Empowering families in Calbayog to change their lives
June 5 2023

Empowering families in Calbayog to change their lives

Every good parent wants to be able to provide a good life for their children; make sure they eat healthily, help them finish their studies, and raise them to be good people.

But in the city of Calbayog, many families are struggling to make ends meet and provide a good life for their children. They face challenges such as finding stable employment and lacking the necessary skills for available jobs. These difficulties can lead to family breakdowns, leaving children without proper care.

In Calbayog, 300 families are working with us to build their capacity to care for their children. With their participation in SOS Children’s Villages’ family strengthening program (FSP), families changed their and their children's lives for the better.

Skills as foundation for strengthening families

Despite Calbayog being a developing city, people face difficulties in finding work, especially those who cannot afford education and training like informal settlers and out-of-school youth. Those who do work don't earn a steady income, and jobseekers struggle to find secure work because they lack the needed skillset for the jobs available in the area. 

Hence, they want opportunities to learn skills they can use, not only for work but also at home. If they can earn money using the skills they learn, then they won’t have to leave Calbayog to work. 

Youth from schools in Calbayog take dressmaking classes. Skills training is open not just to FSP participants, but also to people in the community.

“We give them opportunities to strengthen themselves so that families here will not breakdown.” We interviewed Calbayog’s FSP Focal Joy Ligayan, or Auntie Joy, to learn how the people participating in the family strengthening program have used all the opportunities they were given to turn their lives around.

Many people in Calbayog—parents, caregivers, out-of-school youth and many others— took classes in driving, cookery, and bread and pastry as they are the most popular.

Driving classes have become popular due to how lucrative transportation is. Auntie Joy briefly told us of a father who participated in driving classes and pulled through in life later on.  

“He is a father who struggled to find work since he was only able to finish his studies after Grade 3. But after finishing his driving classes from the skills training, he was able to land a driving job in a trucking company.” 

Additionally, the skills training conducted in the FSP is accredited by TESDA. The accreditation adds credibility to the training, helping the participants land more job opportunities. Not only do we collaborate with TESDA and other government agencies, but we also connect exiting participants of the FSP to them for social services that SOS Children’s Villages can’t provide.  

Through these social services, the skills training that they participated in, and the financial assistance that many have used for their family’s needs, big changes happened to them for the better during their stay in the FSP, and even long after they left the program.  

“They did not waste the opportunity they were given, and they took inspiration from SOS Children’s Villages. They would tell us: “When SOS comes back to check in on us, we want to be able to show something to them.” They want to show that they have bettered their lives from scratch.” And over the years, families who participated and continue to have indeed turned their lives around.

Support for sustainable livelihood

Auntie Cathy runs a street food business. She prepares her food one hour before she opens up shop.

After undergoing skills training, some families also want to start their own businesses, but they need the capital to do so. For parents, that means they can focus on their children and provide for them.

Cooking and baking classes are convenient for those who stay at home and for those who want to start their own food business. “It’s also fitting because the people of Calbayog love to eat.” Auntie Joy muses especially about the abundance of food stalls and eateries all around the city proper. Those who took cooking and baking classes used their skills to either sell the food they make or simply use what they learned at home.

Apart from cooking, baking, and driving, those who pursue other livelihoods were given support as well. Online selling has become a common business especially for those who also manage small retail stores. Participants of the FSP receive financial assistance and capital, and many who want to start online selling businesses were able to set up shop because of it, usually ran along with sari-sari stores.

Tatay Arnel is one of many FSP participants who received a canoe during the pandemic, and he has kept it in good condition since.

Fishing is also a major source of livelihood in Calbayog. During the pandemic, FSP participants were given new fishing canoes and supplies, and those who took baking classes were given the appropriate supplies. There were also workshops on financial literacy, entrepreneurship and technical skills before they received these supplies.

Through the family strengthening program, many people were able to learn new skills and improve their relationship with their families, especially with their children. The program is meant to help underprivileged families prevent breakdowns so that their children will not lose parental care.

Learning to uphold children's rights

The program provides more than financial assistance for the family and educational assistance (e.g tuition, expenses for school projects, etc.) for the children in their care. The program also offers skills training, particularly child protection awareness and livelihood skills.

“Before they can attend to the children’s physical needs, we teach them child protection awareness first.” Participants in FSP learn child protection awareness and children’s rights first before anything else to protect them from abuse.

Sometimes, families know how to support the children financially but will not be aware that their actions and words hurt their children already. Abuse and neglect, even with sufficient financial support, will still break a family down.

And it's not just the families in FSP who benefit from this initiative. When sessions on child protection awareness are conducted, families who are not participants of the FSP listen in and learn about child protection as well. Materials are also posted across the barangays where they can see them.

Participating families also share what they learn from these sessions with non-participants, strengthening the community as a whole. Even the children share their knowledge with other children, increasing awareness of their rights and how to prevent abuse.

Educational support to begin the cycle of helping

Most families in the FSP have at least one child studying in college, and their siblings still in high school or elementary. The support they receive gets them through their studies, and they subsequently put to use the fruits of their studies to help the family.

Auntie Joy told us about the various stories of families whose children are pursuing various paths in life; some work in government agencies, some are managers in companies, some already have homes of their own, some continued higher education, and more.

As more and more families become self-sustainable through the FSP, the communities they belong to also flourish with them. “The more families that are helped through skills training and livelihood assistance, the more that the community will be uplifted.”

Strengthening Communities for the Children

Community participation and independent efforts also emerged along with the program. The FSP, in every place where it’s conducted, needs volunteers from the community, and they’re usually participants of FSP, former or otherwise. Our volunteers oversee checking in on the families and children under the FSP. From nutritional status to their education to the family’s problems and needs, they help us help them.  

Many of the volunteers were originally hesitant out of lack of confidence in their abilities or not knowing how to mingle with others. “They thought that they couldn’t do it because they’ve always been at home before this. But as they continued volunteering for the FSP, their confidence is boosted because they realized that they could do it.”  

They eventually became more confident in themselves and in their abilities that they’ve made efforts to help improve the community. Some of our previous volunteers have become barangay health workers and community leaders. Overall, their participation in the FSP encouraged our volunteers to help in their own way. 

From struggling to sustain their families, to bettering their lives and their communities, the participants of the FSP in Calbayog can change the course of their situation. All they need is a little push. 

“We empower families through helping them realize that they have the capacity to change their situation. We are not there to change their lives. We are there to guide them because they are still the captains of their ships. They are the ones who will change their lives.” -Auntie Joy Ligayan, SOS Children’s Villages FSP Focal in Calbayog 


*Article written by Franchesca Palomo. Photos taken by Christine Carandang.


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