ACCESS to proper education should be a right for everyone. Yet this is not the case for most, especially those that hail from rural areas.
To combat the issue and aid in providing underprivileged youths across Southeast Asia with better access to learning and development projects, the Asean Foundation and Maybank Foundation are set to launch the third cohort of the eMpowering Youth Across Asean (EYAA) programme.
The programme provides an experiential and educative learning platform for youths through social volunteerism, where they have to work together with a group of people from diverse backgrounds to implement ideas and advocate solutions to issues in local communities.
First launched in 2018, the EYAA programme is a collaborative effort dedicated to empowering youths and communities across Asean through learning and development initiatives, with two cohorts already established since the programme's inception.
EYAA’s second cohort, which ran from 2020 to 2022, saw the participation of 75 youth volunteers – many of whom came from villages – alongside 10 civil society organisations and social enterprises from Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Of its ten projects initiated during the pandemic, one that gained a lot of momentum was the ‘Improvement of Livelihood Centre in All Lights Village’ initiative. Conducted in Sitio Tamale, Nueva Ecija, Philippines, it saw two enterprising youths working to improve the livelihoods of villagers through the farming of organic mushrooms as an alternative source of income.
The project revolved around providing technical training on organic mushroom production through youth-friendly programmes, which included the newest farming techniques from experts.
This successfully managed to improve the local employment rate in the village by 30%. The project also helped indigenous youth in Sitio Tamale to develop their entrepreneurial skills.
24-year-old Camille Joyce Lisay and 20-year-old Ronalisa Santiago from the Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology took part in this initiative, as both of them felt the need to help people in villages find a way to sustain themselves amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lisay, who currently works as a senior communications associate at ComCo Southeast Asia, decided to join the EYAA programme as the narrative struck a chord with her and her family’s struggles as they live in a far-flung rural area, where opportunities to earn a livelihood are limited.
She took a role as project controller of the initiative and personally oversaw the smooth implementation of the project, including addressing issues such as poor connectivity, unfavourable weather and Covid-19 restrictions.
She solved the issue of intermittent Internet connection by transporting youths away from the mountainous regions in Sitio Tamale, in order to provide an environment that can best maximise their training and learning experience.
She was thus able to brush up on problem-solving skills and attain several new skills that she would not have otherwise picked up in a classroom setting.
Coming from a low-income farming family, Santiago decided to take part as she was keen to pave a better future for herself and her family with the skills she gained from the project.
As a beneficiary of the programme, she admitted that the project has positively impacted not only her livelihood, but also that of others in the community. She and youths like herself were able to find organisations that would help them to learn new skills and provide the necessary resources to improve their living conditions.
Thanks to their participation in the project, both students were able to get out of their comfort zones and experience new ways of learning, as the project highlighted the importance of education, whether it be vocational, upskilling or reskilling.
The programme for EYAA’s second cohort was carried out through online volunteering programmes – to adapt to Covid-19 restrictions – whilst the local civil society organisations and social enterprises implemented the community development projects on-site.
In doing so, it directly impacted 21,106 people in the four countries and more than 851,000 people across Asean via online initiatives.
Due to the success of the programme, Asean Foundation and Maybank Foundation have decided to continue their joint commitment and dedication to youth empowerment across Asean with the launch of the third cohort later this year.
For more information on the EYAA programme, visit https://www.aseanfoundation.org/empowering_youths_across_asean or http://www.maybankfoundation.com/index.php/our-impact/empowering-youth-across-asean.