Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 22) — A Filipino student has been recognized abroad for his mission to promote reading and writing literacy among Filipino children.

Qjiel Mariano, a second year nursing student at the University of Santo Tomas, founded the Ladders to Literacy initiative to help less fortunate Filipino children learn how to read and write.

“Reading and writing is a fundamental human skill. If they are not able to read and write when they’re adults, imagine how much future is at stake for us. Imagine how they will not be able to be proactive citizens to our country,” Mariano told CNN Philippines’ The Final Word on Monday.

Mariano’s passion in making Filipino children literate earned him an award as an Education Hero by Youth Service America. He emphasized the recognition reinforces his belief that literacy is not just a right, but an important survival factor for humans.

Mariano shared they adjusted to online storytelling classes during the pandemic to continue serving the children in their organization.

“This was a very big platform because we didn’t only get storytellers from the Philippines, but we also got storytellers from Brazil, from Turkey, from the US, so it was a global initiative to bring reading and writing to every Filipino,” he said.

Mariano hopes their work will serve as an inspiration for many society leaders to realize the importance of investing on the youth for the world’s future.

“We have to invest in young people so that they can also create programs like these and also be part of the change when they grow up to be citizens. After all, change takes a lot of time, which is why we have to start young,” Mariano said.

He added they are currently developing a children’s rights gaming app to help spread their group’s works in promoting literacy to children. They recently published a book entitled “Literate Lila” which narrated the importance of literacy in a child’s development.

The Philippines recently suffered a drop in the 2020 English Proficiency Index. From being 20th in the world, the country finished at 27th place in the global rankings, but was still given a “high proficiency” rating after getting a score of 562 out of 700.