Street Children are part of Papal visit — Sec. Soliman

As the main agency tasked to protect the welfare of disadvantaged children, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) vehemently denies that children are caged to keep the street clean for the Pope, as reported today by the Daily Mail Online, a publication of the United Kingdom.

DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said that the Philippine Government does not cage children.

“We do not tolerate this practice. We put child abusers in jail,” Sec. Soliman emphasized.

DSWD together with local government units have been working to keep the children off the streets because of the dangers posed to their safety and health.

Sec. Soliman said that for the Pope visit, the Government ensured that the street children would have a role in the Papal Visit.

“We are not hiding the children. In fact, more than 400 street children will be singing during the send-off for Pope Francis on Monday. They have been practicing since December. The Pope will see and interact with them,” Sec. Soliman disclosed.

These children are beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Program for Street Children which offers a package of services, that includes education for the children and livelihood packages for their parents, and the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer Program (MCCT) which gives them cash assistance for their school and health needs, as well as for house rental. For 2014 alone, some 850 families have been served under the MCCT in Metro Manila.

Also joining the send-off activity are children who have been abandoned and those undergoing rehabilitation in DSWD centers and institutions.

“Reaching out to street children is a regular program of the Department meant to keep them off the street where it is dangerous for their health and safety. The MCCT is likewise a continuing program for them, since 2013. We are not doing all these for the Pope’s visit,” Sec. Soliman said.

Old photos

Sec. Soliman clarified that some of the photos published together with the article were photos taken in the past. “Corrective measures have been undertaken since the time that the reports came out,” she said.

She cited the photo of Federico showing him as severely malnourished, which was taken before the boy was assisted. “Federico has already gained weight and is being cared for by an NGO with DSWD. We have found his mother and we are currently doing case work management with the mother,” Sec. Soliman explained.

The Secretary has ordered an investigation on allegations in children’s centers in Paranaque City and Pasay City.

For the Manila Reception Action Center (MRAC), Sec. Soliman said that the DSWD is in the process of closing the facility.

“We are now transferring the children-residents to other DSWD-licensed NGOs and DSWD managed facilities,” Sec. Soliman said.

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Breaking labels: ‘I am not a rebel’

Nestor Arpia and his wife Susana wear smiles of relief due to the Kalahi-CIDSS farm to market road project in Brgy. Tagbacan Ilaya, Catanauan, Quezon. For years, they lived in fear because of frequent encounters in the area. But now that authorities have easier access to the barangay, the community’s living condition started to normalize.

Nestor Arpia and his wife Susana wear smiles of relief due to the Kalahi-CIDSS farm to market road project in Brgy. Tagbacan Ilaya, Catanauan, Quezon. For years, they lived in fear because of frequent encounters in the area. But now that authorities have easier access to the barangay, the community’s living condition started to normalize.

Nestor Arpia lived most of his life proving his identity as a simple farmer in the mountainous barangay of Tagbacan Ilaya in Catanauan, Quezon.

For years, he tried to escape the impression of being a rebel hiding at the heart of the mountain.

“Masukal sa aming lugar at madalas daanan ng mga rebelde. Hindi naman kami makapagsalita dahil sinabihan kami na tatagpasin ang aming leeg kapag kami ay nagsumbong. Hanggang sa mapagkamalan kami ng mga awtoridad na kasapi ng grupo (Rebels often pass through our barangay but we cannot report them to authorities because they threatened to hurt us if we do. Until authorities suspected us being members of the group),” shared Nestor, 54.

Back in 2009, Nestor recalled how hard it was to be trapped between the disputes of the two groups. Their area was allegedly suspected as the hideout of the rebels. He received warnings to leave their house to be free from trouble, but Nestor decided to stay and protect the land he inherited from his parents.

“Dito ako binuhay ng mga magulang ko at eto na rin ang bumubuhay sa aking pamilya ngayon. Wala akong sapat na dahilan para umalis dito dahil wala naman kaming kasalanan (This is where my parents raised me and where I am raising my own family now. We are not doing anything wrong so there is no reason for us to leave),” Nestor exclaimed as he told the hurtful past.

Despite persistently trying to prove his innocence and non-affaliation with any of the groups, an encounter still pursued in their area which damaged their house and crops. Worse, it took the lives of three of his children.

