"Meet these change makers."
Ashoka: Innovators for the Public is a global organization and network of social entrepreneurs and innovators who bring about systemic change across sectors, addressing various social ills and problems. The oldest and largest network of change-makers, Ashoka elects fellows and supports them through start-up financing, professional support services, and opportunities to connect and collaborate with one another and other social entrepreneurs all over the world.
Ashoka Fellows are social innovators who transform systems in society to solve pressing problems. These individuals undergo a rigorous process before they are offered the Ashoka Fellowship, a lifelong membership to a global network of change-makers and partners. We now have 4,000 Ashoka fellows all over the world – in diverse fields and communities in over 90 countries, working towards a society where everyone is a changemaker.
In the Philippines, we now have a dozen Ashoka fellows, three of whom were inducted yesterday, Friday, October 30.
Our first Ashoka Fellow is Girlie Garcia-Lorenzo, founder of Kythe Foundation, Inc. Girlie’s work has integrated psychosocial support for chronically ill children in the local healthcare system, reaching over 8,000 patients and families nationwide.
Through his organization A Single Drop for Safe Water, Ashoka fellow Kevin Lee works with local government and other partners to help create demand for quality water, sanitation and hygiene systems in communities and empowering local governments to address the needs of their constituents, toward sustainable systems in the Philippines.
Another Ashoka Fellow, Tina Liamzon, works on overseas Filipino issues. Working with me when I was Dean of the Ateneo School of Government, she established the Ateneo Overseas Filipinos’ Leadership, Innovation, Financial Literacy and Social Entrepreneurship (ALSE OF-LIFE) Training Program. The goal is to build a global community of empowered Filipino migrant workers through a leadership and education program that encourages them to become drivers of change in the Philippines and in their host countries.
Laurindo Garcia started Be Inclusive, a venture committed to addressing persistent discrimination by building an ecosystem of companies in Asia that uses inclusion as a business strategy. In a similar way, JP Maunes founded Philippine Accessible Deaf Services, Inc. (PADS) to build and promote adaptive sports which he sees as a key initiative to further strengthen and expand the venues for mainstreaming the inclusion of PWDs in all aspects of society.
In Palawan, Amina Evangelista Swanepoel founded and runs Roots of Health which combines comprehensive reproductive and sexual education with access to free clinical care and services in that provinces. It also provides strong community-based support to empower women and young people to make informed decisions and live healthy lives. Similar to Amina, Ines Fernandez, through her organization Arugaan, empowers volunteer mothers from nurturers to leaders by training them to become knowledgeable about proper breastfeeding practices, healthy indigenous food, and relactation counseling.
Through Bagosphere, Ashoka Fellow Zhihan Lee uses a “last-mile education” model where the organization works directly with employers to develop programs that equip rural youth with in-demand professional skills. After graduation, BagoSphere places the student with one of their partner employers and provides dedicated support in continuing to explore job and career opportunities.
Finally, Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman of Teach Peace Build Peace Movement mobilizes a core youth-led volunteer team that facilitates peace-related value formation programs throughout the country, and the creation of peace education materials that she is replicated in schools nationwide.
This year, after a rigorous process which included many interviews, panel interviews, and approval by our global board, Ashoka Philippines welcomes three (3) new social innovators into the fellowship: Scott Stiles, Ryan Gersava, and Ben Abadiano.
Scott founded Fair Employment Foundation with the goal of working to disrupt – to radically change it for the better - the migrant domestic worker recruitment system in Hong Kong and other migrant work industries across Asia. He builds and tests ethical recruitment agency and training center models, which seeks to make exploitative recruitment unprofitable and be the standard for the region. His first effort was to shift the market model from worker-pays (in which migrant workers are charged fees by middlemen up to 25 times the legally permitted amount) to employer-pays.
Ryan, on the other hand, is the founder of Virtualahan. He has designed a cost-effective and transferable social technology that allows socially excluded populations (PWDs, former drug dependents, and sex workers, etc.) to access high-level work in the global digital economy. Ryan and his team do this through virtual training and coaching and imparts digital literacy and life coaching to their beneficiaries.
Finally, Ben integrates indigenous knowledge and culture with standard tertiary-level course material to give the scholars a holistic, competent, and grounded education. This is the first ever of its kind in the Philippines – now implemented in Pamulaan Center for Indigenous People’s Education. Through Pamulaan and his other endeavors, Ben forms indigenous youth leaders that give back to their communities and take part in the national dialogue and policy on indigenous peoples’ education and development.
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