The Faculty of Management and Development Studies (FMDS) of the UP Open University (UPOU), in partnership with the Edu-Connect Southeast Asia Association – Taiwan launched the Project LAKBAY: Learning Actively through Knowledge-Based Appreciation for Youth, a Youth Cultural and Learning Immersion Camp. The Project LAKBAY was a hybrid event, with the first part conducted online through the UPOU Canvas from 28 to 30 June 2023, and the immersion camp facilitated in person from 4 to 14 July 2023 at UPOU Headquarters, Los Banos, Laguna. The Project LAKBAY was participated in by a total of 36 LAKBAY fellows – 24 Taiwanese participants from different universities in Taiwan, 17 Filipino participants from Kaya Natin! Youth – Los Baños (KNY-LB), and seven members of the University of the Philippines Open University Student Council (UPOU-USC).
The term “LAKBAY” itself holds profound significance as it translates to “Journey” in Filipino. This project sought to foster awareness and encourage active engagement in global sustainability programs, emphasizing the importance of including youth voices in shaping sustainability-related initiatives across various development fields.
FMDS Dean Joane Serrano and University of the Philippines Visiting Professor Dr. Eing-Ming Wu spearheaded Project LAKBAY by focusing on the interconnections between multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The LAKBAY fellows embarked on learning visits to various institutions such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), and UP Resilience Institute (UPRI). These visits aimed to broaden the fellows’ understanding of the contributions of different institutions to national and global development.
In addition to institutional visits, the LAKBAY fellows engaged in hands-on and social learning visits to local communities. They explored the woodcarving communities of Paete, Laguna, the embroidery communities of Lumban, Laguna, and the trolley community of Brgy. San Antonio, and the Gawad Kalinga community, both situated in Los Baños, Laguna. These experiences allowed the participants to gain a profound understanding of local challenges and witness the power of community-driven solutions. Through hands-on learning, LAKBAY fosters personal connections and supports local businesses. It goes beyond traditional education, igniting the fellows’ empathy and understanding. These learning visits and workshops are an effective way of communicating knowledge and information. Learning by doing offers a more personal approach and a deeper sense of connection to the community.
Embodying the spirit of Bayanihan, a traditional Filipino practice of communal unity and cooperation, Project LAKBAY sought to foster collaborations among the participants. Workshops, group activities, and seminars conducted at the Centennial Center for Digital Learning (CCDL) facilitated active participation and brainstorming for context-specific solutions to address community needs effectively.
The learning visits, workshops, and discussions emphasized the significance of English as the universal language for global cooperation. This approach ensured that the LAKBAY fellows, hailing from different backgrounds, could communicate effectively and collaborate seamlessly in their challenge for sustainability.
Moreover, Brown Bag Sessions, film showings, socials, and cultural presentations encouraged stimulating debates and discussions among the participants. The immersive experience also featured community visits and walking workshops at the Perma G.A.R.D.E.N (Growing Appreciation toward Resilience, Development, Entrepreneurship, and Nutrition), an initiative by FMDS supporting sustainable production and consumption. The project highlighted the role of sustainable community or home gardens in enhancing food accessibility and nutritional diversity, contributing to SDG 2: Zero Hunger.
During the immersive journey of Project LAKBAY, the participants were not only engaged in a series of enlightening visits, workshops, and discussions but were also privileged to have a special encounter. They were granted the opportunity to meet and have meaningful conversations with the esteemed University of the Philippines (UP) President, Angelo A. Jimenez.
This meeting with UP President Jimenez added a layer of significance to the participants’ journey, as they were able to gain insights from a prominent figure in the academic and leadership spheres. The interaction provided the LAKBAY fellows with valuable guidance and encouragement to continue their pursuits of active engagement in sustainability-related initiatives.
As Project LAKBAY concluded its remarkable journey in the three campuses of the University of the Philippines – UP Open University, UP Los Baños, and UP Diliman, it surely left an impact and an unforgettable impression on the hearts and minds of all the LAKBAY fellows. Project LAKBAY emerged as a beacon of hope, empowering youth to become champions of sustainability and active contributors to their communities’ well-being. By embracing the values of cultural exchange, civic engagement, and collaborative problem-solving, these young individuals are now better equipped to lead the way toward a brighter and more sustainable future.
In line with the success of the launch of the first-ever project LAKBAY, the FMDS is looking forward to more collaborations with different institutions and seeing what we can all accomplish together for the next Project LAKBAY armed with the confidence that it has built a solid foundation to shape future leaders and more socially aware and involved youths.
Feature article contributed by UP Open University Office of Public Affairs.