Posted on 13 January 2015.
Estrella takes the lead in managing a livelihood group in her barangay.
With twenty pesos to budget for her four children for a few weeks at a time, 40-year-old Estrella Atienza never thought that she’ll finally taste a better life.
Estrella, a resident of Barangay Poblacion in San Francisco, Quezon, cannot forget the agony of not being able to provide food for her family.
She narrates how she would often go to her neighbors to ask for vegetables or look for shellfish in the nearby shore just so she can feed her children.
“Kapag kasi umaalis ang asawa ko para magtrabaho sa bundok, iniiwanan n’ya lang ako ng bente pesos. Pinagkakasya ko na lang ‘yun hanggang makabalik s’ya, minsan ilang linggo pa ang bibilangin bago pa s’ya bumalik (Every time my husband leaves to work in the mountains, he gives me P20 as our allowance until he gets back which takes some weeks),” Estrella shared.
Today, however, she is just glad that she has P300 to P500 to budget daily. This she owes to the various opportunities brought to her coupled with her determination, hard work, and commitment to get her children out of poverty.
Two years ago, Estrella vowed to send all her children to college.
Today, her eldest has just finished a degree in Agriculture. As a mother, she can never be any prouder.
Looking back at their situation, Estrella never thought that she will achieve this.
She found hope in 2008 when her family qualified to be a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.
Pantawid Pamilya is a human development program of the national government that invests in the health and education of poor households. It utilizes the conditional cash transfer scheme where qualified households receive grants, provided they comply with their co-responsibilities such as attendance of children aged 3-18 years old in school; regular health checkups for children aged 0-5 years or pregnant member of the household, and attendance to the monthly Family Development Sessions.
For a mother with only P20 to spare, the cash grants from the program have become a great help not only in putting food on the table but also in keeping her children healthy and in school all the time.
“Naniniwala ako na ang Pantawid [Pamilya] ay isang programa na nagbibigay pag-asa at tunay na tumutulong sa mga mahirap na pamilya katulad namin. Sa pamamagitan ng sarili naming pagsisikap at masinop at tamang paraan ng paggamit sa cash grants na natatanggap namin ay makakaahon din kami sa kahirapan. (I believe that Pantawid is a program which gives hope, and truly helps poor families like us. Because of our own determination, as well as using the cash grants we receive wisely, we can get out of poverty. We will not always depend on government’s help because we have learned a lot which we can use to improve our lives),” Estrella explained.
“Noon, dinadaan ko na lang sa dasal ang sakit ng mga anak ko kasi wala kaming pera. Pero ngayon, nabibilhan ko na sila ng vitamins at napapa-check-up pa. Hindi na rin namin problema ang baon nila at mga bayarin sa school (Before, when my children got sick, all I can do was to pray because we do not have money for medicines. But now, I can already afford to buy vitamins as well as their school needs),” she added.
Estrella learned not to rely on the program completely.
“Ayaw kong i-asa na lang ang lahat sa Pantawid Pamilya kaya naman nagsisikap talaga akong kumita ng pera (I am doing my best to also earn on my own because I do not want to completely rely on Pantawid Pamilya),” Estrella continued.
“Kaya ko ang pagbabago at pinagmamalaki ko ang pagbabago na nagawa ko sa tulong ng gobyerno (I can change for the better and I am proud of these changes I have achieved through the help of government), she enthused.
With her husband, she started an appliance buy-and-sell business through the P10,000 capital seed assistance provided by DSWD under the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP).
The SLP builds the capacities of beneficiaries of micro-enterprise development and provides them with zero-interest capital seed assistance to start their small businesses.
The program targets beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya like Estrella to enable them to improve their socio-economic status and stand on their own.
After a year, Estrella was able to pay her loan from the program and her buy-and-sell business has become a stable source of income for her family, especially in sending her children to college.
For Estrella, both the Pantawid Pamilya and SLP paved the way for her to change her family’s life. She added that she would like to share what she has learned to others, so they too may benefit.
Seeing one of her children having a college diploma only fuels her desire to move forward. She knows that with education, her children will have better opportunities to move forward in life.
Together with other SLP beneficiaries in their municipality who have a good track record in paying their previous loan, Estrella became a member of the Sagisag ng SEA-K Association.
The association was loaned P80,000 which is equivalent to P10,000 per member, through SLP’s Agricultural Development Sustainability Project.
The group used the capital in buying and selling ubi crops. They buy the crops, mostly from poor farmers who are also beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya and SLP, adding only 50-centavo profit per kilo.
The crops are later transported to Global Foods Solutions, a partner of the DSWD who buys all the products at a good price from the association.
They also lend ubi seedlings to poor farmers, who pay the association after the harvest.
“Bilang treasurer ng grupo, ako na rin ang tumatayong project manager. Mula sa P80,000 na capital, meron na kaming P140,000 sa loob lamang ng isang taon. Plano naming bumili ng mga kagamitan para makagawa kami ng harinang ubi para patuloy ang paglago ng aming samahan (I am the treasurer and project manager of our group.With our hard work we were able to increase our capital from P80,000 to P140,000. We plan to buy equipment to grind our ubi and expand our products),” shared Estrella.
With their goal of succeeding altogether as an association, each member does his / her part in the buying and selling business. In fact, even their spouses work to find possible sellers all across the locality.
“Kinakausap na rin namin ang mga ibang magsasaka dito sa aming lugar na makipagtulungan sa amin sa pamamagitan ng pagbenta ng kanilang ubi sa amin para lahat kami ay sabay-sabay makaahon ( We are now also involving the other farmers here in our place to sell their ubi to us and move out of poverty, eventually),” she enthused.
For Estrella, she does not want anyone to experience living with only P20 to spare, especially her children. Hence, she is working hard today to involve her townmates in endeavors that would help them change their lives just like what Pantawid Pamilya and SLP offered her when she thought there’s no more hope. ###