By Pen Pen Bullo, Extreme Response Asia Staff
In today’s short-cut society, there are “life hacks” that teach us quick and easy ways to fix things. But when it comes to lives broken by poverty, abuse, abandonment, oppression, human trafficking and neglect, there are no short cuts, no simple hacks to make things better.
Faced with huge challenges regarding the plight of women struggling with poverty and lack of hope in the Philippines, the ER Asia staff knew it had to use long-term, sustainable tools to help women and children, who often are marginalized in Filipino society.
About four years ago, a group of mothers and women from a small community of poor informal settlements in Makati City decided to meet on a regular basis. Their purpose is to spend productive time learning more skills rather than hanging out with neighbors playing cards and chatting.
Extreme Response Asia’s Golden Hands Livelihood Educational Program took the initiative to train, educate and organize the women, most of whom come from the informal settlements. The aim of the program is to empower and change the lives of women living in extreme and often life-threatening situations.
Last year, program director Anne Benavidez developed a community-based curriculum for the group. They meet once a week for values formation and skills enhancement. They were taught how to do basic sewing and pattern making for skirts, swing bags, double-sided aprons and a whole lot more. During the training, the women developed not only their skills, but also self-confidence and trusted relationships.
Edwina Cautivo is one of the members of the group and a single mother of a deaf and mute child. They used to live in a small house with no proper electricity or water supply. During the meetings she was encouraged by the group to find a proper place for her children, a safer home in which to live. With courage and faith, she made the decision to rent an apartment for her family, which we celebrated. She is now an empowered woman with a changed life.
As a group of bonded women, we rejoice when we see that lives are being changed. Lorna Serano (lower right) and Emily Abajar (top of page) are examples of changed lives. Each has experienced abundant blessings and are enjoying the hope of freedom from poverty. Little by little, they are acquiring the skills and talents through the livelihood sewing program which they will use to meet their financial needs.
Emily Abajar is now in the process of launching her own home-based alteration shop She said the skills training received through Golden Hands have given her the opportunity, confidence and knowledge on basic sewing and pattern making. She is excited and looking forward to the culminating ceremony on the April 1. She will be among the first women to graduate from the program.
We at Extreme Response Asia are truly encouraged to see changed lives and empowered women in the community, thriving to overcome poverty, oppression and injustice in the society. Indeed every single day is a blessing, a spark of hope and an avenue for change.
Pen “Pen Pen” Bullo serves at-risk communities in and around Manila as part of her duties with Extreme Response Asia. She also travels to remote villages to help teach disaster preparedness and response.