A Boat That Learned to Fly in The Philippines – The Yellow Boat Project

The following guest post is by Jay Jaboneta, Co-Founder of the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation and TEDx speaker. Reach him at jay@yellowboat.org or follow JayJaboneta on Twitter.

Yellow Boats

The Yellow Boat Project is like a boat that grew wings and learned to fly like a dragonfly.  It started when I heard the story of the children of Zamboanga City. These children had to swim or wade through bodies of water just to get to school. I learned the Children in Layag-Layag had to wade and swim for 2 kilometers and walk another half a kilometer to the local Talon-Talon Elementary School. In the afternoon on their way back home, the kids walked 2.5 kilometers through mud during low tide.

I was moved to share the kids story on my Facebook page. Little did I know then that my Facebook status would spawn the launch of hundreds of yellow boats throughout the Philippines because, as we soon learned, Zamboanga was not the only area with swimming kids.

To-date, the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation has built 150 yellow boats in three communities, a school in Masbate, a day-care center in Zamboanga and has raised over $30,000 in the last year through our online efforts.

The Dragonfly Effect played an important role in shaping The Yellow Boat Project, helping us define our goals, develop an action plan and chart our progress toward achieving them. Below is The Yellow Boat Project as seen through the eyes of The Dragonfly. 

boy sitting on the bow of a little yellow boatFOCUS
Right from the start of the project, my co-founder, Anton Lim, stressed that we should focus on the Yellow Boat as the symbol of our project and that we should first focus on helping children and communities who need boats to go to school.  And I believe we’ve immensely benefited from that strategy because it made the goal very simple and easy to understand.  Many individuals and organizations sent in help and we are now helping 6 communities around the Philippines.

Since the Yellow Boat is very distinct in color and in its project goals, media organizations easily picked up our story for its uniqueness and originality.  The yellow boat (or boats) in the deep blue sea really stands out and we are lucky that it also symbolized a marine version of the yellow school bus and so people could easily relate to its purpose. 

Anton Lim and kids of Layag-Layag

One of the things that we do differently in the Yellow Boat Project is that we really seek out local community leaders who will be responsible for helping their respective areas.  I believe we have greatly benefited from partnering with various individuals and organizations on the ground that are passionate about helping children get to school.  We also used social media extensively especially Facebook – each time creating a separate Facebook Group for every community we are helping.  In that way, local people are tapped to support the project and how the funds are received and implemented are quite transparent.

The Mababoy Elementary School

Given limited resources we had to just do it. It’s not easy by the way, but, inspired by the story of Sameer and Vinay we did it anyway. Here are some results:
  • Built 154 yellow boats in 3 communities (2 in Zamboanga and 1 in Masbate); with 3 more coming in Negros Occidental
  • Built a makeshift 4-classroom school in Masbate; with 2 more classrooms coming
  • Built a day-care center in Zamboanga with funding from Tzu Chi Foundation
  • Built a halfway house for use by expectant mothers in Zamboanga led by iCAN make a difference
  • Raised roughly $33,750 in the last 20 months through Facebook and online calls for donations
  • Created 6 distinct Facebook groups that are part of the project, each with a different local community leader
  • Gained Philippine Foundation status in May 2012

We look forward to using more of the Dragonfly Effect to bring about change and make sure that our country’s human capital is at par with the rest of the world.

You may reach us at captain@yellowboat.org or visit our website. Please like us on Facebook at and follow us on Twitter