As a child, Jay Jaboneta’s ambition was to climb the corporate ladder and become a company CEO. But a post he shared on his Facebook account in 2010 about children in Zamboanga City who had to swim just to get to school would steer him to a different direction. This would ultimately become his passion.
At first, Jay simply wanted to raise enough funds to build boats to transport the children to school so they wouldn’t have to wade, swim, and walk their way to school. The campaign was initially named Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids, and the first boat was turned over to the community in 2011. To Jay, that boat symbolized “a vehicle for knowledge and learning.”
The project has since transitioned into a national movement now called the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, geared toward empowering communities by building day care centers, schools, classrooms, and dorms. It also provides scholarships and school supplies, conducts medical and dental missions, and implements environmental and livelihood programs.
Yellow Boat of Hope has now given over 4,000 boats to 120 communities nationwide, helping 18,000 student learners and indirectly benefiting thousands of families.
Passion for social change
Jay’s corporate ambitions have taken a backseat as he pursues his passion to become an instrument of social change. Apart from being co-founder of the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, Jay also sits on the boards of Kabayanihan Foundation, Wheel to Live, and Chibot (VR). At De La Salle–College of St. Benilde, Jay is the consultant on Disruptive Technologies, Resource Mobilization, and Social Innovation.
“I am mainly involved around the areas of social development, education, and technology. I believe the common denominator on these projects is in harnessing current and emerging technology tools to bring about economic and social development to far-flung communities and the marginalized sector,” Jay explains.
With the many hats he wears, Jay summarizes his passion in the length of a tweet: “I love connecting people. I always say I am in the transportation business. I help bring people from one place to a better place.”
Harnessing the power of social media
It was social media which helped the Yellow Boat project take off, and to this day it continues to aid Jay in raising funds and galvanizing support by gathering together donors, community leaders, and volunteers. Social media is also key to bringing solutions to communities where they are most needed.
Jay, a co-founder of virtual reality startup Chibot, is all for using technology to make a difference in the world. But he emphasizes, “It’s our shared humanity that sustains that change. This humanity is sometimes missing now in how we apply technologies to certain problems. We have to always ensure that people are on board and not just impose technology-based solutions that people don’t understand.”
The Power30Under30 Honoree of New York’s Apex Society, believes that his background in sales and marketing, and communications is instrumental in his work. Not only is he is able to shine light on organizations and people who are doing great things, but he also has the ability to match donors to beneficiaries and bring people together to advance a worthy cause.
Hope: the greatest gift
Jay recognizes that all this can only be achieved with the help of hundreds of volunteers, donors, and community members. Collectively, the greatest gift they have given is hope. “People without hope won’t take action. So it’s important to empower people and give them wings to fly,” Jay explains.
Seeing these people take action and help others in the process is what Jay considers the ultimate reward. Whether it’s a student who became first in his class because he no longer had to swim in school, a fisherman who received a new boat and rebuilt his life after a typhoon, or a college scholar who is now working abroad and helping support his or her family—that is what makes Jay’s passion truly worth it.
And to those who want to do good but don’t know where to start, log on to yellowboat.org, where you can extend assistance as a donor or a volunteer. Jay’s advice: “Start by helping one person. And start with a little thing. To bring about change, you can start small and with consistent effort, it will compound in time and grow bigger. You just have to be patient.”
Photos courtesy of Jay Jaboneta.
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