Special Thanks to Jaypee Ortiz for the interview
The Atenean is a man for others. Being in law school, it is somewhat a challenge to embody this since most students are preoccupied with their academic load. It is refreshing to discover that despite the rigorous schedule in law school, one student went beyond the borders of the classroom. Jaypee Ortiz (4C) took on the challenge and established Initiatives for Social Action or ISA, an organized movement of young professionals geared towards social action and involvement. Armed with passion, determination, and four years of development work experience with an NGO, Jaypee and a college friend have given opportunities to young professionals to take part in community development initiatives in under-resourced communities through the organization.
The organization was born on April 17, 2012, when Jaypee was introduced to Sitio Yangka, an indigenous community composed of about 50 Aeta families situated atop a mountain in Capas, Tarlac. Jaypee was looking for a partner beneficiary for another initative which aimed to provide supplies to community-managed schools in the Philippines. What began as a simple project became the humble beginnings of an organization.
In his first visit to Sitio Yangka, Jaypee was immediately moved by the community’s lack of basic resources. There was no electricity, no decent water supply, and no access to formal education. Children and adults were taught basic math and basic literacy by a volunteer Aeta teacher in an informal tutorial set-up in what used to be a hut maintained by the community. For most of the residents in Sitio Yangka, this was the only source of education available to them, equivalent only to pre-school level of formal education. Jaypee decided to help provide learners in the community-managed school with supplies in order to aid them in their education. The implementation of the said project needed sponsors and it was only at this stage that ISA was formed. “Nauna pa ‘yung project kaysa sa org!” says Jaypee.
Realizing the need for long-term partnerships and improvements in the community, ISA was formally established and went on to hold consultations with the community. Apart from the problem of availability of basic education, it was also discovered that the lack of a clean water supply is a pressing concern. With the help of generous sponsors, ISA has mobilized resources and installed a ramp pump system that is capable of bringing drinking water to the community. What used to be a two-faucet source of water situated 20 minutes from Sitio Yangka is now aided by six faucets installed within the community and two tanks for water storage. ISA has also conducted Health and Sanitation Seminars in the area to maximize effective use of the newly installed water system.
The movement has also expanded to other indigenous communities. Its projects have been replicated in Sitio Cawayan and Sitio Flora. Indeed, the projects have proven to effect change in these communities as some Aeta students are now able to attend the nearest elementary school (which is still about two hours away from Sitio Yanka) through the supplies provided by ISA and its sponsors.
The organization also initiated two other projects in the summer of 2014. The movement reinforces the kubo through its Bu ild-A-Classroom Initiative, by erecting more concrete structures that are conducive to learning and stand a better chance when battered by rains and strong winds. ISA also started the Ka-ISA Adult Numeracy Program that provides Aeta adults with basic skills in practical math. Aside from these, the movement holds a Christmas outreach for the communities through the project Basket of Joy.
To date, ISA has helped more than 200 students from three different indigenous communities, aiding them with school supplies sufficient for more than two years. It has mobilized more than 100 volunteers, worked with several organizations and companies, and raised 600,000 pesos of goods and resources. The organization also goes beyond its target communities. In 2013, ISA conducted its own Yolanda Relief Operation. Through the aid of sponsors and friends, the movement was able to send food, medicines, and clothes directly to affected areas in Tacloban and Eastern Samar.
In its two years of existence, the efforts of the organization are now getting recognition. Jaypee has already received an award for his endeavours, and was given the Young Ambassador for Peace Award by the International Youth Assembly. ISA is also now preparing the requirements for its registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission. ISA commits itself to be one with Yangka’s community-led initiatives in these key areas: Education, Health, Livelihood, and Ancestral Domain. Still, ISA maintains that its most important achievement is the relationships it has established with the community.
Jaypee’s passion and ISA’s cause has not only affected its beneficiaries but has also elicited a favorable response from other Ateneo Law students. JT Taylo (4A) encountered ISA’s Adult Numeracy Program on Facebook and decided to become a volunteer teacher for the program. He shares that volunteering for the Adult Numeracy Program was a heartwarming and inspiring experience. Here, he taught addition to Tatay Rico and ten others for three days in Sitio Yangka.
Those who have the same passion and the sincere desire to help are welcome to join Initiatives for Social Action. The organization is thankful to the Ateneo Law School community and others for the overwhelming trust and support that made all the projects possible.
Let’s not make our work or studies a hindrance to render service and truly be a man for others. Organizations like Initiatives for Social Action cater to those like us who think that we do not have time to spare for helping out.
Handa ka na bang makiisa sa ISA?
If you are interested to join or know more about the organization, you can visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/initiativesforsocialaction or contact Jaypee at 0917 927 2713.