Nestor admitted that the incident tested his family’s desire to continue on in life. For them, trying to put their lives together will be like having to through the eye of a needle.

However, instead of living in fear, Nestor sought refuge in the community by involving himself in barangay projects and activities. He then realized how they, as a community, can collectively change the fate of their barangay.

Benefits

Nestor and the other villagers of Brgy. Tagbacan Ilaya knew that the remoteness of their barangay is one main reason why rebels flock their area. Aside from security issues, the difficult path to reach the nearest highway affects their livelihood especially for farmers delivering harvests to the market.

Farmers need to reroute and take the roads of other barangays to reach the highway since carabaos and horses are having a hard time to go through the narrow trails of Brgy. Tagbacan Ilaya. This gives them a three to five-kilometer walk, which takes them almost half a day to reach the highway.

“Ramdam din ng mga hayop ang pagod. Madalas ay baliko na ang kanilang lakad at nababangga ang mga pananim sa daan. Nagagalit tuloy ang mga may-ari ng pananim sa amin (Often, the animals get tired and veer away from the path. They accidentally destroy nearby crops which make the owners mad),” shared Nestor.

Aiming to resolve these problems, Brgy. Tagbacan Ilaya proposed for a farm to market road sub-project when DSWD’s Kapitbisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) started in the community in 2012.

Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA aims to empower conflict-affected barangays in planning, budgeting, and implementing need-responsive projects that would hasten delivery of basic social services and normalize their living condition.

As the chairperson for the sub-project, Nestor religiously attended trainings and meetings to be familiar with the process of project implementation. He always shares the things he learned with his co-volunteers and guides them as they do the project proposal, procurement of materials, project construction, and maintenance plan for the road.

“Sa dami ng gawain, nagagalit na ang misis ko dahil hindi na ako masyadong nakakatulong sa pagsasaka. Hiningi ko na lamang ang kanyang suporta at ipinaliwanag ang magiging ginhawa sa buhay namin kapag nagkaroon na ng kalsada (Before, my wife scolds me because I can no longer help in the farm due to my volunteer work. I simply asked for her support and explained to her the benefits we would get once the road is constructed),” Nestor shared.

After five months of dedicated work for the project, Nestor finally saw the worth of their efforts and sacrifices. He always has a nice view from his window as the road is constructed near their house.

“Grade six lang ang natapos ko pero lubos kong ipinagmamalaking nakatulong ako sa paggawa ng ganitong klaseng proyekto (I am proud that I have contributed something for the project, even if I am only a grade 6 graduate),” Nestor said with a big smile.

Victory

Through the collective efforts of the Tagbacan Ilaya community, they were able to utilize the P511,800 grant to construct a shortcut road towards the highway. The 920 linear meters road now eases the travel of 47 households residing in the barangay.

With the shortcut road, the economic activities in Brgy. Tagbacan Ilaya prospered.

Traders with tricycles and jeepneys can now directly go to the barangay for pick-up of agricultural products. The lengthy transport time to the highway was cut short to only 30 minutes which improved the quality and value of the delivered goods.

The community also found new source of livelihood with charcoal making as buyers these now visit the barangay. Also, the residents have lessened their trips to the market in the town proper since food vendors now go to the area.

Nestor said that these changes helped them to save more.

They also observed the decline of encounters in the area. They have not noticed any rebels passing through the barangay anymore since authorities can easily drop by and conduct regular operations.

Nestor shared that the Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA process made them realize of the government’s interventions in bringing peace to their area and putting their lives back to normal. They have recognized the importance of participation and support to these programs to further improve their lives.

Giving their full trust and support again to the program, Brgy. Tagbacan Ilaya has collectively implemented and completed another community project through Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA in 2013. Their old classroom without walls and stable roofs was replaced with a one-classroom high school building worth P391,000

Nestor helped in cutting the project cost by lending his welding machine for free.

“Ngayon ay ligtas na ang mga bata tuwing umuulan dahil may pader na ang bago nilang classroom (Now that the newly built classroom has walls, the students are safe every time it rains),” he said.

Seeing all the improvements in the barangay, Nestor is glad that the community’s efforts finally marked an end to the conflict and fears.

For a person who once lived in darkness and being falsely marked as a rebel, it is a sweet taste of victory to finally live a peaceful life at home with his family.

