For more than ten years Fondacio Asia, through formation programs for a diverse group of young people, helps them to be leaders of projects and missions for the Church and the society.
Tugso, 27, comes from the mountain steppes of Mongolia. In 2014, she started an empowerment program for women living in extreme poverty in a rural area. By making and marketing products made by hand and felt sewing, they were able to augment their financial income and build a community of families.
James, 28, from Laos, facilitates a program, which teaches life skills – English, computer, work ethics, self-management, professional development, and livelihood, among others. It helps young people to be employed and stand on their own feet, and reduces the risk of migration and trafficking. His wife, Amala, also serves locally with an NGO. Jhimus, 24, from the Philippines, is actively involved in youth ministry in his home-diocese of Legazpi and facilitates personal formation and catechesis as a way of enabling faith formation among the youth. Tugso, James, and Jhimus are all alumni of the Institute of Formation Fondacio Asia (IFFAsia).
IFFAsia started as a little seed in Manila, in 2006, and has sprouted to reach out to other countries, numbering 180 young adults coming from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Mongolia, China, Korea, Japan, and Pakistan. ”Formation at IFFAsia is not just about acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to become an effective missionary disciple. It is also about growing in friendship with Jesus Christ and an ongoing conversion”, emphasizes Alice Tan, the director of IFFAsia. “It is this friendship, central to Fondacio’s spirituality, which brings about transformation and humanization of persons, relations and society”.
This friendship is manifested in these young leaders. What continues to push Martin to develop the livelihood and education program is the passionate care that he has for his people, the poor villagers and, particularly, the children who benefit from the project. For him, all children, no matter how economically limited their families are, deserve to have good education. People who have come from the IFFAsia work in different mission fields in their respective countries and churches. It includes youth and child ministry, campus ministry, catechism, education and evangelization.
In the area of social development they work with urban or rural poor, migrants and refugees, people with disabilities, and marginalized women. Others are involved in community building, working with dioceses and parishes.
Working in mission is not without its challenges and difficulties. For Tugso and the women, they had to deal with the substandard quality of the initial batch of products, the expensive raw materials and the marketing of their products. Tugso has also developed partnerships with local state offices, NGOs that conducted trainings and seminars, and individuals who partly funded the program. Jhimus has the full support of his bishop who, in fact, has encouraged him to implement his youth catechesis program in all the parishes in the diocese. He is also supported by his parish priest and the diocesan pastoral council, and coordinates with the youth leaders in the area.
Through the years IFFAsia has continued to be present in the young missionaries’ lives through its network at local level with small Fondacio groups and at the regional level with the Fondacio Asia office. They know that these young adults need pastoral care to grow as disciples in the ministry, and not all may be as privileged as Tugso or Jhimus in their local Church. They need ministry support, including planning and review, feedback, mentoring and ongoing formation, most especially when they are on their own.
Martin and Jhimus, have the support of Fondacio to help them manage the programs and the fund-raising. When needed, pastoral companions provide guidance and support the alumni to ensure the growth of the mission. Young volunteers, mostly from Europe, spend from a few months to a year assisting and sharing their skills: be it in language, computer, or administration. Through this exchange, they too become conscious of mission realities and, thus, mutual solidarity is fostered.
IFFAsia is revising its programs to offer two tracks of specialization, beginning July 2017, to equip the laity to better respond to mission needs. The social leadership track focuses on Community Development and Livelihood and the Phenomenon of Migration, Refugees and Human Trafficking. The pastoral leadership track centres on Youth Ministry and Family Life, and the Joy of the Gospel. More so, the alumni are encouraged to conduct the life-skills training and basic leadership programs locally in each country, to reach out to wider groups of young people on the peripheries.