A little-known part of AGREA’s work is our strong involvement with the US government’s Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI) program. YSEALI was launched in 2013 by then President Barack Obama with the purpose of strengthening leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia in order to nurture the ASEAN community and to strengthen ties between the United States and Southeast Asia.
Programs within YSEALI include exchange programs to the United States, regional workshops, and grant funding opportunities. There are four pillar themes that run throughout these various programs: civic engagement, education, environment and natural resources management, and entrepreneurship and economic development.
Last February 2017, AGREA worked with the US Embassy Bandar Seri Begawan to implement GenerationGR3EN, a regional workshop on eco-entrepreneurship in Brunei. However since 2015, AGREA has worked closely as a local partner for American Councils for International Education and the US Embassy Manila to recruit, evaluate, select, and assist young Filipinos to take part in the YSEALI Professional Fellowship Program (YSEALI PFP). There are four themes within YSEALI PFP (similar to those listed above) and AGREA is involved in the Economic Empowerment stream.
YSEALI PFP gives young professionals aged 25-35 from across Southeast Asia the opportunity to spend five weeks in the United States, they are placed in a worksite that is tailor-made to their passions and career aspirations. They have an opportunity to network and meet like-minded professionals, learn from US-based counterparts and create memories for a lifetime.
AGREA believes in supporting young Filipinos to reach their dreams through cross-cultural exchange. Cross-cultural exchange is a pillar of AGREA’s work as it enhances understanding, provides fresh perspective and an opportunity for learning.
“Cross-cultural exchange sparks innovation and that’s just what this country needs” says Rachel Empig, AGREA’s Director for Engagements and Negotiation who is currently heading the program on AGREA’s side. AGREA has met some exceptional individuals through YSEALI PFP and have seen them develop ideas into tangible businesses or programs that are really making a difference in their community.
AGREA has also witnessed the friendships and camaraderie between fellows and their counterparts in the United States and within ASEAN.
“Often we hear of Fellows meeting each other in a different country. We also see Fellows supporting each other's endeavors whether that’s through business advice, speaking at an event or connecting people,” says Rachel.
PINOY PRIDE: Fall 2018 PFP Economic Empowerment fellows, L-R Lemuel (Archie) Velasco, Janine Chiong, Leciel Ramos, Fatima Yambao, and King Jehu II Radaza.
Patch Dulay, Founder of The Spark Project, and a Spring 2016 YSEALI PFP Economic Empowerment Fellow says that he joined on the recommendation of a friend. He was deployed to San Diego, California and spent his placement at the Center for International Development inside the University of Point Loma Nazarene University.
According to Patch, his biggest take-away from his experience is that “[people] are more similar than different”. Currently, Patch still keeps in close contact with his supervisor, foster parents, and fellow professional fellows.
To date, the US Embassy Manila, together with American Councils and AGREA have selected 20 Filipinos to take part in YSEALI PFP Economic Empowerment. Examples include:
Goldy Yancha, Associate Director, Business Development & Partnerships, IdeaSpace Foundation Inc. in Metro Manila
Placement: MassChallenge in Boston, Massachusetts
Graciela Mante, Asst. Provincial Planning & Development Coordinator - Designate, Provincial Planning & Development Office, Provincial Government of Surigao del Norte in Siargao
Placement: Cook Country Bureau of Economic Development, Chicago, Illinois
Brian Belen, Co-Founder and CEO, ABF Integrated Farms and Agribusiness Center Inc. in Laguna and Co-Founder and Chief Agriculturist for Kapwa Greens Lifestyle, Inc. the makers of Tsaa Laya
Placement: Wye Mountain Flowers & Berries LLC in Little Rock, Arizona.
Janine Chiong, Founder/CEO, Habi Footwear & Lifestyle, Co-founder, Roots Katipunan
Placement: Deloitte Consulting LLP, Arlington, Virginia
Lemuel Velasco, Assistant Professor, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology / Manager - FAB LAB Mindanao
Placement: Venture Café Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts
Applications for the Spring 2018 intake have just closed. The Fall intake will open mid-2018. The AGREA Team