Students no longer ‘swim’ to school, thanks to Facebook

ABS-CBN featured the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids story last June 1, 2011.  You can watch the video here:

Students no longer ‘swim’ to school, thanks to Facebook

Facebook highlights Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids’ project

Many thanks to Facebook for featuring the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids project yesterday.  It was truly an honor to be featured on Facebook and their Best of Facebook Stories page too.

I am re-posting it here.

“New Hope”: One Status Helps Build a Boat

by Best of Facebook Stories on Friday, April 22, 2011 at 1:41am


The Bagong Pag-asa will help 200 children on the island of Layag-Layag get to school.

For many children in the Philippines, yellow school buses are nothing but TV folklore. It is common for young students throughout the country to walk as many as five miles to school each day. But to the surprise of many Filipinos, some children had no other option but to swim to school.

Last year, when Manila resident Jay Jaboneta first learned that close to 200 elementary school students on the tiny island of Layag-Layag were swimming half a mile to get to school on the mainland, he was shocked. Compelled by the image of these children struggling for the opportunity to learn, Jay knew he had to find a way to help. So, on Oct. 30, 2010, he posted the story as his status on Facebook.

What happened next was beyond anything Jay had imagined. Close friend and marketing expert Josiah Go saw the status and was so touched that he immediately initiated a fundraising campaign for the kids in a status of his own.

“I learned swimming at age 35 and thought these kids may drown anytime,” Josiah said. “I didn’t think twice to raise funds.”

And so the Zamboanga Fund for Little Kids was born. Within one week, the campaign had raised 70,000 pisos ($1,618). With the help of a local humanitarian organization, Jay and Josiah decided that the best way to spend the money was to build a boat so the children could get to school safely each day.

Anton Lim, a contributor to the project, takes the boat for a test drive with some of the children that will use it to get to school.


Five months later, on March 27, the bright yellow boat was turned over to the Zamboanga community. The boat, named Bagong Pag-asa, or “New Hope,” gives children free rides to school during the week. Adults and seaweed farmers can also use the boat to take their products into town, but they are charged a small fee that supports boat maintenance.

The Zamboanga Fund for Little Kids began as a project to simply protect the safety of the island’s children. It has now become a full-fledged community resource.

“New media should not just be a website to communicate with the public, it should be something that can empower them,” Jay said.

Since the boat’s launch, the people behind the Zamboanga Fund for Little Kids have formed a Facebook Group to keep track of updates, press coverage and photos.

“The whole project is documented because of our updates on Facebook,” Jay said. “It’s so easy to remember people who’ve helped and the activities we did and challenges we faced.”

The group is now dreaming up more ways to improve the lives of the kids in Zamboanga, but the project has already improved their education, safety and morale.

“I saw in the Zamboanga kids the potential to be someone one day,” Josiah said. “I live far enough [so that the kids] will have to pay forward this good fortune they experience.”

Jay and his community have now raised enough money to build two more boats for the Zamboanga community. Have your Facebook friends helped you start a meaningful project or accomplish a goal?  Tell us at

Batang Yagit Fund Drive for the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids

Winston Almendras is starting his own fund drive through his blog to be able to give pens, pencils and other writing materials to the students living in the village of Layag-Layag, Brgy. Talon-Talon, Zamboanga City.

Let’s support him!

Just go to his blog at Batang Yagit Fund for the Little Kids for my 5th Anniversary.

The ‘Little’ Fund


Last October 30, 2010, I had the great opportunity to discuss the role of New Media in Nation-Building to almost 100 bloggers from all over Mindanao for the 4th Mindanao Blogging Summit.  Little did I know then that I was about to become part of the solution to one problem in Zamboanga City.

During the sidelines of the summit, I met with some of our campaign volunteers in the city and one volunteer, Juljimar Gonzales, told me of a story that during the presidential campaign last 2010 their group came across a group of children who were swimming just to be able to go to school.  The story really moved me.  I have heard of stories about elementary students having to walk 4, 5 or even 8 kilometers daily just to be able to go to school.  But have never heard of children braving the waters just to go to school.

I couldn’t sleep that night.  The next day, I went back to Manila and I felt the need to post the story as an update on my Facebook status.  I know the story will move people but I didn’t realize it will open their pockets.  My good friend, Marketing guru, Josiah Go, saw my status update and immediately started an online fundraising campaign among his friends (myself included).  I was surprised and I excitedly re-posted his call for donations.  In less than 7 days, the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids (as the fundraising campaign came to be known) raised almost Php70,000.  During this period, I asked Anton Lim, an active supporter of the President in Zamboanga City, to check the story.

In the middle of November 2010, I called up Anton if we can already look for a boat.  We had a hard time finding the right boat for the children so we decided to build it.  Anton, in behalf of the Tzu Chi Foundation, agreed to accept the funds we have raised and also raise additional funds from local donors.

It was a difficult journey though.  At first, we couldn’t find any boat-maker.  We found one but he lived in a far-away community; until finally Anton Lim through Kagawad Jesse Jamolod found a boat-maker (Abraham Mawadi) who came from the Layag-Layag community itself in Baranggay Talon-Talon in Zamboanga City where the children lived.  I thought the boat-building would start already but again we hit another challenge – finding the log to be used.

Fortunately, DENR was listening and CENRO IX donated the logs to the project through Tito Gadon.  In January 2011, the boat-building started.

And last Sunday, March 27, 2011, I joined Tzu Chi Zamboanga during the turn-over of the boat in Layag-Layag, Brgy. Talon-Talon, Zamboanga City.  It took us 5 months to finish the project but nothing can be compared to the joy you feel in your heart when you realize you’ve helped make a difference in people’s lives, no matter how small.  I slept well that night – it was as if I saw God smiled back at me.

