Social workers are among the front liners in the delivery of social protection programs, be it in the global, national, or local arena.

This is why every March, the world celebrates International Social Work Month. This year’s international celebration carries the theme “Social Workers Are Essential” to highlight the vital role that social workers play in the lives of people whom they help.

In the Philippines, we also recognize and applaud the work of our nation’s social workers who touch the lives of individuals and communities, inspiring them to overcome stigma and adversity to achieve a better quality of life.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Philippines’ lead agency in social protection and the home to the country’s social workers, is paying tribute to its very own public servants with a heart who go the extra mile in helping those who are most in need.

Exemplifying “Maagap at may Malasakit na Serbisyo”

Rhoda Y. Capulong, a community-based Social Welfare Assistant assigned in the DSWD Provincial Extension Office (POO) in Bulacan for three consecutive years, is one who never gives up on cases of clients referred to her, even when the odds seem stacked against her.

One such case is a legal adoption she handled wherein the prospective adoptive parents are no longer interested to pursue it because of the long and tedious process they have been through.

Rhoda believed that it would sacrifice the future of the child if the adoption did not go through. She then patiently explained to the client the entire process of legal adoption, clearly articulating that it was for the best interest of the child. Through her patience and persistence, she gradually encouraged the prospective adoptive parents to undergo the socio-legal process of adoption and the case is now in the Regional Trial Court.

Rhoda also organized the Gender Based Violence Watch group (GBVW) in the Municipality of Calumpit, serving as the group’s consultant. Under her mentorship, the group is active in the community with their various projects, fighting all forms of abuses and extending help to the less fortunate children and solo parents. Her innovative program greatly empowered women and children, making her a valuable partner of the local government unit of Calumpit.

Rhoda Capulong, a social worker from DSWD FO 3 always gives her best to clients and beneficiaries that the Department serves.

Through her efforts GBVW is currently being replicated in the other barangays of Calumpit.

Initially employed as Project Development Officer II and  designated as City/Municipal Link at the Department’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) from 2011 to 2013 in the City of Malolos, she continuously exhibits her dedication and passion towards work.

As a City Link, she faced the formidable task of handling 18 barangays, visiting a total of 1,098 household-beneficiaries to check on their situation and progress.

Recognizing her outstanding performance, the POO designated Rhoda as a Municipal Action Team (MAT) Leader of the Municipality of Calumpit from 2013 to 2017. During her tenure as MAT Leader, Rhoda relentlessly pursued community development projects, assisting and motivating beneficiaries to effectively avail of social protection programs.

The testimonies of people whose lives she touched proved her dedication to her profession as a social worker. Jesusa Landicho, a 4Ps parent leader and cluster leader of Gender Base Violence-Calumpit, said, “Nakita ko ang tunay na malasakit ni Madam Rhoda Capulong “Dhang” na mapaigting ang adbokasiya ng organisasyon na mapalawig at mapalakas ang aming samahan. Isa siyang tunay na may puso bilang manggagawa ng lipunan, may dedikasyon sa kanyang propesyon, malasakit at pagmamahal sa bawat kanyang nasasakupan, at kahanga-hanga sa sipag at tiyaga” (I saw Ma’am Rhoda Capulong’s true concern to enhance the advocacy of our group and strengthen our organization. She has real heart as a public servant, dedicated to her profession, concern, and love for all those she deals with, and admirable in her hard work and patience).

Moreover, she exerts extra effort in every task she does, serving as development facilitator on programs and training courses, resource person, case manager, community organizer, and documenter, always delivering “Maagap at Mapagkalingang Serbisyo” to the sectors she serves.

Championing children’s rights and welfare

Meanwhile, Rhea Baclay-Valdellon, Social Welfare Office II at DSWD Field Office VI, played a key role in implementing the Child-Led Policy Formulation initiative at the Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY).  A DSWD-managed center for children in conflict with the law (CICL), RRCY ensures that restorative justice, healing, recovery and community integration are provided to their residents to give them a second chance in life.

Managing CICL cases is already a tough job. However, this  social worker shone even more as she instituted mechanisms to ensure children’s participation in policy development, and their health protection and education. Among the policies crafted with children’s lens include Standardizing Restorative Intervention in Dealing with Behavior; Development of Visitation Policy; and Decorum Regulation for Residents. RRCY Region VI implements the Child-Led Policy Formulation in promoting child participation in crafting policies that affect them.

Furthermore, to ensure that the CICL at the center are cushioned from sudden shocks due to illnesses, Rhea initiated their enrollment with Philhealth. A total of 127 CICL at RRCY Region VI are currently enrolled with Philhealth for their health protection. Rhea also forged partnerships to ensure that the children can finish their education. These included a tie-up with the Virlanie Foundation for provision of educational assistance to CICL and a partnership with the local government unit of Calinog, Iloilo for the latter to shoulder psychiatric treatment of CICL and post discharge and community intervention.

Her efforts to champion and protect the rights and welfare of the CICL under her care are reciprocated by the center residents who stated that Rhea inspired them.

