The boat to success

- Ghio Ong, Helen Flores () - March 4, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Believing that education is the most powerful tool to fight poverty, 30-year-old Jay Michael Jaboneta left a good job in the government to put up a foundation that helps poor children in far-flung areas in Mindanao have access to education.

Jay, JM or JMJ to family and friends, left his job as the first New Media Head of the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS), now called the Presidential Communications Operations Office, in 2011 to work for the Yellow Boat Project, also known as the Philippine Funds for Little Kids that helped hundreds of young students who literally swim their way to school in Zamboanga City acquire a boat.

Jay learned of the story of the schoolchildren who had to swim to go to school during a speaking engagement in Zamboanga City in October 2010.

“It was during my time there (Social Media in Nation Building forum) that I found out about the story of the swimming children in Zamboanga City and eventually left my job in Malacañang to focus on the Yellow Boat Project, or what is also known as the Philippine Funds for Little Kids,” Jay tells STARweek.

The 200 students, who live in Layag-Layag, Brgy. Talon-Talon, Zamboanga City, swim their way every school day to Talon-Talon Elementary School in Zamboanga City.

Jay Jaboneta’s yellow boats brings children to school...and to a brighter future.

“For Layag-Layag, it’s 2-kilometers of wading/swimming, then another half a kilometer of walking to the Talon-Talon Elementary School, so 2.5 km all in all. But that’s just one way. In the afternoon, it’s 2.5-km of walking through mud during low-tide,” Jay explains.

“The story really touched me. It tugged at my heart. Upon coming back to Manila, I couldn’t shake it off and I remember posting it on my social media accounts, particularly Facebook, and even texting some friends,” says Jay, who hails from Cotabato City.

“I wanted to know what we could do about it. I know how important education is, look at where it brought me. I thought to myself that something must be done,” he adds.

One of Jay’s friends, marketing guru Josiah Go, helped him start a fundraising campaign to buy the children a boat.

“Within one week, we had P70,000, which we thought was enough to buy a boat,” Jay says.

“I called another volunteer and my co-founder, Anton Lim, and told him we have some money to buy a boat for the kids. We realized we couldn’t buy one since they live in the mangrove area and it needed to be customized with a flat bottom, so we decided to build one,” he says.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources-CENRO donated their confiscated logs to the group, says Jay.

They also received help from the local business community in Zamboanga through the Rotary Club of Zamboanga and Tzu Chi Foundation to raise more funds.

Jay says the Yellow Boat Project started from a Facebook wall status on Nov. 1, 2010.

Yellow boats line the shore of Isla Mababoy in Masbate.

“It was a mini-fundraising campaign that gave birth to the organization,” according to Jay.

The group is set to formally launch the foundation sometime this year.

Since November 2010, Jay says the organization has helped three communities: Layag-Layag, Brgy. Talon-Talon, Zamboanga City; Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur; and Isla Mababoy, Brgy. Guinhadap, Monreal, Masbate.

Aside from the Zamboanga kids, they also help the schoolchildren of Isla Mababoy in Barangay Guinhadap, Masbate who also swim to go to school.

“For Isla Mababoy, it’s a 300-meter swim (around 20-30 minutes) from the island of Mababoy to the main island of Guinhadap. This is the one that was featured on CNN World View,” he shares.

The organization is currently building a halfway house in Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur, a community and daycare center in Layag-Layag, and a school in Masbate.

Young Global Shapers

Jay, along with eight other young Filipino achievers, was recently named as one of the 2012 Young Global Shapers of the Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF).

“Being recognized by no less than the World Economic Forum itself provides some pressure to continue these projects and also to scale it up,” Jay says.

The other Young Global Shapers are Mayor Maria Carmela Alvarez of San Vicente in Palawan, environmentalist Anna Rosario Oposa, Ponce Ernest Samaniego, Bryan Albert Lim, Eleanor Rosa Pinugu, Mildred Ople, television host Bianca Gonzalez, and Alexandra Amanda Eduque.

“As a Young Global Shaper, our responsibility is to mentor and hopefully develop future young leaders. It’s also about sharing best practices not only from within the Manila hub but also from other hubs around the world,” he says.

“It will expose me to other young individuals from around the world who are tackling problems they are facing and how they are solving it. And hopefully these are projects we can replicate in the country,” Jay adds.

Fernando Zobel de Ayala and Karen Davila flank the nine Filipino WEF Young Global Shapers: Ponce Samaniego, Anna Oposa, Jay Jaboneta, Mildred Ople, Lyn Pinugu, Bryan Lim, Carmela Alvarez, Alex Eduque and Bianca Gonzalez.

In 2011, the WEF launched the Global Shapers community aimed at providing the youth with a global platform to shape the future – integrating personal, community and global dimensions. This community will help youth develop their leadership potential to serve society.

“The Global Shapers community includes extraordinary young individuals with great potential for future leadership roles in society. Aged between 20 and 30 years, they come from all walks of life and share a spirit of entrepreneurship in the global public interest,” the WEF said.

‘Pay it forward’

“It made me realize that little things can really make a difference. One simple Facebook status gave birth to an organization, and allowed our group to touch more lives and inspire other people and organizations,” Jay says.

“We hope to seek more communities where children struggle to go to school,” he says.

The organization also plans to provide livelihood opportunities related to seaweed farming to the communities so they will become an empowered community.

“I’m hoping the 11 college scholars we have in Zamboanga City will one day pay it forward,” Jay says.

“I plan to continue sharing the story with more individuals and organizations. We really plan to build a social enterprise out of all these activities so that it will fund itself. I plan to develop more leaders as well. I believe that success without succession is a failure,” Jay points out.

Last year, Jay was named as one of the “7 Modern-Day Filipino Heroes” by Yahoo! Southeast Asia editors for his involvement in the project Philippine Funds for Little Kids.

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