By KC M. Abalos
When we post the highlights of our days online, we are informing the whole world. Yes, the whole world. Such is the power of the internet. So when Jay Jaboneta posted a status on the most popular social networking site, Facebook, about a story which tugged at his heart, the whole world listened or read and commented and donated.
When we like, comment or post anything on our wall, we rarely think about the consequences of our virtual actions. Jay is the New Media Head under the Presidential Communications Operations Office which is responsible for leading the team that manages President Noynoy Aquino’s official website and Social Media presence. So yes, one can say that Jay is in the social networking business. It is no wonder then that it is the tool that he utilized to make it all happen.
“I am really passionate about using social media or digital tools that impact communities and make a difference for our country and Filipinos everywhere,” Jay says.
Of course, he never imagined that a simple Facebook post can really make a significant impact on people’s lives.
But let us begin at the very beginning. Jay was at the Mindanao Blogging Summit last October 2010 when he heard a story about a bunch of kids in Mampang, Layag-Layag in Zamboanga City who literally wades their way across a shallow body of water every day to get to Talon-Talong Elementary School. Every day.
He relates: “I was really touched by the story. We often hear of affluent kids in Manila who skip school to go swimming and here were kids who go swimming to go to school. They are the true heroes of this story. I didn’t expect anything to happen. I just wanted to share it.”
And share it he did. It wasn’t even that difficult a process. Instead of writing about what he had for breakfast that morning or posting some funny video, Jay posted about the Zamboanga children who inspired him to do something, anything. And the internet being the way it is, no one can really predict where one click can lead.
“We just started posting a call for donations in our Facebook account. Surprisingly, a community of my friends pitched in to raise funds and build them a boat,” he shares eagerly.
Friends pitch in
Having lots of friends on any social networking site is usually a point of pride for some and sometimes even becomes a competitive thing among friends. But in Jay’s case having lots of friends resulted in more people wanting to get involved and simply wanting to help. Because more often than not, people do want to reach out no matter how little they themselves have in terms of material possessions. But because of the lack of information, they don’t really know where to begin in how they can share a part of themselves to others in their community. Social networking sites serve a big role in connecting people in general—why not connect for the purpose of really helping out?
The trend is catching. When the Ondoy tragedy happened, people went online to see how they can help others who were not as fortunate as they were. When the tsunami struck Japan, even online games did their bit. One can buy a virtual plant or animal, for example, and the proceeds will go to organizations which helped the victims.
The internet is a cheap way of communicating and it is so easy to organize and mobilize people through blogs, SNS (Social Networking Sites), messaging, and the like. It is no wonder then that it is an essential tool for literally and figuratively reaching out to others.
After posting a simple status, the boat project snowballed. Jay’s post paved the way for the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids. They were able to raise US$1,600, more than enough for a new school boat.
Last March 27, Jay saw and met the community he was able to help for the first time when they turned over Bagong Pag-Asa or New Hope, the customized boat they built for the kids. The boat had to be built specifically for their community since the children live in an islet where mangroves make it difficult for larger water vessels to travel in. Needless to say, the community was grateful.
“They welcomed us with open arms and they are also part of the solution by volunteering to maintain the boat and spend for its upkeep,” Jay recalls the experience.
As for the people who have helped Jay, his own friends and network buddies, “they also felt surprised that our little fundraising campaign in Facebook helped built a boat for the little kids who swim to school. They now want to help more. Helping is really easy. We just have to keep trying. Pray. Pursue. Persevere.”
He continues, “We didn’t really know we will end up building a boat and now we’ve raised enough to build two more boats!”
Because of its unexpected success, there are now more projects on the way. The group—yes they are now a group and you can join them via Facebook—is in the process of helping the kids’ parents improve their seaweed farming operations that is their main livelihood. According to Jay, there are about 500 families living on houses on stilts in Layag-Layag and the group would like to help them provide for their families and also keep their projects environment-friendly as they live in a mangrove area.
“We have connected with other individuals and groups who are willing to provide scholarships for the kids, school supplies and books,” he shares.
Last May, Jay was featured on Facebook Live, the official live streaming channel of the popular networking site. Jay was interviewed by the Facebook team because of their group’s inspiring story. Such stories are indeed amazing. Even those who were involved are surprised that doing the littlest thing can actually make a world of difference.
“It really gave me a great sense of fulfillment that a single Facebook post can make a difference like this. We’ve given the community hope. When I went to sleep that night, it was as if I saw God smile back at me.”
If God had a Facebook page, we’re pretty sure He is “liking” Jay and all his friends.