I had an interaction with two junior high school students of Amarao National High School in Santa Cruz, Ilocos Sur. They happen to be active members of the Laboratory Co-operative of Sta. Cruz Development Co-operative (SACDECO). These two, who at their young age, are already budding entrepreneurs and possess the basic foundations on financial literacy courtesy of the said co-op. And that was the reason why we had the interaction in the first place. I have to admit I got a little envious for the fact that they are doing what I’m still dreaming and intending to do.
And this is the essence of a laboratory co-op. It is not only about teaching the youth on the importance of savings. It is also about affording the youth the opportunity to learn the whole aspect of financial literacy including entrepreneurship. And the leaders of SACDECO gave these two and a thousand more the needed exposure. I just can imagine what will be the future of these youngsters by equipping them with the right kinds of tools to succeed. I am sure, it will be bright.
While other co-op leaders see value in our youth, others seemed not to care at all. “What do they know?”, “What can they do?” they say. My response is, “that is the reason why we are called to become leaders in the first place, to train and educate them so that they will know and be part of the solution and not a problem in the future. Remember, they will be the one to succeed us”. Even if we become successful in our respective co-operatives by transforming it into a multi-millionaire enterprise, if we don’t train our successors, then we still fail.
Instead of nurturing the youth to become responsible members of society and contribute to the development of the community, we relegate them to the sidelines. Unfortunately, while we see the young people as a disturbance, co-operatives from outside the region are going to our schools, right in our backyards, looking for potential future members. One big co-operative in the lowlands has already signified its interest to go into our Baguio Schools. They see golden opportunities in what we take for granted.
One particular laboratory co-op I visited lately has 38,000 members so far, covering most of the elementary and high schools in their area of coverage with over 70 million pesos of deposits from the children. This is serious money. This is being managed carefully and it is growing.
Indeed, Laboratory Co-operatives have great potential. Another co-operative was able to reach out to 60 schools teaching the kids the importance of savings. Even the teachers are also having their own dose of lessons on financial literacy. Personally, my heart melts if I see the excitement at the faces of the children holding their own passbooks and looking at how their deposits are earning interests.
All of these got me interested to know more about the concept of this co-operative especially tailor made for the youth. That is why I am going around learning from various co-operatives who are currently engaged in this program. Surprisingly, I got outstanding discoveries. What stuck in my mind was the statement I mentioned earlier, “Success, without succession, is a failure.” This is the perfect argument why we should invest in the youth.