Making Dreams Come True
Winnie Wong, also known as YouTube sensation Penelope Pop, talks about her students’ foundation, Future Faces Manila, and how every day presents an opportunity to make things better for others
Teaching is perhaps the noblest profession but also one of the most tasking. Few know this more than Winnie Wong, also known as Penelope Pop on social media and to her avid YouTube subscribers, who is a full time teacher at International School Manila, teaching Graphic Design and Photography. According to Wong, dealing with students with different personality types requires a great deal of patience and an innate love for teaching. “One of the biggest challenges for me as a teacher is really trying to identify with key personality traits of every single student and being able to adapt to their learning. So, I have to find the balance to cater to all those students,” she explained.
In her profession, Wong has immensely grown in learning and wisdom, much in part due to her encounters with students and fellow teachers every day. Teaching has also brought about opportunities to help others, something that she has always been called to do, even when she was but a student herself. When she was in college in Vancouver, Wong had started a foundation that aimed to help low income students by funding their art education. She called the foundation Future Faces, perhaps as a reference to the fulfillment of the potential of those art students in need of financial assistance.
Years later, she has revived the foundation as Future Faces Manila to help her students realize their own project with a noble purpose—to build a multi-purpose facility that will serve primarily as a soup kitchen for a community in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Under Wong’s guidance and leadership, Future Faces Manila had partnered with Project Pearl, a non-profit organization that has helped the same community in Bocaue. Project Pearl also provided the parcel of land where the facility was to be built.
Wong went to work immediately. First, she approached Architect Nicholai Go to design the kitchen. Go, a good friend of Wong, shared her enthusiasm to help build the center and make the lives of those who belong to the community a whole lot better. Then, she turned to some of the brands she had collaborated with through the years, to help her raise funds for the project. Love Beauty and Planet, a shampoo brand she endorses in her channel, responded by giving generous quantities of plastic bottles that were turned into eco-bricks and later used in constructing the building. The brand also donated a sizable amount which was used to make the building.
“The building is already up,” Wong reported happily. “It has the capacity to be able to feed 400 children a day. These are composed of kids who used to pick up garbage in Smokey Mountain, whose families had been transferred to Bocaue.”
So much more than just a soup kitchen, the space is also a multi-purpose center where different programs are held to benefit the children and their families. “So, it can be converted into an educational facility where you can have workshops for the mothers and hold different social activities for the community, especially the children,” Wong shared.
The multi-purpose facility isn’t just the culmination of her students’ dream project. For Wong, it is also a crystallization of one of her many projects and passions. “I’ve always wanted to help out the local community,” she smiled. “So I’ve put a lot of effort in working with people who share the same vision. I truly believe in collaboration and providing long term solutions rather than finding quick solutions.”
As Penelope Pop on social media, Wong has always championed the move of returning to basics and to practice a lifestyle based on sustainability. Now, as a teacher, she finds meaning in helping uplift the lives of those in need. “I’ve always understood that I am in a place of privilege and I just need to be very aware of the actions that I take in life. So, I use my platform as an opportunity to make things a lot better for other people,” she concluded.