Aside from providing our Project ACE (Improving Access, Curriculum and Employability) scholars from partner Don Bosco Centers with financial assistance, Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF) also conducted a series of basic life skills workshops to help the graduating scholars better prepare for the workplace. A total of 119 scholars attended these workshops coming from Don Bosco Centers in Mandaluyong City; Canlubang, Laguna; San Jose City, Nueva Ecija; and Legazpi City, Albay.
The life skills workshops dubbed as “Matalas na Alas” was implemented in partnership with the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA). It included movement, improvisational and dramatic exercises to develop their communication, leadership and collaborative skills. These exercises also allowed the scholars to experience different scenarios such as job interviews and dealing with different personalities in the workplace.
Commitment to Help Others
Another important objective of the workshops was to encourage the scholars to use what they have learned from their experiences in the program to help not just themselves, but their families and communities as well. During group sharing sessions, scholars discuss how they can share their learnings with others and also provide suggestions on other activities that will be helpful for future scholars of Project ACE.
To date, 310 Project ACE scholars have graduated from Don Bosco Centers across the country while 30 are still in training.
Gideon Flores, graduate scholar from Don Bosco Mandaluyong, shares how Project ACE became a motivation for him to finish his college degree and help his family.
Together with PETA, scholars from Don Bosco San Jose City (left) and Legazpi City (right) experienced what it is like in the workplace, learn how to work with different personalities and develop leadership capabilities.
Jimwell Esmayor (left) from Don Bosco Mandaluyong and scholars from Don Bosco Canlubang presenting their groups’ “life lines”, an artistic depiction of a person’s milestones, life influences and goals.
Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) has always believed in the powerof the youth to transform, make positive changes, and contribute to a better society. In 2004, Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF) launched Project ACE (Improving Access, Curriculum, and Employability) Scholarships to provide underprivileged but deserving youth with access to quality education.
JGF has partnered with Don Bosco technical-vocational schools and different academic institutions across the country including Don Bosco centers in Mandaluyong City (Metro Manila), Canlubang (Laguna), San Jose City (Nueva Ecija), Legazpi City (Albay), Cebu City and Mati City (Davao Oriental). JGF works closely with its partner schools to ensure scholars gain the necessary skills and training that will prepare them for the workplace.
Last October and November, 114 Don Bosco scholars graduated from technical skills training, increasing the number of graduate scholars from these schools to 310. To date, Project ACE has also helped 178 scholars obtain their college degrees.
Project ACE graduate scholars from Don Bosco Canlubang pose for a group photo. A total of 114 scholars graduated from four JGF partner Don Bosco centers from October to November 2017.
A Grateful Scholar
Monique Velasco, 24, is now an Assistant Restaurant Manager in Jollibee. The former ACE scholar from Legazpi City is grateful for the program that helped her access college education and exposed her to support programs that ensured employability.
“My college studies would not have been possible without ACE. It was truly a blessing for me and my family. It helped me finish college and developed me to reach my full potential,”she said.
Unique to the ACE scholarship is the on-the-job training provided by JFC during their third and fourth years in college. This is where the values of hard work and dedication are further inculcated to help reach their fullest potential.
Monique is motivated to reach another achievement as she aims to get promoted as a Restaurant Manager within the next two to three years. She is proof that nothing is impossible with hard work and dedication.
Project ACE alumna and Jollibee Assistant Restaurant Manager Monique Velasco credits the scholarship program for helping her complete her tertiary education and gaining work experience that helped ensure her employment.
JGF has also partnered with the Human Resource Department of Jollibee, Chowking, and Greenwich to provide workshops and on-the-job training to ACE scholars pursuing the food service and restaurant management track. This ensures that the graduates are ready to take on roles in the workplace upon graduation.
“In the coming months, we are looking into Agriculture and Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) Management – related courses. We hope that with these plans, we will be able to add more femalescholars and add more facilities like food laboratories that the scholars can use,” said Ms. Laize-Ar Cruzat, Program Manager of Project ACE.
Graduate scholars Simeon Labrador (left) and Carlos Golosinda (right) pose with their proud parents after the graduation ceremonies.
Reaping what they sow, the members of KALASAG Farmers Producers Cooperative in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija was recently granted a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certificate by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Bureau of Plant and Industry (BPI) for white onions, confirming that the cooperative ensures food quality and safety.
The GAP standards enable farmers to address different aspects of on-farm production and post-production processes that result in safe and quality agricultural products. It covers food safety, consistent quality produce, worker’s health, safety and welfare, and environmental management.
BPI inspected KALASAG farms last February for GAP qualification. A month after, BPI and DA qualified 41 KALASAG farmers for the GAP certification. “We told them that GAP certification is just simple, they just need to be more careful when it comes to the safety of their products. The farmers were very optimistic about it even though it seemed impossible for them at first. In fact, they are the first cooperative in the country to receive GAP certificates,” said DA Region III GAP Inspector Angel Tulabut.
“We are happy to be regarded as ‘Certified GAP Farmers’. Our market will surely expand and we can now enter the international market because we already met the standards,” said KALASAG member Ferdinand Gomez of the certification.
Of this, KALASAG General Manager Wencelito Gomez explained, “We hope this serves as an inspiration to other farmer groups. The GAP accreditation will help improve their farming practices and their lives. We hope that the day will come when all farmers will have improved lives. And we thank Jollibee Group Foundation for helping us reach our dreams.”
