Filipino youths challenged to inspire change ‘one community at a time’By Fat Reyes
MANILA, Philippines – With a starting money of P100,000, a time span of six months, and a passionate desire to help, twelve student teams from all over the Philippines are set to change the country “one community at a time.”
“Knowing that change starts with small steps, we built Unilab Ideas Positive to partner with and give a platform for the youth to ‘positivize’ the Philippines in true Bayanihan spirit, one community at a time,” said Barry Barrientos, Unilab Ideas Positive program head, in an interview with INQUIRER.net.
Barrientos said the project was first launched in 2010 and was motivated by a study they made of the youth population, where they found out that there was still a segment of the Philippine youth which wanted to make a difference and contribute to society.
“The company realized that we needed to engage the youth because they are the future decision-makers in households. We need to target that segment of the youth which did not want to work for work’s sake but wanted to contribute to society,” Barrientos said.
Barrientos said the project aimed to harness the creative social marketing ideas of the youth and help them implement their ideas to solve pressing health and wellness issues of society, which involved disease-prevention and cure intervention, nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, and environment development.
“It’s like a laboratory, an experiment of social ideas. It’s about having a great idea, defending it, selling it while at the same time solving health and wellness concerns on a small scale,” said Barrientos.
This year was the first time the project went on a national scale, Barrientos shared.
Students from all over the country where asked to form teams of five and submit a one-page proposal describing a pressing health and wellness problem in their target communities and their creative social marketing solution for the problem.
The 82 entries the competition gathered this year were shortlisted to 29, and the remaining teams underwent a live-screening process where judges questioned the teams for the details of the projects.
“The focus this year is outcomes. There are no standards for IQ but standards for sincerity in wanting to change their communities,” Barrientos said, describing the screening process.
The remaining 12 finalists were each given a seed money of P100,000 to implement their projects, with the guidance of social marketing practitioners. From the 12, the five most successful teams will advance to the finals and compete for the title of Unilab Ideas Positive 2012 grand winner.
The student teams also underwent a three-day social marketing boot camp from June 21 to 23 as part of their learning adventure, where they spent time with the country’s best industry practitioners, social marketing gurus, social entrepreneurs, health specialists, social advocates, and academicians. They were also brought to the Gawad Kalinga (GK) Enchanted Farm in Bulacan to see how social marketing and innovation changed that community.
Breaking the apathy, changing Filipino mindset
Rafaela Dio, a fourth year BS Development Communication from Batangas City and the leader of Team Matalaw, shared that one of the greatest difficulties in implementing their project was changing the mentality and culture of their target communities.
“It’s a very tough job to make them believe you, to make them understand the situation and to make them change their behavior,” she said in an interview.
Dio said that their team’s project, entitled “Kalampag Para sa Calumpang: An Awareness Campaign to Save Calumpang River,” aimed to move residents of villages along the Calumpang River, as well as the local and provincial government of Batangas, to rehabilitate and restore the highly-polluted river, which they described as the lifeblood of Batangas City.
She said the residents living along the river have been complacent towards it, and continue to disregard the consequences of their malpractices, which involved throwing of solid and liquid waste products from households, hospitals, and funeral homes, as well as industrial wastes from factories and livestock wastes
“They know that the river is polluted yet they are doing nothing about it. We want to change their behavior towards the use of the river as it is an important venue for fishing, recreation, and marine biodiversity,” she said.
Dio said they also planned to tap major stakeholders from the media to boost their campaign and help them earn more money as she believed that the project must go beyond the six months target.
Glorybelle Resurreccion, a fourth year BS Entrepreneurship student from Davao City and leader of Team Green Label, also held fears about the difficulties of implementing their project, saying that the residents of their target communities have developed a “pessimistic” outlook that hindered them from helping themselves.
“The problem is they know they are poor and they have accepted that so they do nothing about it. We want to change that attitude and make them realize that they can do something for themselves and for their children,” Resurreccion said.
Resurreccion said that their team’s project, entitled “Gintong Bukirin Para sa Gintong Kinabukasan” aimed to reduce the malnutrition rate of the poor children of Barangay Tigatto of Buhangin District by putting up a mini-farm at a vacant lot in Pilar P. Rodriguez Elementary School.
She said that they planned to set up a multi-stakeholder collaboration for the project, with mothers of the children planting organically grown crops using the Home Bio System Technology, and the children participating by integrating health lessons in their subjects.
She said also planned to have a memorandum of agreement with the principal of the school and the village officials.
“There is no proper communication among the stakeholders so we have to thoroughly study that,” Resurreccion said.
Still Hope for the Youth
Both Resurreccion and Dio expressed disappointment over what they observed as the apathetic nature of the Filipino youth, saying they tend to mind their own businesses and not be concerned with issues of society.
“Generally, I feel sad because the youth of today seem so apathetic and tend to not be affected by issues of society. I hope that not all of them would develop the ‘inaasa na lang sa gobyerno [only waiting on the government]’ mentality,” Dio shared.
But despite that outlook, both Resurreccion and Dio still expressed hope for the youth, sharing that if given the opportunities, the youth would accept the challenge to make a change.
“There are still Filipino youths out there who care about their communities and I hope that by small steps, day by day more youth can be infected with the philosophy of the virus of change,” Resurreccion said. “All these small efforts would redound to a big change.”
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