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Shining a Light on Sustainability

Australia Awards alumnus and corporate leader Jeffrey Tarayao helps communities grow brighter

Photos-Jeffrey-Tarayao-11

If life is a novel, Australia Awards scholar Jeffrey Tarayao’s childhood is a Dickensian tale of poverty amidst wealth.

Jeffrey grew up in a 42 square meter house—the driver’s quarters in a rich family’s home where his father worked. For the next 28 years, he lived in that small space, barely big enough for his family of five, attending an exclusive all-boys’ private school as one of the benefits granted by his father’s employer.

After his studies, he found work at a telco company and rose through its ranks. Later, Jeffrey was offered a position in Meralco, the country’s largest electric distribution company, as President of the Meralco Foundation and at the same time, its Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer.

“The company was undergoing massive transformation under a new ownership at the time, and I saw how I could add value and redesign the programs in order to have a bigger and brighter impact on communities,” he said.

Creating an impact and paying it forward

He heard about Australia Awards through a friend who was an alumnus of the program. He applied to the scholarship and was accepted to be part of the 2017 intake.

His one year stay in Australia helped him develop his skills towards bringing about transformative change. “I am very clear about my mission in life, which is to be a facilitator of growth.”

Jeffrey took up Masters in Sustainable Development at the Macquarie University because he felt that this was needed in the Philippines. He also enrolled in a technical course on sustainability reporting –or reporting on the economic, environmental and social impacts caused by the organisation’s everyday activities – an expertise which he also felt was lacking in the country.

His Re-Entry Action Plan was on how sustainability reporting should be standardised according to formal sustainability measures. “It is not just a series of reports given to the CEO but a tool to empower more leaders of organisations to take responsibility about sustainability.”

His takeaway from his studies: growth has boundaries. “I learned that you can always grow – but the planet has its own boundaries. There are those who will be impacted positively or negatively by continuous growth, so we have to find out if we are already abusing our resources and manage ourselves accordingly. These are leadership decisions and we need to develop strong leaders within ourselves and across society.”

Making a difference

As President of One Meralco Foundation, Jeffrey was tasked to transform the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program by utilising the company’s competencies in energy solutions and addressing inclusion and sustainability issues.

“I am most proud of our community electrification programs for low-income households in the Meralco franchise area, and for remote, off-grid public schools which are very difficult to reach,” shared Jeffrey.

Under Jeffrey’s leadership, One Meralco Foundation has provided electricity service to at least 55,000 low-income households in the past nine years. These households have become productive, and a good number of them have put up small businesses. The children also study better at night, and communities have become safer.

Jeffrey and his team also worked on a School Electrification program, which has energised 260 schools using solar power. The program helped improve the learning experience of students in off-grid island and mountain public schools in the Philippines. It has also increased the productivity of teachers because they can now use computers to submit grades and reports online, and don’t have to cross the seas to get to the mainland to do it.

“I am very thankful I was given the chance to study in Australia through the Australia Awards program. In Australia, I was able to reflect on what I was doing and where I was going. These reflections, combined with all my learnings, have helped me shape a new approach to development –that our product should be ‘hope’ and our projects should be means for people who have long struggled, to never give up and improve their lives,” Jeffrey said.

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