Young warriors of change
Lacuna’s Isabela ‘Seve’ Reyes and Chelsea Uy.

Young warriors of change

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. (The Philippine Star) - September 25, 2020 - 12:00am

There’s so much hope in the youth. In times when many “young once” have seemingly lost hope in the young ones because of the latter’s perceived self-entitlement, here come Chelsea Uy and Isabela “Seve” Reyes, both 17 years old, giving their most ambitious take to make a change through “Lacuna.”

Lacuna is a youth-run, non-profit organization that aims “to close the gap of social inequity in the Philippines, while tackling the most prevalent issues of today’s society.”

“Lacuna means ‘an unfilled space or interval, a gap,’” explains Chelsea, who adds that to bankroll their organization’s initial project, she and Seve borrowed capital from their parents, which in time they repaid  fully by installment.

Chelsea and Seve were only 15 when they thought about putting up Lacuna. While doing their Physics project and talking about current events at British School Manila, the concept of tackling social inequity came up. They live a charmed life, owing to their well-to-do parents, but their young hearts and minds, says Seve, “see the mass inequality that the Filipinos face, so we decided, why not put up our own organization?”

For its first project, Lacuna partnered with CustomMade Crafts Center and Cartwheel Foundation to produce hoodies. Proceeds from this project provided scholarships to indigenous children in Palawan and Zamboanga.

Seve adds, “Chelsea and I first conceptualized Lacuna in 2017 when we knew that a majority of the organizations (in the country) did not tackle minorities’ issues. We felt that Lacuna would be a great way to amplify their voices, and really reach the needs of these communities.”

For its first project, Lacuna partnered with CustomMade Crafts Center and Cartwheel Foundation to produce hoodies. The income earned from the project provided scholarships for indigenous children in Culion, Palawan, Sama-Bajaw in Zamboanga and students from Parañaque City.

“Fast fashion is something we want to focus on for our first project, as it is something that we use daily, but don’t realize the effects of it on the environment and workforces around the world. We raise funds by selling merchandise with Filipino accents to bring attention to craftsmanship that matters, as it is clean, sustainable and local,” says Seve.

Chelsea adds, “Many people abuse ‘social enterprise,’ without respecting the culture of the place they are raising money for. We were careful as we took into consideration how they wanted their products to be displayed, and asked for the opinions of many before producing the hoodie.”

A face mask to help close the gap of inequality.

Cartwheel is an organization that provides children living in indigenous communities with proper education, through sponsorships and donations. Through Lacuna’s partnership with Cartwheel, Chelsea and Seve contributed to the education of indigenous children.

“Our main goal is to provide less-fortunate Filipinos in tribes with the equal opportunity to live life to their fullest potential. We believe that education is beneficial to pave the way for a better future in our society,” says Chelsea.

Seve adds, “Our partnership with CustomMade Crafts Center allows the appreciation of Filipino fashion. We felt it best to help the Filipino tribal community as we believe that their craft should be honored, as it is commonly overlooked compared to fast fashion. Their designs are not only beautiful and intricate, but also they create their pieces with passion and motivation.”

This successful three-fold partnership, say Chelsea and Seve, has allowed the proponents to help the Filipino indigenous community two ways: one through the sponsorship of education through Cartwheel, and secondly through the purchase of fabric from Filipino weavers, helping them sustain their livelihood and eventually giving back to them as well.

In the time of the pandemic, Lacuna has partnered with the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP) for its Katutubo Kontra COVID-19 project, which is a crowdfunding for relief packs for indigenous communities around the Philippines affected by the coronavirus.

Helping others has been ingrained in the minds of Chelsea and Seve even  at a very young age. When they were barely teens, long before they formalized their intent to help through Lacuna, they were already able to help provide irrigation to indigenous communities through their projects in school.

Through Lacuna’s partnership with NTFP-EP Philippines, they were able to reach out to more people. Their beneficiaries include abaca and piña farmers and weavers in Aklan. In the organization’s efforts to help at the height of the lockdown, Chelsea and Seve coordinated with the Kababaihang Dumagat ng Sierra Madre in Rizal to facilitate the delivery of relief goods for 141 families in Daraitan and 70 families in Gen. Nakar. Also, they extended help to the fabric and basket weavers of Mangyan-Hanunuo community in Oriental Mindoro. Similar efforts were extended to the T’boli weavers in South Cotabato.

Lacuna helped sustain its 17 partner associations in seven provinces: Quezon, Mindoro, Aklan, Negros Occidental, South Cotabato, Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon.

Lacuna, according to Chelsea and Seve, gave birth to GALAcuna, an umbrella organization that is composed of “people outside of our school community, giving the opportunity for them to meet new people and collectively raise awareness and help our communities in need.”

In partnership with different organizations, Chelsea Uy and Seve Reyes extended help to communities around the Philippines during the height of the pandemic lockdown.

With the amount of help and the enormous effort Chelsea and Seve pour into their projects, one would think Lacuna is an organization spearheaded by older people. But adults do not have a monopoly on helping others. Chelsea and Seve prove that idealism is alive and, coupled with their action, change is possible, available, attainable one small effort at a time, one community at a time.

The Philippines does not run out of young heroes. Chelsea and Seve — who are full time Grade 12 students on weekdays and change warriors on weekends — prove just that.

(E-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and Instagram @bumtenorio. Have a blessed weekend.)

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