“Ngayon, masaya ‘kong natatanaw dito sa bahay ang isa sa aming mga proyektong lubos na nakatulong sa aming pamilya. Magaan na ang buhay sa piling ng kalsada. Ipinagmamalaki ko ang pagbabagong ito sa aming komunidad sa tulong ng ating gobyerno na nagtiwala sa kakayahan namin (It makes me happy to see one of our projects just outside our home. Our lives are now better because of the road. I am proud of this positive change in our community through the help of the government which believed in our capability to transform our lives),” Nestor contently said. ###

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Breaking labels: ‘I am not a rebel’

Nestor Arpia and his wife Susana wear smiles of relief due to the Kalahi-CIDSS farm to market road project in Brgy. Tagbacan Ilaya, Catanauan, Quezon. For years, they lived in fear because of frequent encounters in the area. But now that authorities have easier access to the barangay, the community’s living condition started to normalize.

Nestor Arpia and his wife Susana wear smiles of relief due to the Kalahi-CIDSS farm to market road project in Brgy. Tagbacan Ilaya, Catanauan, Quezon. For years, they lived in fear because of frequent encounters in the area. But now that authorities have easier access to the barangay, the community’s living condition started to normalize.

Nestor Arpia lived most of his life proving his identity as a simple farmer in the mountainous barangay of Tagbacan Ilaya in Catanauan, Quezon.

For years, he tried to escape the impression of being a rebel hiding at the heart of the mountain.

“Masukal sa aming lugar at madalas daanan ng mga rebelde. Hindi naman kami makapagsalita dahil sinabihan kami na tatagpasin ang aming leeg kapag kami ay nagsumbong. Hanggang sa mapagkamalan kami ng mga awtoridad na kasapi ng grupo (Rebels often pass through our barangay but we cannot report them to authorities because they threatened to hurt us if we do. Until authorities suspected us being members of the group),” shared Nestor, 54.

Back in 2009, Nestor recalled how hard it was to be trapped between the disputes of the two groups. Their area was allegedly suspected as the hideout of the rebels. He received warnings to leave their house to be free from trouble, but Nestor decided to stay and protect the land he inherited from his parents.

“Dito ako binuhay ng mga magulang ko at eto na rin ang bumubuhay sa aking pamilya ngayon. Wala akong sapat na dahilan para umalis dito dahil wala naman kaming kasalanan (This is where my parents raised me and where I am raising my own family now. We are not doing anything wrong so there is no reason for us to leave),” Nestor exclaimed as he told the hurtful past.

Despite persistently trying to prove his innocence and non-affaliation with any of the groups, an encounter still pursued in their area which damaged their house and crops. Worse, it took the lives of three of his children.

Nestor admitted that the incident tested his family’s desire to continue on in life. For them, trying to put their lives together will be like having to through the eye of a needle.

However, instead of living in fear, Nestor sought refuge in the community by involving himself in barangay projects and activities. He then realized how they, as a community, can collectively change the fate of their barangay.

Benefits

Nestor and the other villagers of Brgy. Tagbacan Ilaya knew that the remoteness of their barangay is one main reason why rebels flock their area. Aside from security issues, the difficult path to reach the nearest highway affects their livelihood especially for farmers delivering harvests to the market.

Farmers need to reroute and take the roads of other barangays to reach the highway since carabaos and horses are having a hard time to go through the narrow trails of Brgy. Tagbacan Ilaya. This gives them a three to five-kilometer walk, which takes them almost half a day to reach the highway.

“Ramdam din ng mga hayop ang pagod. Madalas ay baliko na ang kanilang lakad at nababangga ang mga pananim sa daan. Nagagalit tuloy ang mga may-ari ng pananim sa amin (Often, the animals get tired and veer away from the path. They accidentally destroy nearby crops which make the owners mad),” shared Nestor.

Aiming to resolve these problems, Brgy. Tagbacan Ilaya proposed for a farm to market road sub-project when DSWD’s Kapitbisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) started in the community in 2012.

Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA aims to empower conflict-affected barangays in planning, budgeting, and implementing need-responsive projects that would hasten delivery of basic social services and normalize their living condition.

As the chairperson for the sub-project, Nestor religiously attended trainings and meetings to be familiar with the process of project implementation. He always shares the things he learned with his co-volunteers and guides them as they do the project proposal, procurement of materials, project construction, and maintenance plan for the road.