Bridging the GAP
KALASAG is one of the first partners of Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF) in its Farmer Entrepreneurship Program (FEP), which aims to help smallholder farmers achieve a more sustainable livelihood and increase their income by linking them to the supply chain of institutional markets like Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC). KALASAG has been regularly supplying white onions to JFC since 2009. In 2016, KALASAG delivered close to 500 metric tons of white onions to the food service company.
KALASAG learned about GAP through JGF and decided to make GAP accreditation one of their main projects. “JGF helped us through trainings on leadership and agro-enterprise, and giving us an option for a sure market. We are also able to use all the knowledge that we learned from FEP in our transactions with other institutional buyers and get more opportunities that help us and our community“, said KALASAG Chairman Arnold Dizon.
JGF has been implementing FEP since 2008 and has trained more than 1,800 farmers. Twelve farmer groups from Luzon and Visayas regularly supply to JFC, and have delivered more than 2,000 metric tons of vegetables to the company. FEP has proven that by combining the elements of market, finance, and agro-enterprise clustering, farmers could meet the volume, quality and timeliness requirements of institutional buyers.
“If a farmer is poor, then so is the whole country.”
So goes a Polish proverb that has its own relevance in the Philippines. For a country so blessed with diversity of natural resources, it is ironic that our farmers remain to be among the poorest in our society. Year on year, our farmers make decisions based on resources available to them, and keeping a watchful eye on increasingly erratic weather patterns. It’s no surprise, then, that we are slowly losing the battle of numbers: for every year that passes, our farmers get older and smaller in quantity. Most of their children opt for city jobs in factories or call centers where the financial rewards are perceived as better felt and easier achieved.
Farming as a Profession of Hope
However, for every farmer that gives up, there are a number of farmers who still choose to hope. Even with the odds stacked up against them and their community, they seek opportunities to change the one thing that they are in full control of — their mindset. That is why Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF) endeavored to find a way to help change mindsets of Filipino farmers. Together with partners, JGF established the Farmer Entrepreneurship Program (FEP) in 2008 which assists farmers increase their productivity potential, and earn more for their labor.
Michael Regencia of the Caoayan Onion Growers Multipurpose Cooperative from Caoayan, Ilocos Sur is one of the partners under the program. He shares that being a farmer in these uncertain times can be challenging. “As a farmer, life is difficult. I never had a formal education. I used to be very reserved and did not want to talk to people. I never would have thought that I would become an officer in a group, let alone manage a cooperative,” said Regencia.
The cooperative he speaks of was one formed with his fellow onion farmers by the Nueva Segovia Consortium of Cooperatives (NSCC) in partnership with JGF. Registered as the Caoayan Onion Growers Cooperative, Michael and his colleagues went through a series of trainings where they learned business skills, product pricing and linking with the right markets. “As a cooperative, we now own and manage all the operations. We have benefits and access to resources like seeds, fertilizer and other farming technologies that would be difficult to get if we were working individually as farmers,” he added.
Given the small size of the lands that they individually farm, the group discovered that the power of collective marketing has given them the opportunity to earn more as a cooperative. The strength they found in numbers also gave them the opportunity not only to consolidate their produce but also to put their heads together and visualize how to enrich their productivity. When before, most of the farmers in the area would plant crops with no clear plan, they now understand the value of a logical farm plan and a viable business plan. “We used to plant crops based on what seemed to be selling for high prices in the market, even if we didn’t have sure buyers.” Removing the guesswork from their jobs has given them the confidence that they are now more in control of their fate. “FEP didn’t teach us just how to be good farmers, but how to be businessmen. Best of all, it gave us a steady market for our products,” Michael happily shared.
JGF took it a step further in 2016 by developing the FEP Leadership for Agro-enterprise Development (LeAD). Twenty-two farmer-leaders and members from eleven partner farmer groups that directly supplied to JFC were tapped to become “fellows.” They took part in activities geared towards developing their leadership and entrepreneurial potential in the hope that they will apply their enhanced skills for their personal and organizational growth. Another FEP partner, Richard Sabdao of the Mayon Farmers Association from Camalig, Albay shared, “The most important lesson I learned from LeAD is the formation of a leader to inspire his group and perform with excellence.” The biggest goal of the program is to create their own Action Learning Project (ALP) which they themselves should design, implement and evaluate. Their ALPs should aim to develop their organization’s sustainability and growth. But it doesn’t end there.
“Beyond the program, we envision that the fellows will form a network of farmer leaders who support each other and champion the idea of farming as an enterprise,” says Ms. Grace Tan Caktiong, the President of JGF. As part of the program’s culmination, JGF recognized the Fellows’ hard work and accomplishments on January 19, 2017 in EDSA Shangri-la Hotel. “We hope to celebrate with them as they mark the end of their LeAD journey,” she adds.
It seems then that success really starts with the right mindset. Hopefully, valuing our farmers’ work and appreciating how our daily survival depends on their good welfare encourage the support it deserves from more institutions. The success of farmers like Michael and Richard can become the norm. “As a farmer, the FEP program has made a big impact on my life. In terms of my livelihood, I see that we are continuously improving. I know that I can now give a better future to my children especially through education,” Michael shared.
If we can hear these words more often from our Filipino farmers, maybe then we have better hope of a sustainable livelihood for our smallholder farmers and ensuing food security for all.
Click here to know more about the Farmer Entrepreneurship Program.