At the recently-concluded 23rd ASEAN Summit, Singapore-born humanitarian relief and development NGO, Mercy Relief, was acknowledged in the ASEAN Declaration for Youth Entrepreneurship and Employment, and the Chairman’s Statement, for its partnership with the government of Brunei Darussalam on the implementation of the pilot regional community service projects by the ASEAN Young Professionals Volunteer Corps (AYPVC).  The Declaration was adopted by the leaders of the ten Member States on 9th October.  The latest AYPVC team of 29 young professionals served the vulnerable community at a Manila slum to boost livelihood opportunities and healthcare practices, and incidentally, helped grow regional goodwill through their good work. [read “Growing Goodwill on Good Work” below].

Photo – ASEAN

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* Bandar Seri Begawan Declaration on Youth Entrepreneurship and Employment, page 2 para 2

* ASEAN Chairman’s  Statement, para 37

ASEAN young professionals serve vulnerable community at Manila slum to boost livelihood opportunities and healthcare practices

The urban poor account for a significant percentage of households in Metro Manila.  One informal settlement (slum) of 12,000 families at Baseco, a reclaimed area near Manila’s port, is characterized by its hazardous conditions where tonnes of rubbish are constantly being washed ashore by the Pasig River and accumulated at its bay area.  The community suffers direct impacts to their health due to the poor solid waste management, unsafe hygiene practices and limited access to clean water and sanitation.

The situation is made worse for families who have limited access to livelihood opportunities. While community based social enterprises such as handicrafts which include weaving of bags from recycled tetra-packs and footwear from water-hyacinth are promising in providing employment opportunities, the operational scales of these enterprises often limits its potential to reach out to a wider community.

The average daily wage of a resident is 50 pesos (SGD 1.50).  The community’s main industry is garlic-peeling and handicrafts which includes weaving of bags from recycled tetra-packs and footwear from water-hyacinth.  Despite the environmental threats, both natural and man-made, the community shows great inclination and determination seek and embrace development.


The Baseco community faces continuous and increasing risks to their personal health and wellness.

The ASEAN Youth Professionals Volunteer Corps (AYPVC) saw the successful implementation of its third regional community service project in as many months.  The latest AYPVC team, comprising 29 participants from all 10 ASEAN Member States, endeavoured to increase the livelihood opportunities of the Baseco community and its overall standards of public and personal health.

Throughout the 16-day expedition, the group worked in consultation with local partners, the Urban Poor Associates (UPA) and Kabalikat.  To promote environmental health and personal wellness, the team organised a Baseco Clean-up Day and good hygiene and health awareness workshops.


(left) Children chipped in their parts eagerly at the inaugural Baseco Clean-Up Day. 

(middle & right) Community outreach workshops were conducted to emphasis on personal hygiene and the impacts of environmental health on personal health.

Earlier assessments revealed that while efforts have been made to provide gainful employment for the community through the production of recycled bags and footwear, the potential outcomes remained limited due to the community’s lack of knowledge and expertise in the area of product marketing.  To help the community’s social enterprise reach out to a wider market and thereby enabling more employment opportunities, the team established a range of marketing tools which included a video and web-based portal, and conducted workshops on business administration and social enterprise.  These initiatives sought to equip the Baseco community with the appropriate capacity to reach out to a wider market and generate a sustainable income through better employment opportunities.  In addition, the team helped complete and decorate the new Community-Based Livelihood Centre (CBLC) which houses the handicrafts store front.

Director of Brunei’s Youth and Sports Development from Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS), Hajah Norlah Haji Yaakub who was present at the launch ceremony of the CBLC shared, “This programme can help to create awareness of ASEAN not just amongst today’s generation, but also tomorrow’s leaders, which in turn can strengthen ASEAN’S solidarity as a whole.”


(left & centre) Womenfolk weaved their handicrafts including bags and footwear at home. 

(right) Completed handicrafts were previously stored in a small office.


(left & centre)The new CBLC had its interior designed and decorated by the AYPVC team and officially opened by the Director BMCYS and the Bruneian Ambassador to the Philippines, now showcases the handicraft for walk-in purchases.

(right) New marketing platforms such as Facebook, website and print collaterals including brochures and catalogues are now available for the community to expand their marketing reach.

MR’s International Programme manager Carol Liew, who facilitated the AYPVC expedition, commented, “Every community in various parts of Southeast Asia has their own unique problems which require appropriate and specific solutions. The success of AYPVC depends on identifying the right personnel with the relevant sets of skills, expertise and experience, laced with the necessary diplomatic flair to serve and embrace the communities on the ground based on their needs.”

The AYPVC programme brings together young professionals from ASEAN to develop a sense of obligation towards socio-cultural and economic development through regional voluntary community work in areas of their expertise.  AYPVC was officially endorsed at the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Youth (AMMY) in May 2013. As the current ASEAN chair, Brunei Darussalam is pioneering the 3-year Programme, and administered by its Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (BMCYS).  Singapore’s regional humanitarian relief & development NGO, Mercy Relief is appointed as the implementing partner, while Singapore’s National Youth Council (NYC) is a supporting partner to the Programme.

In August 2013, the two pioneer AYPVC teams served concurrently at Cambodia’s Kampong Speu province and the Indonesian province of South Sumatra.  The team in Cambodia provided mobile medical services, agricultural training and English lessons, while the batch in Indonesia served rural and vulnerable groups including children with special needs and promote safety workshops and hygiene practices to schools.

[Click here to read “Young Professionals Pool with Purpose” ]

About Mercy Relief

Mercy Relief is a Singaporean humanitarian organisation which engages in both disaster relief and sustainable development programmes. It was established in 2003 as an independent non-governmental humanitarian charity responding to the human tragedies in Asia. Mercy Relief’s aid programme focuses on providing timely and effective assistance to disaster-stricken communities and has maintained the delivery of emergency aid within 72 hours from the point of appeal for assistance. 

In the past 12 years, Mercy Relief has disbursed over S$32 million in aid across 40 disaster relief and 53 sustainable development initiatives. Mercy Relief has impacted an aggregate of 2 million lives in 24 countries and areas, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, DPR Korea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal,  Pakistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen.

For more information, you may call us at 6514 6322 or email

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