In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the islands of the Philippines. It was the worst storm in the nation’s history, and like any other disaster, delivered its worst destruction to the poor. On the impoverished island of Leyte, nearly 19,000 boats were lost, destroying the island’s fragile fishing economy, and ninety percent of schools were destroyed.
The Philippines Foundation, founded by Filipino-American Evelin Weber, felt called to help both of these catastrophes, and the Learning Boats of Leyte was inspired.
Leyte children’s lives are already centered around boat culture, and many did not have access to schools even when there were schools, due to long commutes and too-expensive ferry fares. Seeing this, Weber wanted to create an outdoor classroom that could come to the children.
“Fishermen park their boats on shore after a day’s work, and the children will then have a lesson that varies from boat to boat,” says Weber.
And the fishermen’s boats will come from the Learning Boats program. Their goal is to provide a thousand donated boats and to put every single student back in school. Part of their goals will be supported by their recent partnership with Philippine Airlines and the advertising agency Ogilvy. They also have plans to soon begin working with a local TV network to create a children’s television show that would mesh with the lesson plans for the Learning Boats.