Ryan Letada ’08 completed his Fulbright in the Philippines in the fall, researching the mass eviction and resettlement of urban poor communities as a result of infrastructure development problems. We asked him about his experience and about what he is doing now.
The Fulbright. The brunt of my research focused on how evicted peoples can be viewed as assets rather than liabilities to economic development. In fact, my research showed that they immensely contributed to the growth of their resettlement community or new homes. Through creative entrepreneurship, they were able to start home-based businesses that provided employment opportunities to their neighbors. Through grassroots mobilization, they were able to change destructive housing policies, and attain community facilities, such as day cares and community centers.
Often times, “slum dwellers,” “squatters,” urban poor folks, are painted as helpless victims, or lazy unproductive members of society. My research showed otherwise. Evicted peoples have shown they can better themselves and their communities. Imagine if they were provided support in the form of quality education, microcredit, entrepreneurial training programs, etc.—then their potential to contribute to society would be limitless.
New and exciting. After my Fulbright experience, I decided to take on eKindling (education kindling)—a social enterprise I recently co-founded. We are dedicated to enhancing educational and digital opportunities for underserved communities through innovations in technology and learning. To achieve our mission, we provide appropriate technologies and educational practices designed for 21st century learning to schools and “edu-initiatives” in underserved communities. This an offshoot of Pinoy Computer Clinics, which I co-founded at Wheaton.
Launching project. Presently, we are in the process of launching 100 XO laptops (One Laptop Per Child) in a remote rural island in the Philippines.
My future. This is the next stage of my life. I am a social entrepreneur. I want to narrow the digital divide. I want to improve educational opportunities for disadvantaged children. Through eKindling, we will build communities of digitally-literate, lifelong learners that are the critical thinkers, problem-solvers, and leaders of tomorrow’s digital and connected world.