We are a lucky bunch—Lydia Echauz (former FEU President), Evelyn Singson (presidaent of Dusit Hotel and former MAP President), and myself to have heard first hand the stories of the beneficiaries of the 4Ps, or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.
The other members of the National Inspection and Monitoring Committee (NIAMC) are development and CSO representatives like Marietta Paragas of Cordillera Network and Patricia Sarenas of CODE-NGO and Mindanao NGO Networks, Moner Bajunaid who was my co-Trustee in Peace and Equity Foundation and Sister Eloisa of Palo, Leyte.
The NIAMC meets six times a year to monitor the results of the “Pantawid” program as independent professionals. Half the day was spent talking with beneficiaries like Parent Leaders (PLs) guided by Municipal Links (MLs) who are the people in charge of holding Family Development Sessions (FDS) among beneficiaries. The program now has more than 3 million beneficiary families who receive P500 per set of parents and P300 per child (maximum three children) or about P1400 a family per month. In urban language, about the cost of a regular meal for four in a casual restaurant. Or the cost of a pretty good bottle of wine.
More than the money, however, the Program empowers the beneficiaries with moral values, knowledge about health and the value of education. Family sessions are held monthly and topics for discussion range from Family Life to Family Planning and even start up livelihood project ideas.
The children are either in school already and no longer dropouts, or children start school and are kept there, because the conditions of the program require students to attend 85 percent of school days required. They also are required to visit the health centers for deworming, weigh-ins and monitoring of usual diseases that are prevalent in young children.
The Muslim Parent Leaders and Municipal links from ARMM I met, briefly related to me how the Program has benefited them and how life in the community has changed for the better. They discuss issues with co-parents, they discuss challenges in the community and they also bring back good news such as spouses getting back together physically because both parents can now stay with their children and do not have to live far to earn a meager amount just to keep the kids fed everyday.
The social profits or benefits outweigh the monetary because what we gain in educated citizens is something money cannot buy. The beneficiaries now also believe that education is the only thing that cannot be taken away from them and so they encourage children to stay in school rather than work in the fields.
What we are developing are better citizens from the poorest of the poor. Those who will “graduate” from the program are enthused to teach other parents and wish to share how the program has helped them out of poverty and onwards to a more sustainable way of life.
This makes me think that the urban poor should think about going to the suburbs or the countryside to do just that: live a simple life, educate the kids, visit health centers and grow their own food. Malunggay, rice and monggo are staples that when eaten together are synergistically more nutritious. At least that is what another NGO the Negrenses Volunteer Foundation is espousing. Christine Abaquin and Millie Kilayco of Bacolod have now professionalized the production of what we call “Mingo” mixes which can feed children and even the elderly who are not able to get proper nutrition from their limited food intake.
Imagine what we have now to produce better citizens for the next generation: the 4Ps program, nutritional supplements, education and health programs. This makes me hopeful that something is happening to improve the lives of the marginalized.
My colleagues in NIAMC and I believe that it does not take much to lift people out of the clutches of poverty. And it is not the money they talk about. They talk about empowerment, they talk about better human relations. After all, this is what makes a better person. Not the money in his or her hands. But the grey matter between his or her ears and the ticker in his or her chest.
There is hope. And something’s brewing in the countryside . . . not just good coffee.
Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium and Centris QC malls. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates, youth and NGOs on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.