Blogger builds dreams for poor students

By Dharel Placido,

Posted at Jun 13 2011 05:58 PM | Updated as of Jun 14 2011 01:58 AM

MANILA, Philippines - With a stroke of the keyboard and a click of the mouse, the lives of more than 200 children in Zamboanga have changed.

Upon seeing the plight of dozens of children from the poverty-stricken barangay of Talon-Talon in Zamboanga during one of his visits in 2010, blogger and government employee Jay Jaboneta realized something had to be done.

To get to school, elementary students have to traverse miles of water everyday in the remote village of Layag-layag.

“The taller kids wade through the chest-deep water, but the small ones really had to swim,” Jaboneta said.

Seeing what the children had to go through everyday for the sake of education prompted Jaboneta to post their story on the social networking site Facebook.


New Hope

Jaboneta’s friend, Josiah Go asked him: “Are we going to just stop at telling their story?”

In an interview for ANC’s Headstart with Karen Davila, Jaboneta said this challenge made him start the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids.

Through the foundation, he was able to solicit funds through social networking sites to provide the children with transportation to ferry them to and from school.

And in a week’s time he was able to gather P70, 000, enough to build one boat.

The first boat, aptly named Bagong Pag-asa (New Hope), was built through the collective effort of Jaboneta and some of his friends.

Jaboneta shared that even the builders of the boat did not ask for a labor fee anymore.

Confiscated logs were also donated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“It was really a bayanihan story,” he said.

But the boat, which can only carry 20 children at a time, is not enough for more than 200 pupils living in the area.

Jaboneta said the organization is currently working to build two more boats.

He also said the children’s parents, who happened to be seaweed farmers, help each other to provide gas money for the boat.

The farmers, according to him, can use the boat for farming but are required to set aside money for the boat’s maintenance.

Ripple effect

Not long after the founding of Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids, friends of Jaboneta in the blogosphere also shared a story similar to that of the Talon-Talon children.

He said they were able to identify a location in Ginhadap, Masbate where some pupils also have to swim in order to reach school. This gave birth to the Philippine Funds of Little Kids.

“It really creates a ripple effect,” he said.

Running for government?

Jaboneta, who is currently part of the Aquino administration’s communications group, said he has no plans of running for government in the future.

Asked why he is not using his connections in Malacanang in order to help the children, he said the people from Layag-layag are not just after dole-outs.

“Maganda talaga na may participation ng mga tao,” he said.

International recognition

Through his simple act, Jaboneta was hailed as one of Yahoo! Southeast Asia’s “7 Modern Day Pinoy Heroes” along with Commission on Audit whistleblower Heidi Mendoza, environmentalist-blogger Anna Oposa, bibliophile Tzarina Saniel, inventor Alexis Belonio, anti-human trafficking advocate Jean Enriquez and “Step Juan” founder Tomas Leonor.

Also recently, he was invited to the Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California, USA to join a group discussion and share the inspiring success of his foundation, making him the first Filipino ever to be invited in the social networking site’s office.

“A single Facebook status can make a difference,” he said. “It can change lives.”

He also revealed that a group from the popular social networking site might come to visit the village of Layag-layag soon.