My job includes receiving most of the email messages addressed to the Office of the President and monitoring the public discussions on the President’s Facebook Page and there are many times I feel so burdened with the country’s problems and I realize that I cannot possibly help all of them.

And that’s when I realize, after doing this project, that the role of New Media in Nation-Building is really to empower people not only with tools and information but more importantly with stories that inspire them to act on the problems they are facing themselves.

The boat we turned over was christened ‘Bagong Pag-asa’ (New Hope) – it is a symbol of change as we have a new President, a new government.  But more importantly, it is also a symbol of people power in action.  People helping other people solve their problems.  Nation-Building is truly about ordinary people helping other ordinary people.

You can be part of the solutions to the problems our country is facing.

And I know you also have dreams for the country.  I believe it is time we extend the meaning of People Power, one that not only changes governments and leaders, but one that also truly empowers our people – a people power that calls on every Filipino to become an active nation-builder.

I am sharing this story now because it is my belief that you can start your own versions of The ‘Little’ Fund among your family members, among your relatives, among your friends and among your colleagues to start creating solutions in the communities where you live or work.

I believe we can build our Dream Philippines even just by sharing our time, resources and know-how.

I believe this is at the core of the President’s Public-Private Partnerships, if you can see beyond the technicalities, PPP is nation-building at its core, where everyone is holding each other’s hand – no different from the dots forming a circle.  PPP is ‘Bayanihan’ – people helping their neighbors.

It is my fervent hope that this story has touched you in one way or another and that you won’t stop at just reading this – I hope you will tell yourself ‘I am part of the solution’ everyday and that you will start your own version of The ‘Little’ Fund today.

You can view a video of the March 27 boat turn-over and visit to Layag-Layag here.


I am forever grateful to all the people who helped make this happen:

  1. Sec. Sonny Coloma and the Presidential Communications Operations Office – for allowing me to attend the 4th Mindanao Blogging Summit;
  2. Josiah Go – for acting on my Facebook status update (I would never doubt the power of a ‘click’ again);
  3. OP New Media Team – Mitch Alvarez, Shella Raet and Regan Santos (who helped design the project’s logo);
  4. Our Wonderful Donors: Manuel Wong, Joshua & Marilyn Go, Howell Cu, Josiah & Chiqui Go, Rosanna Llenado, Lerma Advincula, Maximo Joaquin, Butch Jimenez, Jerry Caritan, Cindy Trinidad, Danessa Lu, Juju, Chase, Tricia and Calel Gosingtian – for sharing their blessings and taking the time to help out;
  5. Anton Lim – for being a gracious host and for being sport enough to run errands for the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids and really putting everything together;
  6. Tito Gadon (of DENR Region 9) – for donating the logs which were used to build the boat;
  7. Jesse Jamolod – for helping Doc Anton find the boat-maker;
  8. Abraham Mawadi – for building the boat;
  9. Tzu Chi Zamboanga – for helping out make the country a better place and supporting the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids (I have learned so much from your teachings);
  10. ColPascual (of Task Force Zamboanga) – for providing the security during the turn-over of the boat last March 27;
  11. Alex Lacson and my Kabayanihan family – for launching this Cultural Revolution calling on every Filipino to become part of the solution (united, there is truly little we cannot do);
  12. The nameless kids who swim to school – YOU ARE THE TRUE HEROES IN MY BOOK!

You can participate in the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids project by going to

Other articles about this project can be found at:

1. A life-changing facebook wall post by Michael Vincent Cajulao (re-posted in the website of the Presidential Communications Operations Office)

2. The Good Samaritans by Ubert Cruz

3. A facebook wall post that changed the lives of 200 kids in Zamboanga by Noemi Dado

4. When a Facebook wall post makes social impact by Cocoy Dayao

5. The New Media in Nation Building and the Little Fund at

6. Christians and Buddhists raised funds and built Muslim kids a boat by Jay Jaboneta (on

7. Zamboanga Fund For Little Kids and Pens of Hope Foundation by Karen Ang

8. Using the Internet for genuine social change by Rico Mossesgeld

9. Raising Little Funds by Ria Jose

10. Yellow Boat of Hope by PTV-4 Philippines (re-posted in DNA in Manila)

11. New Media in Nation-Building and the Little Fund by Zamboanga Today

12. Social media’s impact on charitable fundraising: Does it work? by USA Today Kindness Blog

13. Watch the Discussion on the new Facebook Groups by Facebook Live (where I appeared)

14. Facebook highlights Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids project by Best of Facebook Stories

15. Students no longer ‘swim’ to school, thanks to Facebook by ABS-CBN Bandila Program

16. Layag-Layag’s ‘SCHOOL BOAT’ by the Manila Times

17. Donated motorboat means children in Philippine mangrove village no longer must swim to school by Jim Gomez, Associated Press, Canadian Press

18. Donated motorboat means children in Philippine mangrove village no longer must swim to school by Daily Reporter, Greenfield, Indiana (Jim Gomez, Associated Press)

19. Kids in Philippine village swim to school no more by Herald Online (Jim Gomez, Associated Press)

20. Donated motorboat means children in Philippine mangrove village no longer swim to school by Newser (Associated Press)

21. Kids in Philippine village swim to school no more by Mercury News (Jim Gomez, Associated Press)

22. Thanks to Facebook, Kids Don’t Have to Swim to Class by Newser (Associated Press)

23. Kids in Philippine village swim to school no more by Boston Globe (Jim Gomez, Associated Press)

24. Blogger Jay Jaboneta Raises Money So Kids In Philippine Village Don’t Have To Swim To School by Huffington Post (Jim Gomez, Associated Press)

25. Kids in Philippine village swim to school no more by Seattle Times (Associated Press)

Here is the story illustrated: