Growing up in poverty in Mindanao, a remote, mountainous region in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, Philippines, Josh Mahinay saw limitations everywhere.
“I had dreams, but whenever my books, notebooks and pen roll down the hill or get soiled in the mud because the plastic bag I used as a school bag ripped open, I am once more reminded of my reality,” he said.
Now in his early thirties, he still recalls those vivid memories of walking the 10 kilometers to school, carrying his books in plastic bags that would tear open almost daily.
When a distant relative gave him a hand-me-down school bag, it wasn’t so much the bag that was given to him, but the fact that someone believed in him enough to support his education, that inspired him to power on.
“Having a school bag like my classmates gave me the confidence to dream the kind of dreams that they have, or maybe bigger,” said Mahinay. “Bred of hard work and my parents’ constant counsel about valuing education as our key to economic freedom, I had carried with me the dream that one day, no poor kid will go to school without a proper school bag.”
Mahinay went on to finish school and worked various jobs in the United States to send money back to his family.
In 2012, he returned to the Philippines to realize his dream of paying forward the help he’d received at an early age. He and two friends founded BAG943 to provide backpacks and other school materials to disadvantaged children.
“It is more than just a bag. It represents a kid’s dream to finish school and better his life,” he said. “In a bag, you put your pen, pencil and paper where you write your dreams. The bag symbolizes the will to make things better in their lives through education.”
BAG943 (“BAG”, which stands for “Be A Giver” and “9-4-3”, which represents the sibling birth order of each founder) is a mission-driven business that adheres to a “Buy One Give One” promise through its social arm, the Bag of Dreams Project.
For every BAG943 purchase, another bag is given to an impoverished child from its pool of adopted public schools across the country. Kids are given high quality school bags that can last for 3-5 years.
In its first year, BAG943 gave out more than 1,300 bags in 11 public schools. Since the start of the Bag of Dreams Project, communities have seen a decrease in dropout rates and improvements in grades.
“Everybody can do something,” says Mahinay. ” You are never too poor to give. Never too busy to serve. Never too young to start something. And never too ordinary to do great things.”Share this article: