

AMS: Why did you start I CAN make a difference.

John: We’re sent to rural communities across Zamboanga peninsula as early as first year. There we conducted standardized surveys to identify problems of communities; as for my case, Lakewood Zamboanga del Sur. We presented these problems to the community, facilitated them and prioritized these problems, and together, we implemented strategies to solve these problems.

One of the problems identified was diarrhea. I thought, there has to be something wrong with their water. We tested several water sources, and they turned out positive for fecal coliform. People there were essentially drinking water infected by human and animal feces. I thought of how will we be able to provide a means of non costly, convenient, eco-friendly means of household water disinfection. I thought of developing a device that will harness the sun’s energy to disinfect water. I thought of converting the aluminum cans into solar reflectors to disinfect water. I created a prototype and scientifically established its efficacy through laboratory tests. After this, I needed to create solar reflectors for the community people ofLakewood, I needed 5000 to jumpstart the project.

I went on to partner with volunteers and created the I CAN make a difference, a campaign to collect the needed number of cans. This campaign was a collection of soda cans thus I “CAN”. The campaign ran through the major schools in ZamboangaCity, and even some elementary schools inLuzonhelped. The schools were not only collection points for cans but served as information avenues for Waste Disposal and Management seminars provided by I CAN volunteers. We ended up collectiing more than 8000 cans! The response of people were phenomenal and this has inspired us to do more for the community.

AMS: What are your hopes for this project?

John: We want to forward the idea of intercommunity development- communities helping other relatively deprived and underserved communities. I CAN make a difference envisions to facilitate the creation of a more sensitive and more responsive network of communities with a deeper experience of nation-building.

Raise awareness of the problematic situations involving children, women and indigenous peoples of a community, especially concerning health and education; and address these problems through the mobilization of people, social institutions, and social entities of communities. Through its projects, the team continually endeavor to champion the women, the children, the indigents, the poor, and the environment all of which have the propensity to be abused and be marginalized. We pray that we will be able to bring EVERYONE on board, since we believe that any problem is too big for any one person, organization, or institution; to solve the problems that prevail in our communities and our nation as a whole, would need the cooperation of everyone. We aspire someday to be symbols of hope for every one.

AMS: Who are your motivators and support?

John: God has been so good to us since the beginning of the advocacy. He has set everything in place to make the advocacy such a rewarding and fulfilling journey. The plight of the children, the women, the indigents, the environment, the marginalized continually drive us to do our best and more. The team renders support to each other. We draw inspiration from each other as well, from profoundly dedicated and hardworking individuals. Our many partners, who have been good to us, continue to support our projects infuse us with a feeling of empowerment that we feel that there is nothing we cannot do when we are united.

AMS: What do you think makes your project a success? What makes it stand out?

John: I personally believe that all men are born good. All of us have that inherent inclination to protect those that do not have the capacity to protect themselves. And, as humans, it is in our nature to associate, to find others who have the same story as ours, that we may speak our truth more confidently knowing there are others sharing the same truth, empowering us to fulfill our liberties.

We believe that our projects were successful because of the support of the team, partners, and everyone who stepped out and joined us to make a difference. We would like to believe that our projects have inspired so much support because these projects are in tangent with these basic human inclinations: protecting the children, the women, the indigents, the poor, and the environment. The projects send out the stories of these stakeholders, empowering them when they witness the magnitude of support that their story can elicit.

The projects stand out because of the stories behind it. The environmental implications and the Maternal and Child Health Care impact of the PET bottle Lying-in Center; the environmental implications and health benefits of the solar reflector to children and the general population, the environmental implications and the economic protection of the disabled workers by the ECO bag, and the Kiddie eco bag’s impact on the children’s education. (kiddie eco bag is a twin school bag: for every bag sold, an equivalent bag will be given to a child who dont have his own school back). It is the intersecting stories behind our projects that make them unique.

AMS: Did you always want to be involved in causes for the good of the people?

John: I remember of numerous times, of strong feelings of really wanting to set out to help others. I remember being involved in several relief operations during my college days, being a volunteer and trying to help out as much as I can. Then came the medical school with the academic demands, community and hospital duties, and community health projects. Planning and implementing the community health projects with my classmates and the people really brought into perspective the amount of work that still need to be done and I think the relationship we forged with the people really made the work more of a personal thing.

AMS: You said you are a premed student, how do you correlate your project with the field that you hope to enter someday?

John: Honestly, I want to be a plastic surgeon and pathologic dermatology. These two fields have been my passion ever since I can remember. Surgeries like skin grafting and reconstructive surgeries are extremely costly these days, just imagine a burnt patient coming from a lower economic strata, who can barely afford his next meal. How will he be able to pay something like skin grafting? Imagine the scars and contractures that will form and change the way he looks? Imagine what this will do to his confidence? This will scar him not only physically and emotionally. This even makes it harder for him to find a job as many employers may think he is not physically fit to do the job?

As for pathologic dermatology, imagine the number of children living with skin diseases, rampant because of congested living space. I’d like to channel my expertise to promote preventive measures while implementing treatment schemes to treat them. These two specialties have been highly commercialized and identified with glamour and vanity. I would like to show the world the more profound side of these specialties, my passions.

AMS: Aside from the I CAN project that you are leading, what are some of your achievements that are not yet mentioned?

John: I have been a consistent Dean’s lister in college and I graduated AB political science Magna Cum Laude. I am also a national orator and has been the best debater for two consecutive years in Western Mindanao State University (WMSU). While at the university I also founded the WMSU debate varsity.

AMS: What are your goals for yourself as the founder of I CAN and also as an individual?

John: I wish I will be able to convince more volunteers to join the cause. I wish that I will be better equipped with the right wisdom and attitude to guide them to the right mindset in life. I wish to create opportunities that will develop the team, not only their individual skills, but their substance as well. I wish to create more collaboration that will enable to expand the reach of the advocacy, to discover more stories and change more lives. I wish the advocacy will someday be a symbol of hope to everyone that by mere glance of its seal will make the viewer safer, confident, and empowered.

To read other inspiring Success Stories, click here.

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