Ryan Gersava: Creating Opportunities that Make Dreams a ‘Virtual’ Reality
“Our goal is to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”, shares Ryan Gersava, founder of Go2 Virtualahan, Inc.. As a child, Gersava dreamt of becoming a doctor so he could help people in need of medical attention. While working as a medical technologist in the hospital, he came to know more about the harsh realities experienced by patients with certain medical conditions that went beyond the physical limitations of their disease or disability: the lack of employment and economic opportunities for people like them.
Gersava says, “These people (with communicable diseases) have difficulties in getting a regular job even if they have the skills and education.” He adds, “For example, there are currently seven million Filipinos who have tested positive to Hepatitis B. That’s one out of seven Filipinos aged 20-49 years old, our prime working population, who suffer from a debilitating disease and considerable employment or workplace discrimination – and that’s just Hepa B!”.212
This reality inspired him to start Go2 Virtualahan (‘virtual eskwelahan’) Inc., a training center dedicated to up-skill people with medical conditions or special needs that prevent them from getting regular employment. “PWDs, persons with mental health issues, and people living with HIV and AIDS are not just battling for their lives but enduring the inequality of society on a daily basis… denying them of employment… and that’s like double jeopardy!”, he exclaims.
23-year old Ryan Gersava is a fellow at the Global Good Fund (Washington, D.C.), Watson Institute (Colorado), and the DO School (Germany). He is also one of British Council’s Active Citizens and was a delegate at the G2G Dialogue on Global Entrepreneurship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Follow his journey on Instagram or connect with him on LinkedIn!
They built the service so they can help full-time parents, unemployed youth, and those that have the least access to job opportunities because of their medical condition, disabilities, criminal record and history. By harnessing the power of the Internet and the growing outsourcing industry, they train beneficiaries through their programs so they can provide virtual assistants (VA) and other online services such as administrative tasks, customer service and digital marketing services to clients such as social enterprises, NGOs, and other companies across the globe.
How is it done? Through their Go2 Virtualahan Impact Formula, beneficiaries undergo a series of screening and recruitment processes before they could join an intensive one-month training and capacity building course. Successful candidates who pass the course are then matched with employers and virtual staffing agencies to deliver outsourcing services such as back office support, customer service, and digital marketing and website development. Most of their clients are NGOs and social enterprises based overseas who subscribe to Virtualahan’s services.
What differentiates them from other training and employment enterprises is the way they have created a support system to provide holistic care for its members. This comes as a breakthrough in our country where support groups are not yet institutionalized. Not only does it become a safe space for the Go2 Virtualahan alumni and trainees, it becomes an avenue to address challenges and issues they experience in the workplace. Employed alumni become members of their support group that conducts values formation sessions and advocacy campaigns to raise awareness on employee and/or workplace discrimination. By being able to share their stories and lead campaigns, they begin to feel empowered “to win the battle themselves”, as Gersava puts it.
Recently, they launched an improved training with an amazing cohort composed of twelve students (seven male, six female) between the ages 19-40 years old of which four are visually impaired, four are orthopedically disabled, some with rare congenital conditions, and one, an out of school youth who was an ex-convict for juvenile drug possession. Ryan holds the stories of their students close to his heart because it is through them that he finds inspiration to carry on with his mission.
The pivot in his career path paved the way for opportunities that helped grow their social enterprise. Gersava believes that it was through different competitions (DO School Pitch Night, BPI Foundation Business Challenge Competition, among others) and the support of various NGOs that they were able to fasttrack the fulfillment of this dream. He was invited as the only Filipino speaker in the Social Enterprise World Forum in Hong Kong and represented the Philippines as a finalist for the Sankalp South-east Asia Awards in Indonesia and ASEAN Impact Challenge in Singapore.
With all the awards and recognition he received in the recent years, he claims to that he’s still a regular Filipino guy who loves music and travelling. For him, people who can spark change are “people who take action, have tenacity to achieve their vision, and the ability to make people fall in love with their passion”.
Team Go2 Virtualahan in their hometown, Davao City
Today, Go2 Virtualahan, Inc. has a team based in Philadelphia, USA and a network of people in over twenty countries. They plan to reach out to more marginalized communities with their upcoming programs in cooperation with the Maori Youth in New Zealand and First Nations in Canada. Gersava dreams of a world where people from all walks of life have equal access to opportunities and lives each day with one single mission: “to help people step into their bigness”. Slowly but surely, he is opening more doors and making dreams a ‘virtual’ reality.
*All photos courtesy of Go2 Virtualahan