Dana Asia’s pilot Café Lab in North Pasay was funded by Telstra Foundation Philippines (TFP) from 2016-2019 and aimed to offer a unique learning experience to high school students in a real-life café setting while tackling the root cause of poverty and reducing financial pressures on parents by facilitating microfinance and training to setup new small businesses.
A total of PHP 2.43 million (AU$67,000) was disbursed to enterprising parents to facilitate the setup of over 200 small businesses, resulting in increased income levels and reduced financial pressures on parents to enable them to increase the support for their children’s education. The additional income from their small businesses led to a 12% average increase in family income, which allowed families to start weekly savings and hold life insurance policies. The reduced pressure on family finances had a direct positive effect on the rates of school participation of those children whose parents took part in the project.
In collaboration with training partner De La Salle University, 268 senior high school students were trained in baking and food service to equip them with practical skills for employment. Students then embedded those skills through hands-on work experience, working in the school’s Café Lab. All students achieved passing marks in their chosen vocational track and gained skills to broaden their entrepreneurial potential in the post-secondary track. By the end of the funding period, the project saw an increase in high school student participation from 85% to 97%. The project enjoyed the achievement of its objectives and gained recognition at a government level for its innovations. The Pasay City Department of Education has advocated for the replication of the Café Lab concept in other secondary schools and initial discussions were held, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a temporary hold on replication until schools return to normal operation. The North Pasay Café Lab reopened in late 2022 and is continuing to train new groups of students and plans are underway for replication at new high school sites.