Learning to Smile Through Strife: Arizza Nocum’s Educational Quest for Peace

As a child of Christian and Muslim parents, Arizza Nocum learned to live with her inherent duality early on, and came to respect her clashing traditions and shared values in equal measure. However, Arizza learned while living and studying in Manila that with her heritage, prejudice was a constant reality she had to live with. 

Arizza’s mission: peace through education 
Eventually, Arizza could not turn a blind eye to the struggles of children who weren’t as fortunate to grow up in tolerant environments. This led to the creation of KRIS Libraries -- educational centers designed to accommodate disadvantaged youth in areas riddled with violent conflict. 

Most branches of KRIS are established in the Zamboanga area, serving as safe spaces for both Christian and Muslim children, whose shared education also helps forge bonds regardless of their religion or culture. 

Arizza’s work on KRIS eventually landed her a spot in the Extremely Together initiative, a group of youth leaders handpicked by the Kofi Annan Foundation. Arizza’s peace through education advocacy also won her a Zonta International Young Women for Public Affairs Award, as well as inclusion in the Filipina Women’s Network’s 100 Most Influential Filipina Women. 

Arizza Nocum as a #SmileStrong muse 
As one of Colgate’s #SmileStrong muses, Arizza Nocum exemplifies what an optimist in action is all about. 

Founding KRIS was her way of demonstrating that given the right opportunity, people can learn to co-exist peacefully. Arizza knew it was an uphill battle at best, but in choosing to #SmileStrong and push forward with her convictions, the message of KRIS continues to spread - changing the lives of kids who can now smile about their own futures. 

Together with Colgate, Arizza and KRIS will launch Smilespace - the first-ever online Youth Summit for Peace on November 21, 2020. Smilespace will be a platform for thought leaders like Arizza to share and discuss topics in line with advocacies like KRIS, and ultimately inspire a cross-cultural collaboration towards peace initiatives. 

“Because of the way I grew up, I learned that, Muslim or Christian, the same stories - stories of poverty, success, failure, sadness, happiness, hope - bound us together,” Arizza writes in a social media post. “And this makes us only stronger as a country.” 

Colgate’s mission with its campaign -- to highlight how modern day heroes’ optimistic actions make a difference -- encourages Filipinos to awaken their inner optimist through powerful experiences shared by the likes of Arizza. When we empower our beliefs with positive conviction, we can act and #SmileStrong together.
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