Hope has become a scarce resource in several communities in the margins, a year after battling the Covid-19 pandemic and its impacts on daily lives and socio-economic welfare of many Filipinos. Millions who migrated to urban centers for work were forced to go home without a source of livelihood, and with a feeling of disconnect upon their return to their rural community.
This is the challenge that the Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center (APC) seeks to address through the Youth Work Experience (YWE) program, and implemented through APC’s Forest, Farm, and Leadership in the Margins (FFLM) unit.
The YWE is a two-month program that provides alternative opportunities for vulnerable youth in Bendum, Philippines who lost their jobs due to the pandemic through skills training and formation while building their skills in managing the ancestral domain. Participants are given an allowance during their training period to help upland families and communities cope with the economic repercussions of the health crisis. The initial run of the YWE program was recently completed with 11 young men and 9 young women.
Helping the youth to appreciate the simplicity of life in community is challenging, according to FFLM Youth Training Coordinator Vincent Yan Rhu “Yanyan” Yacapin. Yanyan is a member of the Higaonon community, one of several indigenous groups in northern and central Mindanao, Philippines and works with the Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC), a Jesuit research and training organization in the Philippines. Yanyan coordinates a youth training team that works with upland indigenous youth who are not in school and who also shares his passion for indigenous arts and crafts.
“Sometimes they tend to forget the value of what we have here… Oftentimes, they see greater value in things outside,” he said. “But for me, what is valuable and good springs from community. There is a feeling of contentment, of knowing you have a place to go, a sense of belongingness,” he added.
Focusing on areas such as bamboo production and construction, weaving, cookery, and organic farming, the YWE program equips the youth with skills that are relevant to their culture and environment in the uplands and also help in recognizing their role in community. The training activities in the YWE program also help develop a work ethic and sense of responsibility that are essential in the participants’ future employment.
Formation sessions that draw on Laudato Si’ and Querida Amazonia contribute to deepening their understanding of their integral relation with the land and to cultivate hope and solidarity amid challenging times.
“I see this program as a pathway or a bridge to accompany the youth, especially those who didn’t have the chance to finish their studies,” Yanyan said. “This program inspires them to continue learning, not just about what’s out there in broader society, but more importantly, what we have here in community.”
This story is also on Ecojesuit Online.