I was brought up mainly in Washington DC where I lived with my parents and my Lola (Filipina Grandma). My Lola came from a village in the Philippines where her family were farmers. Growing up with my grandma, she instilled in me the true value of growing your own food and on self-reliance. Some of my fondest early memories with her were planting, mulching and nurturing the garden, and singing to the plants to help them grow.
I attended the Washington International School and my home was always very jolly, filled with family and friends from all over the world. My parents travelled abroad for work and once every year would bring me along. We visited a range of different countries, from Azerbaijan to Pakistan to Yemen to Indonesia. On each trip or “travel adventure” as I used to call them, we would travel between villages or urban slum communities where my parents worked on their community development projects to the lavish hotels where the expats lived. Experiencing this stark difference in living standards within each country was a true eye opener. These trips opened my heart and mind to the reality of our world’s inequalities as well as the beauty and magic found in the cultures I experienced and people I met.
As I continued to develop, I tried to be an agent of change. Throughout my time at Cardiff University in Wales, I was committed to making the university a place that is inclusive of all members of the community. I worked as a student support worker where I provided counseling, note taking and help with mobility for students with disabilities. My studies were in Human Geography and Urban Planning. I completed my undergraduate thesis on the situation of Street Children in the Philippines and spent a month interviewing them and their families. These children often came from farming villages and migrated into the cities to support themselves and their families. I found a severe lack in services and innovative projects that would help these families become self-sufficient, and proposed measures to the local government which could improve their situation . During the summer of 2005, as a researcher for the International Labor Organization (ILO) I led a team which traveled to Central America to conduct a review of the PRODERE Local Economic Development Programs in the region. The fieldwork involved interviewing local artisans, farmers and small business owners, the staff of the Local Economic Development Agencies (LEDAs) and writing a report on the impacts of the LEDA programs on local communities. This experience strengthened my ability to interact with local people and manage a research team.
After graduating in 2008 with an MSc in Development Administration and Planning at University College London, I went on to work as an intern with UN-Habitat and Habitat for Humanity in Colombo, Sri Lanka where I was able to strengthen my proposal and grant writing skills. I wrote reports on the micro- finance projects in Slum Upgrading Facilities and designed and wrote several grant proposals on Land Rights for Internally Displaced Communities in the North and East regions of Sri Lanka. From 2010 onwards I developed a keen interest in the Transition Town Movement, and in Permaculture/ Organic Farming, and completed a Permaculture Design Course and a Training for Transition Course. Subsequently, in New York City and Toronto I worked with several community urban farms and witnessed the positive change they effected in their communities. I also began consulting for New Synergies in Development and We Can Worldwide, two NGOs where I was able to strengthen my project management and design skills. I also raised over 10,000 USD through a crowd funding website for an Urban Farming Project in the Philippines. My skills in writing, research, interviewing, community organizing, fundraising, and fieldwork have come together to focus on work where the ultimate goal is to raise awareness and knowledge on urban & rural poverty, marginalized communities and promote ways in which these communities can mobilize to improve their incomes, health and well-being.