The US Embassy in the Philippines, in partnership with Save Philippine Seas, convened 30 youth leaders from all 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) member nations from March 19 to 26 for the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Sea and Earth Advocates (SEA) Camp in Bohol. The week-long YSEALI Sea Camp empowered participants to lead sustainable development initiatives.
The US Embassy selected participants for the Bohol Sea Camp from a pool of more than 2,500 applicants from throughout Asean. The SEA Camp included workshops designed to improve participants’ conservation knowledge, provide them with project management skills, and boost their confidence to lead conservation efforts in their communities. Participants also experienced Bohol’s biodiversity and observed the province’s successful conservation practices through outdoor activities.
The camp also focused on building camaraderie, raising awareness of Asean cultures, and encouraging collaboration. SEA Camp participant Jomphol Lamoonkit from Thailand explained, “Before joining Sea Camp, I had only learned about Asean in the classroom. But here, I was able to experience the diverse cultures myself through my fellow Sea Campers and realize that even though we are from different cultures, we can unite and work together.”
At the end of the program, the US Embassy awarded 10 participants grants of up to $500 to implement sustainable development initiatives in their home countries. Selected initiatives included projects to reduce bycatch of Mobula Rays in Indonesia and to promote zero-waste practices at a university in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
At the closing ceremony, US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim told participants, “We believe that you are never too young to lead—that through your insight, your innovations, and your efforts, you can create the solutions to the challenges facing your communities, your countries, this region, and our world. Today, there are more than 120,000 YSEALI members across Asean and, just as we have for the last 40 years, the United States stands ready to partner with you and your communities to work towards a better future together.”
Since 2015, YSEALI SEA Camps have been held in Batangas, Negros Oriental, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga City, Coron, Boracay, Subic, and Cebu, engaging more than 200 youth from the Philippines and Southeast Asia.