MANILA – Instead of taking the more familiar route of getting a decent-paying job after college, Wryneth Mayapit opted to dedicate her life to helping rural communities in the Cordillera region, where she was born and raised.
Mayapit is one of the core members of Edaya, a social enterprise founded by bamboo artist Edgar Banasan and Japanese researcher Ayaka Yamashita. What started out as a company selling high-end jewelry handcrafted from Filipino bamboo to clients in Japan has expanded to include a training program for Cordillera youth.
Called Edaya Education, the brainchild of Mayapit provides free social entrepreneurship training to underprivileged but deserving youth in the Cordillera region, with help coming mainly from Japanese sponsors.
The Social Anthropology graduate of University of the Philippines in Baguio said she wants to empower young people so they can help their respective communities.
“We bring in young people and conduct six months of intensive training in our workshop in Baguio. We introduce them to various aspects of social entrepreneurship and challenge them to look at communities, understand whatever problems exist there, and see how they can come in,” the 25-year-old said of the program, which started with only three students from Kalinga and has since accommodated five more.
She went on: “The goal of the program is not for them to establish their own enterprise, but for them to gain the skills of a social entrepreneur to apply it in whatever career they choose to do after. So we welcome them if they do establish their business. But if they choose other paths after, that’s also okay.”
After completing a screening process that consists mainly of interviews, students of Edaya Education undergo a crash course on social entrepreneurship, leadership, information technology, finance, creativity, and design thinking, with the goal of making them leaders and agents of change in their respective communities.
The alternative education program, which also covers food expenses, brings students to Manila to introduce them to social entrepreneurs in the capital and ends with a youth community camp.
“It’s like a mini boot camp where they get to work with young people from other communities, redevelop their products, prototype, and then do a pitching competition,” she explained. “We had a panel of judges from Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, and Australia. And then whoever wins the competition wins a small startup fund for them to start their businesses.”
Three years after establishing Edaya Education in 2015, Mayapit joined BPI Foundation’s Sinag program, an annual business competition for social entrepreneurs, last year.
She was awarded with a cash grant of P100,000, allowing her to create a spinoff project on homestay communities which will soon be managed by the program’s graduates.
“One of [the graduates] is now operating her enterprise and she’s doing banana vinegar. She’s employing women from the community to do the work. Another one is taro chips. But for me, more than being able to produce these kinds of products is the change of thinking, the change of mindset throughout the course of the training program – that success is not just about money,” she said.
Mayapit went on to stress the importance of empowering rural communities through young people, saying this is more effective than well-intentioned development projects from outsiders.
“Ayoko ‘yung idea na people from outside the community come in and dictate what the community people will do, because that’s not how it works. For me, the people who really know what they need are the people living in the community themselves. If we just go inside the community and tell them, ‘Uy this is what you need, this is what you should do,’ it’s not going to work,” she said.
“We don’t want to dictate na you should become social entrepreneurs and manage your business and make your community rich. What is important for us is for them to go back to their community and spark positive change in whatever way they can,” she added.
While she admits that running the Edaya Education program could be quite a struggle because of budget constraints, Mayapit said she finds joy in helping improve the lives of the people of Cordillera, even in her own little way.
“Going toward the social entrepreneurship journey is a struggle in itself. Ang daming ‘bakit ko ba ginagawa ito’ moments. Alam mo ‘yun, ‘yung ‘mas yayaman ako kung ganito ang ginagawa ko.’ Mga ganung klaseng thinking,” she said. “I actually had those moments na, ‘why am I in Edaya?’ You evaluate yourself na, ‘why are you doing this instead of trying to get a good job to be rich?’”
“But for me, I just go back to why I am doing this… I do what my core tells me. I want to do something for the community,” she ended.