Earlier this morning, I happened to read through a wonderful article on Foreign Affairs entitled Prioritize the Poorest.
Before I go on to discuss what made it wonderful, let me first take a short detour.
Since I started blogging a few years ago (remember HungryPeople?), I have never really been comfortable about sharing my thoughts and my ideas. And if you’ve been following me over these past few years, most of my blog posts were about events or things that happened to me, that happened to the country (Philippines), or global events that took center stage.
All of that is going to change.
Project to Foundation
Last Wednesday, May 23, the seemingly little project we called the Yellow Boat Project became the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, Inc.
Growing up in Cotabato City, I never imagined that I would one day be a party to something as challenging and as tedious as establishing a foundation, more so a foundation that tries to help the poorest of the poor. Come to think of it, I never imagined that I would one day grow up.
But I guess I did and so here I am calling myself the Chief Storyteller of the Yellow Boat Project.
It has been a crazy year indeed. I have flown more miles in the last 12 months than all my previous 30 years (amazing, right?).
And this happened all because of a simple Facebook status that I happened to post sometime in October 30, 2010. It was the day I learned of an amazing story where children in a mangrove village called Layag-Layag in Zamboanga City had to swim and wade through the water just to get to school. I was really touched by their story.
The children in Layag-Layag, Zamboanga City have to swim / wade through the water to go to school
Going back to the Philippine capital, Manila, I couldn’t shake the story off. Up until then, I was engrossed in my job as the social media guy in the former Office of the Press Secretary, now called Presidential Communications Operations Office or PCOO for short.
And everything changed because of that single Facebook status, a few text messages and phone calls.
It was the start of the Yellow Boat adventure that took me back to Layag-Layag, Zamboanga City after 5 months to turn-over the first yellow (school) boat which was christened “Bagong Pag-asa” (New Hope) to 20 more yellow boats for Layag-Layag, to another community in Masbate where children also swim to school and then to a hundred more boats.
Today, this little project is present in 5 communities with more than 120 boats built, a school, a day care center and quite possibly more in the next few months.
It was not easy. But there were so many good Samaritans along the way – most notable of which are my co-conspirators: Anton Lim and Mike Dellariarte of Zamboanga City, Ofelia Sy of Bicol and Manny So of Pampanga. (New recruits are Alexis Baldia of Cagayan de Oro and Jason Cardente of Zamboanga Sibugay)
Which brings me back to why I found the article earlier so wonderful – it made me realize that education is really where we want to be helping.
The article goes on to describe about the deepening divide on opportunities between the rich and the poor. Though there is a global reduction in the number of people who live below the poverty line, the gap between the opportunities available to the rich and the poor is widening.
But solutions are at hand.
Which brings me back to education.
And this is something that has become central to what we are doing in the Yellow Boat Project – it has become our goal to find these communities where children are struggling to go to school.
We are primarily interested in helping bridge the gap for children in these communities to gain access to public education and as pointed out in the article and I quote “an increase in learning achievement (as measured by test scores) of one standard deviation is associated with an increase in a country’s long-term growth rate of around two percent annually. Countries in which large sections of the population are denied quality schooling are thus wasting a hugely important and productive resource.”
Yellow Boat = Hope
Over these last few months, I have come to realize that education can really level the playing field especially for the poorest of the poor.
Children in Layag-Layag, Zamboanga City now use these yellow boats to go to school
It not only provides them HOPE and opportunities, it also gives them the confidence to pursue their dreams in life. If we are truly interested in helping the poor, then we must, as a country, invest in them, our human infrastructure – more important than any other infrastructure out there.
Let me end by challenging you to join us in this wonderful endeavor and together let’s create a world beyond poverty.
(Don’t forget, read the article!)
PS – You can reach me at jay[at]yellowboat.org.