June 19, 2018 | Thoughts

Yelp for Social Services Shaped by Immigrant Challenges

The late 70s and early 80s were a period of political and economic turmoil in the Philippines. That was right around the time 8 year old Rey Faustino, founder and CEO of One Degree (FFWD 2014), immigrated to America with his family.

Born in the Philippines, Rey’s parents elected to move the family to the United States in search of economic opportunity. For them, the United States represented the window to a new life. As we know, the grand vision of America as the land of opportunity isn’t always an immediate reality. Rey’s experiences in a new country without a community, coupled with the challenges associated with navigating social services, were the building blocks for what would later become One Degree.

New Country, New Challenges

Rey was young when his family moved. Even so, he quickly sensed that life in the U.S. wasn’t quite as carefree as anticipated. Life in the Philippines had been difficult, but acclimating to a new country was challenging in an entirely different way.

In the Philippines, the Faustinos had family, friends, and a whole network of support. Suddenly uprooted, that support system was thousands of miles away. They didn’t know who or what to look to for help. Despite hardships, Rey’s parents were industrious and hardworking, working two to three jobs at a time to make ends meet. They were committed to building a good life for their family.

One Degree - a tool for navigating social services
Rey speaking at TEDxOakland

Rebuilding Connections

One of the most significant challenges Rey and his family experienced was rebuilding their community in a new country. Immigration services, after school programs, and summer camps were an untapped mystery without easily accessible resources. If the family wanted to get involved in activities and extracurriculars, it was on Rey to find them.

Everything changed when Rey’s band teacher noticed his potential and took him under his wing. The teacher connected Rey to leadership opportunities at school and, at long last, summer camp. He even took Rey on a college tour at the University of Southern California, where Rey earned his B.S. in Business Entrepreneurship.

One Degree - a tool for navigating social services
Photo credit: Grace Chung

A Yelp! for Social Services

As part of Rey’s final project for his master’s in social and urban policy at Harvard, he visited a nonprofit in Boston. The organization showed him a private Wiki they’d built full of resources that their volunteers and staff could access. But the Wiki was closed off and could only be accessed internally.

Rey realized how valuable this type of tool would be to all low income families and anyone seeking social services. This would have been beneficial to his family growing up, and he knew he had to take action.

These combined experiences were hugely influential in motivating Rey to build One Degree – a tool revolutionizing access to community resources.

One Degree - a tool for navigating social services
One Degree

Today One Degree has touched the lives of over 250,000, helping families find food, housing, job training, and after school programs. Driving One Degree is a mission of helping U.S. citizens and immigrants alike navigate the fragmented and often disorganized world of social services. One Degree continues to guide low income families towards finding the resources they need to support their families and get out of poverty.

Support #ImmigrantHeritageMonth by sharing Rey’s story on social media, and using the hashtags #IAmAnImmigrant and #CelebrateImmigrants.