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Discover the Inspiring Journey of Aira Villanueva: Teacher by Day, Florist by Night

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Aira Fusilero Villanueva was born and raised in Ilocos, in the northern part of the Philippines. At the young age of 23, Aira is teaching grade nine while working on her florist business. She credits her love for flowers and the environment to growing up on a farm in Pangasinan and with family members who are fond of orchids and flowers. She was also inspired to create art using flowers by the Panagbenga Festival in Baguio, a festival of flowers.  

Aira started to shift her hobby into a business when she was 20 and was fundraising for typhoon victims in the Philippines. Wanting to be more creative, she thought of making bouquets to sell and raise money until she got more and more requests to make flower bouquets. 

Aira thinks there is little difference between being a business owner and a teacher. Both include connecting with people, collaborating, and ensuring every need is met. With her business, she does everything herself, with some help from her family. She teaches until 3 p.m. and then rushes to her business, so sometimes, she has only a few hours of sleep. Aira agrees that both fields involve a lot of care. 

Aira is also the founder of E-Waste Manitoba, which has a mission to divert electronic waste from landfills, reduce the digital divide, and repurpose used electronics and IT equipment. She started E-Waste Manitoba in her college days when she was looking for ways to pay for her tuition through scholarships to encourage climate action regarding electronic waste and diverting e-waste away from landfills. She started collecting e-waste from the community during COVID-19, and items which are still usable are being donated to charitable institutions. 

Recently, Aira paid homage to the richness of Filipino flora and culture. She collaborated with The Leaf to organize an event called 7,000 Islands: Kalikasan, Kultura, at Kapwa, which highlighted a production that consists of traditional Filipino entertainment. The audience immersed themselves in the enchanting melodies of local musicians and skilful dances. 

Aria dreams of owning a farm and flower shop in the Philippines and hopes, through passion and determination, to inspire and empower Filipina youth to realize their dreams and contribute meaningfully to society. 

– Lourdes Federis, U Multicultural

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