Speech of Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo Vice President of the Philippines At the Launch of TrabaHOPE for OSY
Good morning everyone! My warmest greetings to our partners in the USAID, of course headed by its Mission Director Mr. Lawrence Hardy, and the Philippine Business for Education group, headed by its Chairman Mr. Ramon del Rosario and President Chito Salazar, and the Members of the Board who are joining us this morning. And of course to everyone, even those who are joining us on Facebook Live for the launch of our new program, which we are calling TrabaHOPE, for out-of-school youth. I hope you are all safe and well.
We have all been subjected to societal disruptions brought about by COVID-19. And even as we try to adapt, long-existing gaps in society are not just getting more exposed, but also exacerbated.
Allowing these fissures to persist will only keep us mired in a cycle of inequality and disempowerment—where only a handful few are able to attain true progress, while the rest remain stuck in the margins. Inequality, unfortunately, was our “normal” pre-COVID-19, and we should not close our eyes to this reality anymore. If we want to truly build a better normal, we must tend to the most vulnerable, address inequality, and, ultimately, unlock the vast potential of our people.
As Lawrence has said earlier, this is not something that a single office, company, or organization can do on its own; it requires wide and constant collaboration. This is why we are very thankful that we have partners like you who believe in our cause and share our advocacy. As Lawrence said earlier, we met USAID four weeks ago when I was invited to talk about our education programs during the pandemic. We talked about our gadget donation drive, the instructional videos for teachers and parents that we are producing, and our Community Learning Hubs. We spent a great deal of time this week going around our learning hubs to assess our first week of operations. That education talk spurred a series of other meetings with USAID to explore avenues where we can work together towards a better normal. Within a few weeks, we were able to identify opportunities where we can collaborate and pool our resources together—from networks, experiences, and expertise—driven by our shared dream of helping the most vulnerable.
This is the bedrock of our BAYANIHANAPBUHAY program, the initiative we launched with several private partners to help Filipinos feeling the economic crunch of the pandemic. We started with sikap.ph, an online jobs-matching platform targeted towards recently unemployed blue-collar workers; right now, we have about 20,000 jobs available for our blue-collar workers.
Another component of this program is the setting up of Bayanihan Mart through iskaparate.com, an eCommerce platform where we help small entrepreneurs build an online presence. Many of you know how important this is in the new normal—and how this often is the only lifeline that community-based micro-entrepreneurs have during the quarantine. Today, we have 23 small entrepreneurs selling their products on our site already, with 91 more in various stages of preparation. This program includes capacity building trainings, mentorship, and other livelihood assistance from our office.
And today we are very excited to launch the third component of BAYANIHANPBUHAY which we are doing in partnership with you, and which we are calling TrabaHOPE for out-of-school youth, and of course with USAID and the Philippine Business for Education as our partners. When we first learned of this initiative from you, we felt it was a great avenue to involve our office in—especially considering that we have already been implementing a similar initiative for the out-of-school youth of Veruela, Agusan del Sur and Sumisip, Basilan, which we launched in 2018 in partnership with Dualtech. Through this initiative, we’re aiming to help more unemployed, out-of-school youth by giving them access to training and job opportunities through the Flexible Training for Work program of YouthWorks PH, which is a joint project of USAID and PBEd, which I understand you started in 2018 also.
Through this partnership with you, we will not just be shouldering part of the costs of the training, the allowance of trainees, and training kits; we will also be actively involved in the information drive and the recruitment and screening of—initially—1,000 out-of-school youth in the Greater Manila Area for our first run. We’ll have mentors teaching modules online and through regular chats and phone calls, and our trainees will go on OJT with our partner companies, with the chance to be employed by them as soon as they finish their training.
Through TrabaHOPE, we’ll be able to look after one of the most vulnerable sectors of our society—the unemployed and out-of-school. They will get a fighting chance to weather this crisis, and acquire the tools they need to build better lives as we build a better normal. It is, as the name implies, an instrument of hope.
As we do with all of our initiatives, we constantly assess our programs to make sure they get more effective over time. Our frameworks and processes are not set in stone; our mindset, like that of the beneficiaries we hope to reach, is one of constant growth. We create feedback loops, and we try to be flexible and humble enough to make adjustments when necessary. We also constantly engage with our partners and target beneficiaries, making sure the projects are always responsive to the needs of both. These are just some of the steps ahead of us and our partners; and as we learn and adjust, as we gather more information and go further into our journey, we can begin replicating, or perhaps even iterating on a wider scale.
Throughout all of this, let’s make sure we never lose sight of the philosophy that built this project in the first place: Bayanihan, the spirit of collaboration, in the service of those often left behind. After all, as this pandemic has reminded us, we are all interconnected. We operate under a single economic system, and the suffering of even the smallest part of this system contributes to the suffering of all. Conversely: The progress of even that smallest part also contributes to the progress of all. And so whether it’s facing the pandemic, reviving our economy, or building a better normal, it is always clear: The only way through these is together.
Our work is far from over, but today we take a meaningful step towards bridging the gaps that divide us; towards a truly better normal—a world that is fairer and kinder; a world that is more equitable; a world where everyone has the chance to build a better life.
So to our partners in the USAID and PBEd, thank you for taking this step with us. It is always an honor to work with you. Let’s keep finding more ways to collaborate, more ways to serve the vulnerable, more ways to give more people more hope. We are looking forward to this partnership. Maraming salamat, mabuhay kayong lahat!