Shaping A Sustainable Future Through Youth Empowerment
"There's this mindset of success being defined by your educational attainment and the company you are working with, of being able to work abroad, et cetera," Wryneth Mayapit, one of the founders of Edaya said. "But we want to change that. We want the youth to become the next generation of community leaders. We want to engage them, drop-offs and graduates alike, and see how they could help their own rural community."
Founded in 2012 by Edgar Banasan and Ayaka Yamashita, Edaya started venturing in ethical bamboo handicrafts and jewelleries. Until in 2014 they eventually devised programs geared towards social innovation, cultural revitalisation, and youth empowerment, together with Wryneth Mayapit. Besides promoting the beautiful landscapes and heritage of the Cordillera region and its distinct bamboo artistry, Edaya attempts to address the issues that indigenous communities face, like mass tourism, industrialisation through foreign investments, and diaspora.
Through its Edaya Education Program, the team attempts to produce the next generation of social entrepreneurs and change makers. Spanning approximately six months, the training program aims to link its youth participants to other rural communities, raise appreciation on local culture and heritage, establish possible collaborations to develop long-term solutions, and nurture a healthy community of social entrepreneurs.
Part of the training program is community research, where they immerse in particular communities and find problems that they want to give long-term solutions. They make prototypes out of these ideas and pitch it in the YouthHack Community Camp. Whoever wins the competition gets a small startup fund for their project. The goal of the program is not really for them to establish their own social enterprise but primarily to gain the skills of a social entrepreneur that they can apply to whatever career they choose. As a potential new generation of community leaders, they develop social entrepreneurship, leadership, finance, information technology, creativity, design thinking, among others.
Wry, a local of Sagada, was pursuing a degree in Social Anthropology in the University of the Philippines in Baguio when she was invited by Edgar for a meeting with Japanese social entrepreneur Ayaka. Wry knew Edgar from the theatre group they are both members of. Meeting Ayaka in 2014 opened Wry's eyes to social entrepreneurship. This brought her passion of working at the grassroots level with the youth in the Cordilleras into a reality, as she was given charge of community programs, especially those that involved the youth and low-income families.
Now the Edaya Education Program has spawned its spin-off, the Tahanan Program. It is an eco-tourism and cultural immersion homestay program that they are now developing after joining BPI Sinag last year. "Growing up in Sagada made me witness how this little town become what it is now. I saw the adverse effects of the booming tourism industry and I don't want other communities to suffer the same," she said.
In 2018, Wry represented Edaya in BPI Foundation's Sinag program, where she received a cash grant of 100,000 pesos. "During the bootcamp, I developed a deeper appreciation of what social entrepreneurship is. It was a mind-blowing experience, and it linked me to different individuals who turned out to be potential valuable partners. I got to really see how we can develop further Edaya and how we can bring more impact to society," she said.
Since it was founded in 2015, BPI Sinag has developed from a business challenge to a diverse community of stakeholders and industries sharing the same goal of inclusive growth through social entrepreneurship.
Key topics covered during the Bootcamps are: Entrepreneurship as a Value Creator, Wealth Generator and Social Innovator, Opportunity seeking in the Entrepreneurial process, Strategising and Business Planning in Bootcamp 1 and Deep Dive sessions in Marketing, Operation, Finance, Organisation and Human Resource development for Bootcamp 2. These sessions were supplemented by customised case exercises that immersed the participants in the covered social enterprise management functions.
Youth, bearers of mankind's future
"There's a saying, 'we did not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrowed it from our children'. And so I wanted the young people to be involved in crafting a world that they want to live in, communities that they can be proud of," she said. Indeed the founding trio of Edaya has not only successfully showcased gorgeous and sustainable bamboo musical instruments and jewelleries in Japan, but also established a statement that there is still hope in today's generation.
By immersing in different rural communities in Cordillera, Japan, and recently in Myanmar, Edaya has been successful in its efforts to create awareness and promote community involvement among its program participants. "They may feel being looked down for being a minority before but now they don't see their cultural heritage a hindrance to progress. What we want for them is that after the program, they discover something where they can dedicate their passion, time, and resources into. That their careers are not dictated by their families or the society. And the concept of 'being rich' is not measured only by wealth."
"For me, always go back to why you are doing whatever you are doing now. It is important to know your purpose, because you can always go back to the right track whenever something goes wrong," Wry said.