She Dares To: A Conversation with Lynn Pinugu
We’re kicking off Women’s Month––and the celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8––with a new series on our blog, She Dares To, in which we sit down and talk to women who, in this time and climate, dare to live a life of bravery, compassion, and intention. These are women whom we think the world needs to meet and we’re so happy we got to have these meaningful conversations with them that we can share with you.
Lynn Pinugu is another one of our first amazing Things That Matter brand ambassadors. She co-founded Mano Amiga Academy, a social enterprise that provides affordable high-quality education, sustainable livelihood, and development services to low-income communities. Another cool thing about her is that she is Global Shaper and was chosen as a Philippine representative during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland back in 2012.
Complete the sentence with the values or causes that are important to you: ___________ matter/s to me.
Integrity, authenticity, kindness and empathy, self-respect, quality education for all, women empowerment, and inclusive growth matter to me.
How would you describe your personal style?
I gravitate towards classic cuts and timeless pieces with hints of playfulness. Since my work entails dealing with difficult and pressing issues on a daily basis, I have learned not to take myself too seriously in other matters.
You are a Things That Matter advocate because we love that you are intentional about your life and decisions! How does this translate to the things you buy and surround yourself with?
Someone once told me that we need to see every peso or dollar we spend as a power to choose the kind of future we'd like to live in. I try to remind myself of this principle whenever I buy something. The story behind a product and its supply chain matters to me.
We live in a time where we have the information we need to better understand the social and environmental impact of the products we consume. With this comes the responsibility to ask and check whether something is produced in an ethical and sustainable manner. For me, this also means buying less by investing in things that last and supporting brands that cost a little more because they pay their workers a fair and comfortable wage.
Admittedly, there are still days when I feel tempted to go on a lipstick shopping spree or to impulsively buy a new pair of boots that I don’t really need. On those days, my husband Miguel is a very effective voice of conscience.
What are your favorite Things That Matter brands?
I'm a big fan of ANTHILL Fabric Gallery and R2R because of the quality of their products but also because of their track record in working with their respective communities. They serve as good role models, and a source of knowledge and learning, for other businesses who are also striving to serve as a catalyst for positive impact and genuine empowerment.
What is your mission in life?
I feel very passionate about using whatever knowledge, skills, and resources I have to develop solutions that could make a significant dent in addressing systems of inequality.
I live in a city where you see the most expensive homes and cars, alongside shanties that house families of at least 5 members, living on pagpag (food collected from garbage bins that have been recooked).
I believe each one of us has a responsibility to make growth more inclusive in our country in whatever way we can and to help uplift others who did not have access to the same opportunities we had.
Tell us about what you do for a living and for life.
I work in the areas of education, sustainable livelihood, and women empowerment. Since 2008, I have served as the co-founder and executive director of Mano Amiga Philippines, a low-cost private school that offers high-quality basic education (K-12) to children living in urban slums.
In 2010, after realizing the difficulty of sustaining an organization that relies heavily on donations, I also co-founded Bistro Café, a food delivery business that caters to schools and offices in Manila’s business districts, and has provided training and employment to over 80 women (most of them who have children enrolled in Mano Amiga). The earnings of the school are then plowed back into the school to fund our education programs.
In January 2017, I co-founded with two of my best friends, She Talks Asia, a women empowerment media platform that aims to spark global conversations through conferences, advocacy campaigns, and online storytelling.
Nature is what primarily gives me life. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become quite deliberate about making time for rest and quiet, and nothing recharges me more than being up in the mountains. I also find profound joy in constantly learning and creating. Reading takes up most of my time, except when I’m in the car and then I switch to listening to my favorite podcast shows. I also enjoy meeting and talking to people who have a different perspective, and are trying to push boundaries. I am fascinated with learning about how another person thinks, especially if it introduces me to a new way of looking at things.
What are the top 3 things or people that are most important to you?
My family (including my dog, Button), being able to speak and live my truth, and peace of mind.
What is the WHY that keeps you going?
Gratitude. I was a former university scholar and I sincerely believe that all the opportunities I have had access to in life would not have been possible without the help of the people who helped send me to school, and invested in my potential. This experience is what compelled me to help put up Mano Amiga Philippines nine years ago, and is still what gives me grit and resilience when faced with difficult and emotionally draining challenges.
I also recently started a gratitude journal to help remind me to be joyful and thankful for blessings one could easily take for granted––like having a complete family, good health, a job I'm passionate about that also pays the bill and a strong support system.