Filipina education advocate wins World Literacy Award in UK


LONDON — Melissa Villa, Filipino-American founder of Project PEARLS, was bestowed the Albert Schweitzer Award at the World Literacy Summit held at Oxford University last March 26.

Villa received the World Literacy Summit’s newest top award from Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, who serves as UNESCO Special Envoy on Literacy for Development. The event was attended by a number of ambassadors, other dignitaries, and summit participants from over 50 countries. Philippine Ambassador to the UK Antonio Lagdameo was present to congratulate Villa on winning the prestigious award.

Villa launched Project PEARLS — which stands for Peace, Education, Aspiration, Respect, Love, and Smiles – in 2010 initially to help poor children living in Ulingan, Manila. The non-profit has since expanded its services to help the poorest of the poor in select communities in the Philippines have better lives through education, empowerment, nutrition, healthcare services, and more.

This year’s theme of the World Literacy Summit was Closing the Literacy Gap in the 21st Century. On receiving the award, Villa says, “As the very first recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Medal and Lectureship, I am very humbled and grateful. This award is a reminder that it is possible to reduce the global literacy gap if we all take actions.”

The inaugural award is named after Albert Schweitzer who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. The prize is awarded for individual contributions and services in the areas of literacy and health in the developing world. The award consists of a medal, a cash prize, and an opportunity to deliver a lecture at an Oxford University College.

To learn more about Project PEARLS, visit