“Sa dami ng gawain, nagagalit na ang misis ko dahil hindi na ako masyadong nakakatulong sa pagsasaka. Hiningi ko na lamang ang kanyang suporta at ipinaliwanag ang magiging ginhawa sa buhay namin kapag nagkaroon na ng kalsada (Before, my wife scolds me because I can no longer help in the farm due to my volunteer work. I simply asked for her support and explained to her the benefits we would get once the road is constructed),” Nestor shared.

After five months of dedicated work for the project, Nestor finally saw the worth of their efforts and sacrifices. He always has a nice view from his window as the road is constructed near their house.

“Grade six lang ang natapos ko pero lubos kong ipinagmamalaking nakatulong ako sa paggawa ng ganitong klaseng proyekto (I am proud that I have contributed something for the project, even if I am only a grade 6 graduate),” Nestor said with a big smile.

Victory

Through the collective efforts of the Tagbacan Ilaya community, they were able to utilize the P511,800 grant to construct a shortcut road towards the highway. The 920 linear meters road now eases the travel of 47 households residing in the barangay.

With the shortcut road, the economic activities in Brgy. Tagbacan Ilaya prospered.

Traders with tricycles and jeepneys can now directly go to the barangay for pick-up of agricultural products. The lengthy transport time to the highway was cut short to only 30 minutes which improved the quality and value of the delivered goods.

The community also found new source of livelihood with charcoal making as buyers these now visit the barangay. Also, the residents have lessened their trips to the market in the town proper since food vendors now go to the area.

Nestor said that these changes helped them to save more.

They also observed the decline of encounters in the area. They have not noticed any rebels passing through the barangay anymore since authorities can easily drop by and conduct regular operations.

Nestor shared that the Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA process made them realize of the government’s interventions in bringing peace to their area and putting their lives back to normal. They have recognized the importance of participation and support to these programs to further improve their lives.

Giving their full trust and support again to the program, Brgy. Tagbacan Ilaya has collectively implemented and completed another community project through Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA in 2013. Their old classroom without walls and stable roofs was replaced with a one-classroom high school building worth P391,000

Nestor helped in cutting the project cost by lending his welding machine for free.

“Ngayon ay ligtas na ang mga bata tuwing umuulan dahil may pader na ang bago nilang classroom (Now that the newly built classroom has walls, the students are safe every time it rains),” he said.

Seeing all the improvements in the barangay, Nestor is glad that the community’s efforts finally marked an end to the conflict and fears.

For a person who once lived in darkness and being falsely marked as a rebel, it is a sweet taste of victory to finally live a peaceful life at home with his family.

“Ngayon, masaya ‘kong natatanaw dito sa bahay ang isa sa aming mga proyektong lubos na nakatulong sa aming pamilya. Magaan na ang buhay sa piling ng kalsada. Ipinagmamalaki ko ang pagbabagong ito sa aming komunidad sa tulong ng ating gobyerno na nagtiwala sa kakayahan namin (It makes me happy to see one of our projects just outside our home. Our lives are now better because of the road. I am proud of this positive change in our community through the help of the government which believed in our capability to transform our lives),” Nestor contently said. ###

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DSWD’s P68-M ‘Ruby’ restoration project up in Borongan City

Pantawid Pamillyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries from Borongan City comprise the bulk of the DSWD restoration project in the area. They are seen here signing the attendance sheet before their actual work.

Pantawid Pamillyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries from Borongan City comprise the bulk of the DSWD restoration project in the area. They are seen here signing the attendance sheet before their actual work.

Some 17,547 individuals from the 61 barangays of Borongan City, Eastern Samar who were affected by Typhoon Ruby are expected to benefit from the Cash-for-Building-Livelihood Assets (CBLA) under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Initially, five barangays have started to implement the project – Barangays Sohotan, Bayubay, San Gabriel, Maybacong, and San Pablo.

CBLA is a strategy to help affected communities restore damaged physical and natural assets to rebuild their livelihoods.   

DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said that this initiative will help beneficiaries achieve a sense of normalcy in their daily lives as they have a source of income, though short-term, while the government prepares to implement more sustainable recovery and rehabilitation projects for them.

DSWD has allotted more than P68 million for CBLA implementation in the city.

Under the project, beneficiaries are engaged in the repair of small infrastructure facilities, dredging of canals, and in the clean-up of rivers.  They will be receiving P260 per day or a total of P3,900 for a maximum period of 15 days. 

