It all started with a Facebook status...
A single status became “viral.” Thus begins the story of a successful campaign which made use of social media as a platform to bring about social change.
We often hear stories of children crossing mountains and rocky terrains just to get to school but a story about children crossing rivers and seas just so they could learn is quite peculiar even if we live in an archipelago.
Who would have thought that upon hearing this story, a man and several children’s lives would be changed—in more ways than one.
The Humble Beginnings
It was serendipitous. In October 2010, Jay Michael Jaboneta was speaking at a bloggers summit in Zamboanga City when he first found out that there were children who have to swim just to go to school.
The Facebook status garnered a lot of attention and soon people were asking how they can be of help. A friend pledged Php 5,000 and this jumpstarted a mini-fundraising campaign on Facebook which was then called the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids. In a span of a week, they were able to raise Php 70,000.
Jay, who was from Mindanao, felt a connection with the kids of Zamboanga. However, Jay has never seen the community which he wanted to help. And so he called another friend, Dr. Anton Lim to check on it.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for them. For one, Jay and his friends needed to find a team to build the Yellow Boat. It took them five months to find a boat builder who could customize it according to the needs of the students. They eventually found a boat builder who happened to be one of the parents of the children in Layag-Layag, Zamboanga City. Even then, it took the builder two months to come up with the first Yellow (school) Boat.
Fire Starter, Chief Storyteller
It takes a spark to ignite an idea. It takes a storyteller to put the message across—to build connections, to inspire people that ideas backed with actions—no matter how simple—can change the world.
We can’t help but ask Jay, what’s in a name?
The Struggles and the Learnings
Jay admits that running a huge campaign like Yellow Boat of Hope is quite challenging but the thought of quitting never got in the way of pursuing his vision.
Running a foundation as influential as Yellow Boat of Hope is not an easy task. But struggles in pursuit of growth always give us significant lessons in life.
Sustaining Efforts, Ensuring Progress
Behind every success story is a mission. Jay says:
The Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation is a 100% volunteer-driven foundation and works closely with a lot of volunteers and community leaders. Banking on past volunteering experiences, Jay found like-minded people to partner with him on the Foundation’s various projects—most of them involved in community development or Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. Their strategy to find more people to work with them is to tap local partners to implement these projects. The Foundation has over a hundred of volunteers nationwide and has strong partnerships with student organizations.
They consider communities and their leaders, donors and volunteers who make things happen as their key stakeholders.
To date, the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation is now present in over 70 communities around the Philippines. Primarily, their projects benefit grade school children. But since 2011, they also launched the Adopt-A-Fisherman project which provides boats to fishermen in aid of their livelihood, and has expanded extensively after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The Foundation has given close to 2,500 boats nationwide, both for education and livelihood.
The project was definitely fueled by social media. As to the effectivity of the medium as a way to put forward their causes and to ensure its transparency and sustainability, Jay has this to say:
Finding Hope towards the Future
Work is far from over. Zamboanga is not an isolated case. Across the country, there are a lot of children who need our help. The Yellow Boat of Hope aims to sail through these far-flung areas to provide proper tools to make access to education easier for these kids.
What’s next for Jay and the Yellow Hope Foundation?
In a country where poverty is widespread and education is seen more as a privilege than a right, it is important to give children the incentive to go to school and to equip them with the things they need. Every child deserves proper education to help him get out of the nasty cycle of poverty. And in the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Jay’s story is a living proof that all it takes is empathy; All it takes is a caring heart and a firm voice to make a difference. It’s about taking action and inspiring change.
Hope goes a long way.