The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in partnership with the local government unit (LGU) of Buenavista, Bohol has reached out to the family of Jhessa Balbastro, the 12 –year- old girl featured during the last presidential debate in Pangasinan, and provided them with initial assistance to improve their living condition.
Jhessa became known as “dahon’ girl after she narrated her story about using a banana leaf instead of a pad paper during a spelling examination because she had no money to buy a few pieces.
After learning about the case of Jhessa, DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman immediately ordered for an assessment of the girl’s family.
In a home visit to the family, the DSWD was able to assess their most pressing needs such as a sturdy house and a sustainable source of income.
Likewise, Jhessa and her school-age siblings need educational assistance.
To date, the LGU of Buenavista has provided food packs, clothing, and blankets to the family.
The LGU also provided housing materials to repair the family’s house, which is made of amakan and nipa.
To address the family’s lack of income, Jhessa’s mother, Mary Jane, will be given a capital assistance of P20,000 under the DSWD-Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP). She will use the amount to continue her livelihood project of cooking and selling native delicacies. She is also being assessed for additional capital assistance through the Bottom Up Budgeting (BUB) for a hog raising business.
Meanwhile, Jhessa’s step father, Walden, will also be given a regular work as part of the team that will implement community projects under the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) in their community.
As for Jhessa and her siblings, the LGU will provide them with educational and clothing assistance through the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS).
It will also coordinate with the Department of Education (DepEd)-Bohol Division for possible inclusion of Jhessa and her siblings in the Amoma, Giya, Alayon sa Kalampusan (AGAK) program. The AGAK program, implemented in 2014, is an initiative of DepEd-Bohol, which aims to provide sponsorship to indigent students who are at risk of dropping out. Under the program, teachers and benefactors are expected to track students’ progress, and help in resolving difficulties.
Furthermore, the LGU will lobby to the local chief executive for the provision of scholarship to Jhessa and her siblings at the Buenavista Community College.
Jhessa’s family will also be registered as member of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
The Provincial Grievance Officer of Pantawid Pamilya in Bohol has also submitted the name of Mary Jane Torreon, Jhessa’s mother, for name matching for possible inclusion to the program.
Sec. Soliman assured that follow-through services would be undertaken to ensure that Jhessa’s family would not slide further to poverty.
Recognizing Jhessa’s enthusiasm to finish her studies amid challenges, Sec. Soliman said that the girl should serve as an inspiration to other children.
“Jhessa is the epitome of a diligent and determined student,” Sec. Soliman added.
Jhessa belongs to a brood of six, with her as the eldest. Her parents have no regular and steady source of income making life difficult. For this family, putting food on the table is indeed a struggle.
Despite this, Jhessa said that she always does her best to pursue her studies.
Jhessa dreams of becoming a teacher someday. ###