Youth work experience as an instrument for personal, communal, and ecological change

The Hulas program enables the holistic development of Mindanao youth through technical and vocational skills and leadership training since 2010. For the past 10 years, the program trained over 400 indigenous and migrant youth through short courses that integrate skills development and values formation on service leadership. Hulas graduates articulate and share how the skills and values they have nurtured in the program enabled them to gain confidence, to share their skills and encourage their peers, to have options for decent work, and to find hope, thus enabling a deepened appreciation for their cultural integrity amidst the broader social, political, and economic landscape.

The past year was especially challenging as the unprecedented impacts of the covid-19 pandemic altered the way society proceeds and operates. The socioeconomic repercussions of the pandemic have disproportionately affected the youth in the margins and aggravated their struggles in finding better opportunities for their lives and livelihood. In response to the growing need for accompaniment, young people are provided alternative opportunities to build their skills and work ethic, at the same time, contribute meaningfully to their families and to the community.

The newly designed youth work experience program (YWE) of the Forest, Farm, and Leadership in the Margins (FFLM) unit caters to the needs and interests of the youth and community amid their rapidly shifting context in the broader landscape. From February to April 2021, a YWE cycle engaged 10 Upper Pulangi youth in skills training and formative sessions that enhanced their skills and deepened their values in caring for the ancestral domain and their culture.

Youth working in organic farming contribute to food security through traditional methods that integrate the farm and forest in the context of their culture, highlighting the integral role of food production in sustaining the community. Armando Lambon, One of the YWE completers, shared how his experiences on working in the farm nourished his relationships with his family, with the land, and with the community.

The work experience on forest and water management engaged the youth through field-based activities that deepen their appreciation for the value of caring for natural resources in their ancestral domain, thereby enhancing the ecosystem services it provides. Jonil Lumisod shares how his learnings from the forest and water management course deepened his appreciation for the value of work and how it enabled him to see a future for himself and his family within the community.

Beyond the technical skills and work ethics gained, the youth come together for formation sessions in the afternoon when the rains come. A series of learning workshops on work values, family health & preparation, personal financial management, and indigenous and community conserved areas, seek to deepen the youth’s understanding on their aspirations, motivations, and their relationships with the land and community in the context of their culture.

With accompanying staff guiding them throughout the process, Balay Laudato Si’ provides them an atmosphere for reflection and learning as the young workers gain an understanding of themselves and their roles as integral members of the community. Shela Gamalo-Cabale, a young mother and one of the first completers of the YWE, shares her story on how the program has helped build her confidence and enabled her to relate more deeply with others.

The teachings of Laudato Si’ and Querida Amazonia also served as a headlight during reflection sessions as the youth deepen their understanding on the contemporary challenges they face, and how their efforts enable them to reconnect with their land and culture. This imbibes in them a renewed sense of mission as catalysts of forwarding the community’s integral development through integral ecology.

While the work may be intense for many, the youth continue to strive as they go through the program, recognizing how their efforts enhance their capacities as leaders, how it deepens their relationships with their land and culture, and how their work contributes to the integral growth of the community.

And, amid the contemporary realities they face, the youth find hope as they seek to come together as a community and move towards a shared vision for their culture and life.

Some might ask, what does this have to do with sustainable management of forests and restoring ecosystems? Cultivating hope in community is a crucial ingredient in pursuing our global goals of sustainable development for all.

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