I know there are a lot of efforts to help out our countrymen especially during times of disaster or conflict, but I never really realized that it can be initiated not only by the big corporations, whom we thought would normally have the money to spend coming from their corporate social responsibility funds, but also by individuals who have the strong inner compassion to band together and raise funds for the welfare of the less fortunate.
Many have taken time off from their daytime jobs to lend a hand in any way they can. Some of the people I know even resigned from work to dedicate their lives to similar efforts. I learned about some of them from the recently concluded social innovators gathering called The Dream Expo MNL that was held at the Asian Development Bank in Ortigas Center last June 11 to 13, 2014, of which 200 selected social innovation groups, including Wazzup Pilipinas, attended to listen to several speakers who have already gained a significant footing towards social innovation movements. Many of them have been recognized already for their achievements and contributions making me so very proud I was there to listen to how they chased and lived their dreams of forming an organization that would eventually make this country better if all the rest of us would follow.
I sent a private message through Facebook to many of them and requested an online interview that I sent over email after they agreed. The first one to reply back with a filled up questionnaire was Jay Jaboneta, Fire Starter and Chief Storyteller of the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation. The story of his valiant advocacy was among the interesting ones that caught my attention during The Dream Expo MNL because it was centered on youth education, specifically on the provision of boats to children who had to swim just to go to school.
Below is my interview with Jay Jaboneta done online, but I am still hoping that one of these days I may be able to join his group in one of their on-site activities so I could cover them personally and get to feel how it is really like to see glimpses of hope seen on the children's eyes.
Wazzup Pilipinas: Can you tell us about your humble beginnings as a social innovator and how you setup/got involved in your organization? Why did you choose to play an active role in this organization?
Jay Jaboneta: In October 2010, I was in Zamboanga City speaking about social media at the 4th Mindanao Bloggers Summit. During the sidelines of that summit, someone came up to me and shared with me the story of the children who had to swim to school in the mangrove village of Layag-Layag in Zamboanga City. The story really disturbed me. I posted a status on my Facebook account and it galvanized support from my friends. Within one week, we had money to be able to build them a boat. And that's how the movement started. At that time, we were known as the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids because the concept was really to put individual funds to help these children in Zamboanga. The organization grew because we found more communities where children either swim or struggle to go to school because of a body of water. The boats are colored yellow because we got our inspiration from the yellow school bus and our yellow "school" boats were like these school buses that picked up children from home and brought to their school.
Wazzup Pilipinas: What exactly is your organization all about? What are you trying to promote or lead by example and what made you choose this social innovation among others?
Jay Jaboneta: It sort of happened by accident. I personally didn't realize that we would be fulfilling a national need when we started to help the children. I was born in Cotabato City, in Mindanao, and have heard of stories where children walk miles and miles to get to school but not children who had to swim - their story truly shocked me. The Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation's mission is to ensure children gain access to education. We build whatever is needed so they can go to school - boats, bridges, dormitories, classrooms, etc.
Wazzup Pilipinas: Who are the other core team members or individuals responsible in running your organization? Please elaborate on their roles or functions.
Jay Jaboneta: I became known as the Fire Starter and Chief Storyteller of the foundation. My Co-Founder, Doc Anton Mari Lim, is considered the Chief Dreamer and Tormentor as he is in-charge of Operations. There are 3 other members of the board: Dr. John Michael Dellariarte, businessman Emmanuel So, and Dra. Ofelia Samar-Sy. We're now present in 45 communities around the Philippines and each community have a local volunteer who we call Chief Implementor because they are responsible of running the projects on the ground.
Wazzup Pilipinas: Do you have partners from private companies, NGOs, the government, and/or other organizations? Who are they and what are their contributions to your organization? Are you open to more partnerships? How can they partner or join your organization?
Jay Jaboneta: Yes, we have partnerships with Smart Talk N Text, Canon, Banana Peel / Havaianas, National Book Store, and many more. A lot of our partnerships are driven from the ground because we work with local NGOs as well in communities where we are present. There are too many to mention. In Zamboanga alone, we work with Tzu Chi Foundation, I CAN Make A Difference Inc., and other local organizations in the area. And yes we are always open to partnerships.
Wazzup Pilipinas: Do you have a regular/day-time job in a company aside from your organization or are you working full-time for the organization? Can you tell us your role or function in the company? Is your social innovation affecting your work?
Jay Jaboneta: Yes, I also work as Head of Corporate Affairs for Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP). Right now, it's not affecting it as my role in the Yellow Boat is really more to tell the story and to handle our Communications requirements. I usually do it outside of work or during weekends. PBSP is also another NGO so there are a lot of shared lessons.
Wazzup Pilipinas: What is success to you? Can you say that your organization already made a significant contribution to society? In what way was your social innovation beneficial to the country or the people? Please share your accomplishments/achievements so far.
Jay Jaboneta: Right now, our projects are indirectly helping close to 2,000 children in the 45 communities we are working on. According to the Department of Education (DepEd), there are currently 1,000 more communities nationwide where children still struggle to go to school. We hope to be able to help them. Success for us would be the day that we can say every child who wants to go to school is in school.
Wazzup Pilipinas: What do you think you will need to explore or work on to improve your organization and its products/services?
Jay Jaboneta: We would need to explore sustainable models of operation so that we can begin planning our projects strategically. Right now, we are dependent on how much we receive as donations.
Wazzup Pilipinas: Please share your memorable moments and success stories as part of the organization that personally touched or affected you. Were there any personal disappointments, failures, or regrets?
Jay Jaboneta: There are quite a number of them to mention but let me go back to the first I thought when I first heard their story - "We often hear of kids who skip school to go swimming but here were kids who went swimming so they can go to school."
Wazzup Pilipinas: What keeps you motivated to continue running/joining this organization? Do you have a specific task or objective in mind that you want your organization to accomplish in the near future? Do you have any plans to expand or offer other/alternative products or services, or specific groups or organizations that you want to reach out to and partner/collaborate with?
Jay Jaboneta: Our mission is to ensure that every child who wants to go to school will be in school - to gain access to an education. Technically, we are building the infrastructure - boats, bridges, dormitories, classrooms, etc. so they can access a school easily and safer. The stories of kids who struggle to go to school keep inspiring me and my partners to continue moving forward. I am the Fire Starter and Chief Storyteller of the foundation which basically means I am the one tasked to go around and spread the foundation's mission and goals.
Wazup Pilipinas: What can you share or advise to all aspiring Social Innovators/Entrepreneurs who plan to setup their own organization/business? Please share some tips on how to effectively get started and sustain the dream.
Jay Jaboneta: I will share my HOPE theory. H starts with Harnessing your potential or finding your passion in life. It really starts with this. If you don't know what you want to do in life - it will be pretty hard to help other people or stay focused on a project or mission. O is about Opening your wallet - most successful entrepreneurs started their organizations or projects by using their own personal resources, be it money, time and effort. P is about Perspiring or taking action. Einstein said everything in life is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. When you want something done, you have to go out there and do it yourself. As Nike says "Just do it." And lastly E is about Empowering others. You have to go out there and share the lessons you've learned so other people can build on what you've already started.
Organization Mailing Address and Contact Numbers: Unit 4, Dian Hap Building, F. Nuñez Street, 7000 Zamboanga City Telephone number: (62) 9910226