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Poverty has always been continuously defined in many ways. Lots of formulas have been developed on how to eradicate such. Many ways were already done to somehow lessen its impact to the community. Many were done but none of them were effective enough in addressing the needs and meeting the demands. I came for a poor family and that is why I can say these things.

I met Leonisa Mahusay in a small village called Camalan in the municipality of Lala, province of Lanao del Norte. By just the sound of her name, I knew that she was someone fierce. The 29-year-old single mother, who prefers to be called as Ate Ayang, juggles three responsibilities: caring three toddlers singlehandedly, a parent leader for the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, and a treasurer of an association created through DSWD’s Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP).

Before involving herself to community activities, she admitted that she was the kind of person who did not have a care in the world. She considered herself apathetic towards community development. Young as she was, she did not even know what good parenting means. Let alone, she did not even know her obligations in raising her family. “Everybody knew I was the last person to know all these things,” Ate Ayang recalls.

When Ate Ayang became a beneficiary and a parent leader of Pantawid Pamilya, she realized how big her responsibility was in raising her children. It was also in the same Program where she learned how to deal with people with different personalities. “It was kind of intimidating talking to people whom I think had more experiences than I did, but I did not let my age bother me. I want to help, that’s why I involve myself in development activities.”

When I asked her about how she feels being a beneficiary of the SLP of the DSWD, she smiled. “Like I said, I was immature and apathetic. I spent my money on things that were irrelevant. Ever since I was a member of the SLP, I began to see the value of every penny that I have worked for.”

Because she wants good and healthy things for her children, a personal conviction she learned through Pantawid Pamilya, she made a family budget plan through the help of the SLP. “With the budget plan, I get to spend on things that are healthy for my children and I. I now buy fruits, vegetables, and other supplies for the house. With SLP, my finances are now well managed. Gone are the habitual mistakes of spending on things that were not beneficial to my children.”

She also added that through SLP, she was able to effectively manage her own crab-fattening business. “I had this business long before I was a beneficiary of SLP. Before, all my earnings from the business would go directly on buying anything I wanted; I spend more than what I earned to the point that there is nothing left to sustain the business.

“But through SLP, I learned how to account my income. It was in this program that I learned the Entity Concept in which I separate money for personal expenses and another for the business,” she shared.

Although her crab-fattening business has some low points due to seasonal disruptions, she came up with strategies to ensure that her business will sustain and that her budget will not be diverted to something else. “I guess SLP has taught me to be smarter now,” she laughed.

Ate Ayang said that she and her children are now enjoying a good quality of life because of the values and lessons she learned from the two programs of the DSWD. When asked what lessons from the programs did have a great impact on her, she replied, “Well, three things. I learned how to be more responsible. I learned how to be more sensitive to the needs of the people around me, and I learned how to be smarter.”

The article is written by Johnson Rubelle M. Acol-acol, a DSWD worker who has personally witnessed how a young single mother survives her three kids through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and the Sustainable Livelihood Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

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October 2013