Amidst the colorful brooms being peddled on the streets of Cebu was a heartbreaking story of a community that lived in abject poverty and in a seriously unhealthy environment. Because of poor working conditions, the people in the community suffered from respiratory and other lung problems.
All that changed when five students from the University of Cebu – Banilad were inspired by a vision to help this community and pitched their project, “Angat Kapaligiran, Angat Kalusugan, Angat Kabuhayan” to the 4th run of Ideas Positive, one of the major projects of Unilab Foundation that works with the youth in addressing local health problems.
Out of 140 student teams nationwide that pitched their ideas, the above students who called themselves “Team Transformers” were selected among the 14 finalists and eventually took home the grand prize in the recent awarding ceremonies.
Team Transformers chose the impoverished broom makers community of Sitio Lapyahan, Mandaue City, as the site of their project after seeing the unsanitary living and working conditions there. This was largely ignored as residents toiled to produce the community’s main livelihood – the production of colorful brooms.
The team saw the alarming statistics in upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) and other respiratory diseases in the community. Among Sitio Lapyahan residents, there were 44 documented cases of URTI in 2013.
With the help of seed money from Unilab Foundation, Team Transformers was able to provide 25 Sagip Kalusugan nipa huts, 25 goggles and masks for the broom makers, and 20 trash bins positioned in strategic corners of the community.
Broom makers were also trained to clean the pond waters first before doing the tedious “laba” process in creating colorful brooms. These efforts effectively and dramatically reduced the number of URTI cases to 7—an 84 percent reduction from the previous year.
Team Transformers not only addressed the health problems of residents but also improved their productivity. They redefined 21 ponds with Sagip Kabuhayan fences, allowing for thrice the number of “buli” palms to be soaked, thus generating more income for the community.
The broom makers said that prior to the introduction of best practices by Team Transformers, they only made P120 – P150 a day. With the way they do things now, their earnings have gone up to as much as P300 a day.
Team Transformers is composed of Jerome Cuyos (team leader), Jeanette Cabahug, Rheyz Michael Campilan, John Paul Preston, and Sharmaine Grace Tabal, and mentored by Dr. Christopher Biore, CPA (chairperson, College of Business and Accountancy). The team was awarded by Rhodora Palomar-Fresnedi, Unilab Foundation executive director and Unilab International senior vice president; and Karen Singian, head of Ideas Positive.
“We believe in the creativity and the wealth of ideas coming from the youth. We also realize that they only have limited resources. That’s where Unilab Foundation’s Ideas Positive comes into the picture. We help turn their ideas into reality,” Palomar-Fresnedi said.