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From rags to livelihood
October 16, 2023
It's not quite the proverbial rags to riches story.
But it’s still inspiring nonetheless as it packs a whole lot of opportunities with a greater amount of heart and perseverance.
That's what this community program — rolled out by Aboitiz Power Corporation’s (AboitizPower) Therma South, Inc. (TSI) for persons with disability (PWDs) in the town of Sta. Cruz in nearby Davao del Sur — is all about.
In Sta. Cruz, a group called Persons with Disability of Sta. Cruz Association (PDOSCA) helps promote the rights of the PWDs in Davao del Sur and also assists over a thousand PWD members. Majority of these individuals are mobility and speech impaired and come from the 11 coastal and 7 upland barangays in the area.
For the members of PDOSCA, providing food on the table and supporting their families' other needs are among the challenges they face everyday.
TSI helped alleviate these barriers by launching the “Helping A-Weavers: Booster Initiative (HA:BI) - Sta. Cruz PWD Rag Makers Livelihood Support Program”, which is a welcome relief to PDOSCA as it gave them an active role as breadwinners despite their disabilities.
TSI provided rag-making materials and equipment — from sewing machines to frames — as well as gave the beneficiaries exposure to various leadership, business management, and skills training.
Having the support of the community, the members of PDOSCA also overcame the challenge of having no place where they could conduct their business. Local senior citizens lent their community center to PDOSCA for the storage of their materials and sewing machines. TSI then populated the center with tables and chairs, as well as a bundle of “ukay-ukay” (used clothes) for rag-making.
PDOSCA has since started making rags and slippers made from used clothes, and also began offering massage services.
Still, the association is not without its own share of business challenges. Member Wilma Baguin explained how, due to limited equipment, only three people can simultaneously sew, with each of them producing only about ten rags a day. Storage space was also a concern.
Kada semana naa tao ang center nga maghimo sa amoang produkto. Ang among produkto rags, tsinelas, massage pero walay kabutangan kay gamay kaayo ni among center ug dili pa gyud amoa ang building gihiram ra namo sa senior citizens. (There is always someone at the center making our products every week. Our products are rags, slippers, [and even] massages, but there is no room to store our products because our center is very small and we don't even own the building; we only borrowed it from the senior citizens),” Baguin said.
The HA:BI - Sta. Cruz PWD Rag Makers Livelihood Support Program started in January this year with a capital expenditure of only P1,300. Soon enough, their earnings were able to surpass their capital and they used the amount to buy more materials. Currently, the association now has savings of about four times what they started with.
“Dako ang natabang ani nga project. Nahimo namo ning livelihood. Sa isa ka semana naa mi schedule by president nga mag anhi diri sa center. (This project has helped us a lot. We made this as our livelihood. Each week, we have a scheduled president, who is chosen from the existing barangay presidents, who [manages] the center),” Baguin said.
As of writing, PDOSCA is led by its president, Gabriel Bacala, who is an orthopedic-impaired person. He lost his right arm while operating a machine at work. Today, Bacala is driven by his belief that he can still work for his family despite his condition.
“Nagapasalamat mi sa TSI ug giawhag namo ang mga PWD nga wala pa ma-member duol mo sa center diri sa Sta. Cruz kay naghulat mi sa inyo ug among tabangan (We thank TSI for all the assistance and we are calling and encouraging all the PWDs in Sta. Cruz that are not yet members of our group to visit our center as we are waiting for you so we could help you),” Bacala said.
Helen Omiga, PDOSCA member and previously a producer of nipa and broomsticks, said the project helped her generate income faster compared to her previous livelihood.
“Kada adlaw ko naa diri maghimo mi ug rags ug ang akong income mas okay kaysa sauna nga among livelihood. Makatabang gyud ni sa among kalisod (I'm here every day. We make rags and my income is better than before. It really helped us),” she said.
To help expand their earnings, TSI Reputation and Stakeholder Management Operation Specialist Lalaine Balatero said PDOSCA is being accredited by TSI so that its purchasing department can procure rags from the association. She said TSI needs rags to be used for preventive maintenance activities in the plant.
“Ang mga requirements na forward na sa amoa and right now gina process namo ang accreditation nila para dili nami mag adto sa lain para magpalit ug rags. The maintenance team and purchasing department of TSI diri na mag purchase sa ilaha para ma augment ilang income (The requirements have been forwarded to us and right now we are processing their accreditation so that we can buy rags from them. The maintenance team as well as the purchasing department of TSI will purchase from them to augment their income),” she said.
It is the ultimate dream of PDOSCA to have its own center, which is estimated to cost around P2 million.
The municipal government of Sta. Cruz is looking to make this dream a reality.
“Inig kahuman sa among building makita namo nga mauswag ang among panginabuhi (When our building is completed, we are expecting that our livelihood will [further] improve),” Bacala said.
In addition, Balatero of TSI said that the company will partner with the local Technical Educational and Skills Development Authority or TESDA for certification training, as well as give more opportunities to PDOSCA for capacity building.
“For this year we have a continuing support sa ilaha we will provide additional materials sa ilaha and we will enroll them in partnership with TESDA province kay para dili lang pud limited ang ilahang ma offer. (For this year we have continuing support for them. We will provide additional materials for them and we will enroll them in partnership with the local TESDA so that they can offer other services),” Balatero said.
“We will also enroll them in dressmaking and the province will also provide materials para kung naay magpatahi ug uniforms like basketball uniforms. Ug ang TSI puwede na diri magpatahi kung naa mi i-support na basketball team for a basketball league (We will also enroll them in dressmaking. The province will also provide materials to be used to sew uniforms like those in basketball. TSI may ask for their services if the company will support a basketball team in a basketball league),” she added.
Being disabled sometimes means being left out because of the limitations in skills, mobility, or aptitude. But it shouldn't always be like that. PWDs can also be capable of developing skills that earns a living and provides them with a sense of newfound purpose.
“Manghinaut ko nga dili lang karon ang suporta nga among madawat gikan sa TSI ug sa Aboitiz (I hope that we will continue to get support from TSI and Aboitiz),” Bacala said.
With TSI and Aboitiz Foundation's ongoing efforts to help the PWDs of Sta. Cruz, Bacala's prayers may have been answered.
This article was written by Maya Padillo by Edge Davao.
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