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Co-ops Must Invest in the Youth

15-year-old co-op leader, Alessandra Daquila or Barbaza Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Antique Province spoke before 800 delegates on the opening day of the 17th Co-op Leaders Congress in Iloilo City, and gave them her mind on what co-ops should do to remain relevant in the new Digital Economy.
A pleasant afternoon to all of us. 
Standing here in front of you is the very first chairperson of the Barbaza MPC Laboratory Cooperative. I am Alessandra Juanitas Daquila, 15 years old, a grade 10 student of Barbaza National High School. My father is a sea fearer and my mother is a stay-at-home-mom.  First and foremost, I am extending my gratefulness to NATCCO and our very own Barbaza MPC for giving me the chance to be the youth speaker of this prestigious event of cooperators. Being here in front feels surreal, in a very good way!
Bilang isang bata, mahirap umako na isang napakalaking repsonsibilidad.   But I was challenged because I am holding a position as the very first Lab Coop Chairperson of one of a billionaire cooperatives in the Philippines: Barbaza Multi-Purpose Cooperative. I am blessed because I have this opportunity to gain more knowledge, to develop my skills and capabilities, to hone my talents and to be a role model to my fellow young cooperators.  As a youth Chairperson, I am aware that it is my duty to influence and educate the youth about the importance of cooperatives, the discipline of savings, being confident, doing something good for the community, and drawing them closer to cooperatives. It is also my role as a Chairperson to set myself as a good example to young people, to set higher goals for ourselves, and to maximize the opportunities given us by the co-op. These roles have greatly helped me to be more responsible, to be a good leader, a positive influencer, and an inspiring coop advocate. Not only that, I am more empowered because I am guided by the cooperative's vision, mission, core values, principles and financial discipline. Furthermore, my education and exposure in the coop helped develop my business and leadership skills, which I believe would help me prepare for the future. It started when I was an elementary pupil. During that time, my teacher encouraged us to join in the Aflatoun Program of Barbaza Multi – Purpose Cooperative and it served as our project in EPP. My classmates and I were very excited to save our allowances. Some thinks that saving is hard but we had so much fun because we are challenged not to be “outsaved” by our classmates.  Looking back, it was like peer pressure that has a positive result. We always ask, pira don ang sulod ka passbook mu? (how much is your saving? And if isa sa aming kaklase ay malaki na ang kanyang naipon, we tried our best na for the next time maaabot din naming ang amount na nasave nya.  More than outdoing each other and the money, it really gave us the discipline and the determination to delay gratification. 
As to my father who is a sea farer, Barbaza MPC also supports the needs of the Overseas Filipinos and their families and helps them achieve their financial goals through wealth-building programs.  They call it the Endowment Savings Program for OFW and their families (ESOF) and my family are active investors. I always encourage my titas and titos to invest, too.  The family that invests together, stay and become wealthy together.  
I am not only involved in the cooperative activity, but also in different school activities.  I am a consistent honor student and a member of the school's Student Supreme Government. But school and extra-curricular activities are not the only things I do, I also help out in the household chores, not leaving everything to Mama but to help her out, in the best way I can.   I believe that young people should learn the value of hard work, to be able to take care of yourself and not rely on other people all the time, to have a sense of independence instead of entitlement.  
Being a co-op member, I am very much grateful because the experience and the exposure serve as a strong, practical foundation for the career I want to pursue in the future. I want to take up a business-related course or accountancy. There are some important things that cooperative made me realize and I would like to share them to you. Whenever my father arrives, it has been a practice in my family to meet my father at the airport and afterwards, we tour around the city and shop at the malls. My experience and my education helped me to be more disciplined and not to ask all the time from my father.   Since I have my own savings, I can buy the things that I want.   The life of a sea farer is not all easy.  It entails hardwork, long hours of work, and the struggle of being away from your family. My dream is that Papa will retire early so that he can be with us.  No amount of Duty Free bags, chocolates, and video calls can compensate the presence and love of a father.  That’s why, in my own little way, I am helping out so that Papa will be home for good soon.   
I thank the co-op for involving me and more young people in the community.  If all co-ops in the Philippines would do the same, imagine the possibilities.  Young people can contribute so much!  60% young people in the population--we can change the game!  We are highly creative, energetic, and passionate but less ego.  We are the digital natives so we are in the best position to navigate the digital world.  Invest in us, give us more meaningful roles, and you’ll be amazed of what we can do.  
Before I end, I would like to leave you all with these words to ponder, "Many people lack discipline in terms of saving money. Having a bunch of stuffs is no good if you are struggling with debts and broke most of the time. Many people pretend that they are okay financially, but the truth is, they are not. They spend most of their money in order to look important or to maintain a good public image.  Personal understanding and self-confidence are important.  Especially for OFWs, outward manifestation of wealth is secondary.  What is important is the sustainability and the financial freedom.  For young people like me and for parents as well, let us invest on things that hold true value-- family vacation, making memories, enrolling in a class, learning a new skill, buying and reading more books – these are things that would see us through in the long haul.  Knowledge plus creativity and imagination equals success. The best form of investment is within our reach, the cooperatives.  COOPS plus YOUTH INVOLVEMENT plus the DIGITAL WORLD equals COOPS 4.0.  
Thank you very much, good afternoon, and may God bless us all!  

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