Friday, August 5, 2011

The Ayala Ave., the Foundation, and GILAS*

The Ayala Ave.

I admit there’s something romantic about that stretch of road. During the latter part of my internship, I’d usually commute and head straight home, tired and feeling like a real part of the workforce. With earphones popped into my ears, i would walk past the buildings…i would walk with the important-looking Makati crowd and wonder why I was walking with them, the not-a-big-fan-of -big-corporations that I am. They have this certain street beat – like everyone’s walking to the same beat, their feet shuffling in tune. I’d take my steps and feel like Felicity Porter traversing the busy streets of New York in the usual episode ending of the Felicity series.

I’ll miss walking the streets of that business district.

I’ll miss walking with the crowd I don’t wanna walk with.


Little did I know that those people, those buildings would inspire insights...

that that stretch of road would be a birthplace of thoughts...

It was 3 years ago, back in undergrad, when I took my internship at Ayala Foundation - the corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm of Ayala Group of Companies. Why and how I got there is a tale of its own. For now, let me tell you about the GILAS project I chanced upon while I was assigned under the foundation’s Center for Social Development.

*GILAS stands rather proudly for Gearing UP Internet Literacy and Access for Students. It’s a multi-sectoral initiative in cooperation with the Department of Education that aims to provide Internet access for students and basic Internet literacy programs in all the 6,789 public high schools in the Philippines. Necessity being the mother of inventions, it was precisely the fact that only 60% of the country’s public high schools have computer laboratories accessible to students and that a mere 28% is connected to the internet that propelled this initiative into being. It was, at the time of my brief stint at the Foundation, at it’s first year.

Although I’ve never gotten the chance to explore the project’s details, I must say that it was impressive prima facie. My only source was then my orgmate-cum-co-intern whose daily lunch break routine includes raving about the project’s core principles and ranting about his work for it. In those two months that I was forced to listen to him educate us on his assignment, I was convinced that the project indeed veers away from the traditional ‘kawanggawa’ (dole-outs, etc.) nature of most foundations. More than a technology transfer, it was a project designed for empowerment. By providing computers and connecting the schools to the World Wide Web, the project, in effect, bridges the land of the uniformed to the land of information. The students would only have to learn how to cross the bridge, with a little help from one of the project’s aspect - the literacy program. In sum, GILAS equips and teaches the students to educate themselves.

GILAS is not only an empowerment for the youths, it is an investment for the current generation, as well. As the initiative claims, “In an environment of resource scarcity, Internet literacy is arguably the most cost effective investment we can make in our educational system.” With the civic organizations’ heart, the DepEd’s hand, and the private corporation’s pocket... I say, the mission is bound to succeed. An insight while walking along Ayala Avenue.

Cris Bernardino [entry # 8]

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