“Nalipay gid ako kay ang kabataan diri gintagaan sang opportunity makahimo decision kag gina involve sa pagplano kon ano ang maka pamaayo sa rehabilitation namon diri sa RRCY” (I am happy that we are given the opportunity to be involved in decision-making and in planning as to what could be best for our rehabilitation at RRCY), Toto, one of the residents of the center located in Guimaras Province, narrated.

Likewise, Nonoy, a former resident of RRCY,  expressed, “One of the best persons who molded me as a good youth when I was still at RRCY is  my second mother. I fondly call her Nanay Rhea. She believes in my capability that I can also do good things, despite of what I have done in my past. She never made me feel that I am alone and far away from my mother. She guided me, taught me good traits and wisdom, and made me realize that life is wonderful.”

Nonoy is now mainstreamed in his community.

Rhea said that she has always made it a mission to teach the CICL to dream again, citing Edward Everett Hale’s famous quote, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

Every social worker in the Department could benefit from Rhea’s words of wisdom. “It is always a case of “glass half full” vs. “glass half empty.” Studying and observing the problem rather than working toward a solution is a fruitless endeavor. Social workers conduct research, create strategies to solve social issues, and play their role as part of the solution. This is my philosophy.”

“It is not enough to be compassionate; you must act and when you act, you must have a DSWD heart,” she added.

Creating positive change

Helping, empowering, and protecting the disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors of society is DSWD’s mandate and the credo of its workforce.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this credo becomes more difficult to live by. But for Elena G. Salazar, Social Welfare and Development (SWAD)  Team Head of Guimaras Province, this pandemic would not stop her from continuing to help the people in the community, particularly Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries. She always makes herself available, as a voice of the people and the Department.

Elena is no stranger to working for and with people, having spent 31 years in community service, helping them bring about change particularly in the lives of the 4Ps beneficiaries.

Among her advocacies are backyard farming, children’s rights, violence against women, and livelihood opportunities that  she discusses during the 4Ps Family Development Sessions.

In the course of her stint as a social worker, Elena has touched the lives of many individuals who needed help, such as a former CICL  whom she took under her care as her foster child for two years. The former CICL now serves the Filipino people in the military. He is indebted and thankful for the guidance of Elena, who has raised him and given him a chance to make a change in society.

Elena also assisted a mother whose husband was in jail and wanted to give up her child for adoption. Elena then facilitated the legal adoption of the child while she referred the family for financial assistance, regular health check-up, and livelihood support.

Elena also served as the voice of the people on behalf of the survivors and families of casualties during the Iloilo – Guimaras tragedy when two pump boats capsized in the Guimaras Strait, leaving 31 passengers dead.

She raised the issues and concerns of her fellow Guimarasnons which led to the filing of charges against responsible personnel. She also worked for the provision of assistance to the survivors and bereaved families.

With her modest accomplishments, Elena is an embodiment of the Department’s mantra of rendering Maagap at Mapagkalingang Serbisyo and Patas na Pagtrato sa Komunidad.

Leading and promoting

On the other hand, Febie Norona  Palines, another dedicated social worker has been working with DSWD Field Office VIII since 2003. Her seventeen years of service with the agency molded her to become an achiever.

A diligent worker, Febie rose from the ranks, first as a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) worker serving as community facilitator of the Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), then as Area Supervisor for the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction, and later on, as Project Development Officer of the 4Ps.

Her recent designation as a Social Welfare Officer IV or Provincial Link of the Provincial Operations Office (POO) in Eastern Samar paved the way to her professional competence, commendable, and an exemplary leader and supervisor for eight years.

She values the insights of others, as she reminds her staff during POO meetings about the essence of teamwork in validation and in monitoring through their knowledge sharing sessions.

Moreover, Febie strengthened the Provincial Monitoring and Technical Assistance (MATA), making it fully functional and guided by Social Work Principles and Code of Conduct. Through this, the City/Municipal Links (C/ML) and other field staff have better understanding of their tasks and other deliverables, resulting in faster and more accurate generation of reports, meeting targets, and providing clients with the best services.

Another initiative is solving the challenges on the education conditionality of the 4Ps with the introduction of the Massive Updating Form of Not Attending School (NAS) Children. This tool facilitated the faster validation of NAS children, accurate updating since grantee’s signature is affixed, and proper tagging of reasons why the children are not attending school. This tool also saved the printing of numerous individual update forms. Due to the effectiveness of this initiative, it was later adapted by other POOs, which reduced the perennial challenge of logistics.

For Febie, poverty is a life experience that she could relate to, but this has not hindered her in fulfilling her dreams and striving for excellence. She believes that with the right support, determination and hard work, people can overcome poverty. This is why for her, 4Ps is not just her work but also her personal campaign in helping the government’s goal to reduce poverty. This personal commitment and dedication are manifested in all the initiatives the POO achieved in providing the right interventions for their household beneficiaries.

Real public service

Rhoda, Rhea, Elena, and Febie are just a few of DSWD’s social workers who undoubtedly demonstrate what real public service is, an apt reflection of the Department’s credo, “Maagap, Mapagkalinga at May Malasakit na Serbisyo.”  ###