Manny Pacquiao has fought more grueling battles in the ring than most other decorated boxing veterans have. Yet on Monday, August 4th, viewers of the Oprah Winfrey Network will get to see PacMan do battle with a truly formidable foe indeed – ignorance. Not perceived ignorance, mind you, but real, hard core, damaging ignorance. The kind that destroys lives.
For Pacquiao will be taking part in Operation Change, a campaign to reach out and help the most needy people on the planet. The focus of Pacquiao’s involvement will be Malaysia. “One segment of the (Malaysian) population has been deemed a burden by society,” Operation Change’s Meagan Fraser states. And what makes this segment a burden? The fact that it consists of individuals who are disabled.
It’s almost hard to imagine an entire society referring to it’s weakest members as a “burden.” Such thinking seems more a part of a darker aspect of history (Nazi Germany, perhaps) than it does the modern day world. Yet such thinking is prevalent enough in contemporary Malaysia for Operation Change to have targeted it for a much needed overhaul.
In a sense, it’s only fitting that a boxer like Pacquiao would take part in such an endeavor. Boxing, after all, has historically attracted the downtrodden and marginalized members of society – the poor and the struggling. Truth be told, Pacquiao himself reportedly grew up so poor that he had to drop out of high school and leave home as a teenager.
Highly regarded as a generous person, Pacquiao is undoubtedly sympathetic to those who face a lifetime of struggle. He’s also living proof, of course, that things can get better, even for the most forgotten member’s of the world’s population. After all, Pacquiao is unquestionably one of the highest paid and most successful athletes on earth. In short, he’s a natural fit for a project like Operation Change.
As one portion of a ten part “docu-series,” Pacquiao’s August 4th episode will be specific in its focus. “The goal,” Fraser explains, “is to change perceptions surrounding the disabled population to show just how able they really are.” Other well known figures such as President Bill Clinton, Elton John and the Dalai Lama will be appear in the Operation Change series, with each iconic figure focusing on a different (and needy) segment of the world.
According to its website, “Operation Change is a groundbreaking television event about one family’s quest to make the world a better place for everyone.” The “one family” is Bill Austin, his wife Tani Austin, and their son, Steven Sawalich.
“Each week,” the website explains, the family, along with “volunteers and a different celebrity or philanthropist will partner with local organizations that are working to empower their community. Throughout the hour, the team will travel to places in need where they work together on projects that help impact people’s lives.”
Thousands of years ago, Aristotle wrote that “the ultimate value of life depends upon awareness.” Operation Change is not only doing hands on work to help the needy, it’s promoting awareness of their plight. Such awareness can undoubtedly lead to better things for those who could use a hand. Manny Pacquiao may have earned a reputation for being viscous in the ring, but his work as a man of charity deserves some recognition, as well.
Pacquiao will appear on Operation Change this coming Monday night at 10 pm Eastern Standard Time. Fans may not be surprised by what they see, but those who aren’t crazy about PacMan may start viewing the guy in a whole different light.