Zamboanga City – THE dream of thousands of homeless residents here to finally own a decent place has not only come into reality but also they were in addition equipped with livelihood and business planning skills to ultimately achieve economic self-reliance.
One of them, 51-year old Zenaida B. Baguio, sees her life as a second lease after she along with her fellow urban poor friends are now considered “productive citizens.”
When Baguio and her family migrated to Zamboanga from Ozamis City due to deadly troubles caused by Communist groups, all she brought with her were bare necessities and a bagful of dreams.
Initially, the Baguios managed to survive on a small income Baguio got from selling icedrops and juices in an elementary school. But as her parents started to get older and weaker, their needs became more complicated and Baguio’s daily take-home pay of P200 was barely enough to keep the family properly fed, clothed and sheltered.
Their luck began to change the day they were introduced to Katilingban para sa Kalamboan, Inc., (KKI) a non-government organization implementing a low-cost housing program.
Baguio, who never married since her whole life has been devoted to serving her family, was among the applicants who were granted uniform 80 square-meter lots and a loan for the purchase of construction materials with a monthly amortization of P400.
However, the low-cost housing was just a starter as Baguio along with her women group called Katilingban Working Women’s Association (KWWA) underwent extensive and comprehensive social preparations, which included skills to produce various home-made products and marketing.
The ongoing livelihood program aims to help the housewives in the community to become more productive as this will give their families additional income, said Fr Angel Calvo, CMF, president of the nonprofit housing group.
Elsa Manabat, KKI executive director, echoed the statement of Fr. Calvo, saying that the livelihood program is part of the housing group’s five thrusts, which are housing, health, education, paralegal, and women’s welfare.
According to Rosemarie L. Miasco, Katilingban’s livelihood- microfinance officer, since the project started in mid 1998, there are already more than 300 women urban poor women who were able to avail of the trainings and are now reaping the fruits of the livelihood programs.
She said the women were taught on bread-baking, egg noodle, catering services, food processing, garments, seaweed faming, and making soap and herbal ointment supplements.
Miasco said the training and provision of the livelihood support service were done in as an interagency effort of the Departments of Labor and Employment, Trade and Industry, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, city government, and the extension services of the Western Mindanao State University.
The city’s business organizations have also been tapped to lend entrepreneurial expertise, particularly in marketing.
Wilma L. Omboy, another Katilingban’s livelihood microfinance officer, told PeaceWorks the women’s group was able to directly market to Japan for their abaca-made slippers, which is good reflexology for the feet. She said the group initially shipped more than a hundreds pairs of slippers recently to Japan.
The Japanese government through its Grant Grassroots Human Security program constructed a training center building inside the vicinity of the housing project last 2005, which hosts 200 residential houses built three years ago with funding from the Spanish government. Qualified urban poor families also borrowed capital from the fund.
A second socialized housing community of 98 residential units adjacent to the housing is now completed while another housing project located in Barangay Caragasan is nearing completion.
Omboy said the making abaca slippers was the idea of Baguio, and the product became an instant hit every time the women group attended business and trade exhibits.
To expand their market, Omboy said the women’ group is now upgrading their product by passing the quality standards of the Department of Science and Technology and the Bureau of Food and Drugs.
The whole livelihood program according to Baguio did not only multiply their income but also gave them the confidence by having entrepreneurial skills, which she said led them to level up their economic status.