December 27 2022 It Starts with Changing One Life Whereas there are many children and youth who grew up to pursue their dreams in other places, there are also those who choose to work with those who once helped them. From receiving support to being one of the people who give support; it’s a common story among some people who now work in SOS Children’s Villages Philippines. Some of our co-workers were once were cared for in the children’s villages when they were younger, and others are from families that received support before they became self-reliant. Two social workers for family-like care (FLC) in Bataan, Auntie Bethil and Auntie April, share their journey from participating in the Family Strengthening Program (FSP) to the work they have now. Leap of Courage for a Dream Auntie Bethil currently works in the children’s village in Bataan as one of the social workers for FLC, specifically for child safeguarding. She has been working in SOS Children’s Villages Philippines for a little over four years as of writing. Before her family participated in the FSP, Auntie Bethil lived in Northern Samar and moved to Bataan when she was 12 to finish her high school education while living with her grandparents. When she graduated, sometime later she worked in a factory at 17. She is the second child of 12 siblings, and one of the family’s breadwinners along with her sister who also worked in a weaving factory and her father who worked in a resort at the time. Through her hardwork saving up every peso she could from her factory work, Auntie Bethil managed to get a small place for her parents in Bataan. All throughout her work, she had one dream she kept close to her heart: to be able to finish her studies and get out of poverty. However, during her time at work, she lost hope in reaching that dream until her family was chosen to participate in the family strengthening program of SOS Children’s Villages Philippines. One of the benefits that was given to her family as part of the FSP is livelihood and financial assistance. Auntie Bethil shared of a time she didn’t know her family participated in the FSP until a year later, surprised of the groceries that she suddenly sees every time she went home from work. Later on, she was also approached and offered a scholarship, giving her the opportunity to finally pursue her studies. However, she was very hesitant to accept the scholarship. “Who will work?” Her worry is that if she chooses to study, her family will have a harder time supporting itself with only her sister and father working. Providing for her additional educational expenses was also a hurdle she worried about. But after a month of thinking and persuasion from her family, Auntie Bethil eventually accepted the scholarship and studied BS Social Work since it was offered at the time. Though she originally wanted to pursue BS Education and be a teacher, she eventually came to love her course. Her sister took on the role of breadwinner, and her mother looked for side jobs. Sometime after she continued her studies, her family also started receiving livelihood assistance through the FSP. Her mother participated in an income generating project called “Alalay Bags” that started in 2017. This project teaches the mothers in their community to sew bags, rugs, and slippers, and they get to sell the fruits of their training. In 2019, Auntie Bethil’s sister also got an opportunity to work abroad as an OFW in Japan. She participated in a training course in welding held by Onocom, one of SOS Children’s Villages Philippines’s partners at the time. And last but not the least, Auntie Bethil was offered the opportunity to work with us as a social worker, especially given the course she graduated from. Aside from her course, her experience as a former participant of the FSP significantly helped her in working with children. During her time in the FSP, Auntie Bethil did volunteer work through tutoring children and teaching them how to crochet. Being part of FSP also means she’s well-integrated into the community, and that she understands their plights. She would encourage families who struggled like hers did, that there is a way to change the situation they live in, a way for their lives to be better. Of course, aside from her family, Auntie Bethil has another friend in her journey to being self-sufficient. Starting with One and Many Followed Auntie April is another one of our social workers stationed in Bataan along with Auntie Bethil, and was also offered a chance to finish her studies through the efforts of the FSP. Like Auntie Bethil, Auntie April has also worked with us for a little over four years as of writing. She was an out-of-school youth (OSY) for a good part of her younger years, usually attending informal school or alternative learning system (ALS). She had to stop formal education when she was in 2nd year high school because they didn’t have enough resources to send her to school, and went to informal school after that. Earning money alone as it is proved to be a difficult endeavor. Auntie April had to live with her grandparents due to complicated circumstances with her parents. Her grandfather at the time only earned P200 – P300 a day from fishing, and her grandmother was hospitalized. To help, she stopped studying to work for some time. They had many nights when they had to sleep without having dinner. Because of the life they lived, she wanted to go to college so that she can give her grandparents a better life. That opportunity did come sometime later when her older sister was offered a chance to participate in the FSP in the form of a scholarship. However, her sister instead gave her the opportunity to be able to study again. Going back to formal schooling after being an OSY for a while was challenging for Auntie April, but she persevered until she graduated college with a degree in BS Social Work as well. Like Auntie Bethil, Auntie April has a dream course before she took up BS Social Work; she wanted to be a lawyer since she was 8 years old, and she still does even if she has come to love her course. Regardless, Auntie April is content with what she accomplished as long as she has a decent salary and a job that lets her provide for her family. Not only has she been providing for her family, Auntie April and her accomplishments have also inspired the youth in her community to aim higher. Most of the people in her community finish high school, work as housekeepers, and settle for that line of work. But her story inspired youth to dream and pursue college education. Auntie April would even get questions from neighbors about the cost of studying and enrolment. She would also tell the children in SOS to “Take advantage of the opportunities they can give you because they are beautiful opportunities.” As one of our social workers for family-like care, Auntie April would tell them her story from time to time. “Some young people are still searching for what to do for the future.” So, she would also guide the youth on what course or career paths they want to take, help them cultivate their interests, and generally help them find opportunities that they would dream of. Many families and youth get to stand on their own feet again because of the help you contribute to family strengthening. Visit https://www.sosphilippines.org/family-strengthening to learn more.