On Monday, the city conducted the second community assembly to determine the next set of five barangays, which will be recipients of the CBLA and the activities that will be undertaken.

Eligible to participate in the program is any member of an affected family, a duly resident of the affected barangay, in good physical and mental condition, and at least 18 years old. 

Only one family member is allowed to be part of this income-generating venture.###

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DSWD’s P68-M ‘Ruby’ restoration project up in Borongan City

Pantawid Pamillyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries from Borongan City comprise the bulk of the DSWD restoration project in the area. They are seen here signing the attendance sheet before their actual work.

Pantawid Pamillyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries from Borongan City comprise the bulk of the DSWD restoration project in the area. They are seen here signing the attendance sheet before their actual work.

Some 17,547 individuals from the 61 barangays of Borongan City, Eastern Samar who were affected by Typhoon Ruby are expected to benefit from the Cash-for-Building-Livelihood Assets (CBLA) under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Initially, five barangays have started to implement the project – Barangays Sohotan, Bayubay, San Gabriel, Maybacong, and San Pablo.

CBLA is a strategy to help affected communities restore damaged physical and natural assets to rebuild their livelihoods.   

DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said that this initiative will help beneficiaries achieve a sense of normalcy in their daily lives as they have a source of income, though short-term, while the government prepares to implement more sustainable recovery and rehabilitation projects for them.

DSWD has allotted more than P68 million for CBLA implementation in the city.

Under the project, beneficiaries are engaged in the repair of small infrastructure facilities, dredging of canals, and in the clean-up of rivers.  They will be receiving P260 per day or a total of P3,900 for a maximum period of 15 days. 

On Monday, the city conducted the second community assembly to determine the next set of five barangays, which will be recipients of the CBLA and the activities that will be undertaken.

Eligible to participate in the program is any member of an affected family, a duly resident of the affected barangay, in good physical and mental condition, and at least 18 years old. 

Only one family member is allowed to be part of this income-generating venture.###

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A housewife’s journey towards improving her family’s life

Estrella takes the lead of managing a livelihood group in her barangay.

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.

Finding direction

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.

Positive changes

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. ###

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A housewife’s journey towards improving her family’s life

Estrella takes the lead of managing a livelihood group in her barangay.

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.

Finding direction

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.

Positive changes

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. ###

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DSWD continues aid for ‘Seniang’ survivors

As part of its continuing assistance to survivors of Typhoon Seniang,  the Department  of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has already provided a total of 33,443 family food packs and 4,000 non-food items, as of January 8,  through the local government units (LGUs)  in the Visayas and in CARAGA.

In Central Visayas, DSWD has provided a total of 8,846 food packs and other food items such as water and biscuits.

Non-food items such as blankets, mats, and mosquito nets, among others, were also given to affected families in Cebu City, Tagbilaran City, and the towns of Alcantara, Barili, Dumanjug, Ronda, Bohol, Antequera, Cortes, Loay,  Loboc, Loon, Maribojoc, Pres. C.P. Garcia, and Siquijor.

All  evacuation centers in the region have been closed with the evacuees already back to their places of origin.

Aid for landslide victims

In Barangay Mercedes, Catbalogan City, Samar, where  21 persons died due to a landslide incident that occurred on December 30 following  a heavy downpour, DSWD provided each bereaved family with  P10,000 in cash assistance.

DSWD also gave P5,000 each to the eight individuals from the town who were injured due to “Seniang”.

Likewise, cash assistance was given to the injured and to the family of the lone fatality in Calubian town.

DSWD-Field Office VIII Assistant Regional Director Resty Macuto and Catbalogan City Mayor Stephany Uy-Tan recently visited the Samar Provincial Hospital to check on the injured.

Emerita Mabag, 46, one of those injured expressed her gratitude to the Department and to the LGU for the help extended to her family.  Nine members of her family died as a van rammed into their house as a result of the landslide.

Mayor Tan said that she has discussed with DSWD and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) the evacuation of vulnerable families residing in the landslide prone area of Purok 5-A in Brgy. Mercedes.

Meanwhile, DSWD continues to coordinate with concerned LGUs and other national government agencies for the provision of other appropriate services to survivors of “Seniang” to ensure that they can already return to normalcy. ###

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