MARILOG, Davao City (DSWD XI) – Helen Ongado, 23, had a very troubled life. Albeit her poverty, the tragedies in her family, her miscarriage, among others, she still found hope in one of the country’s flagship development programs.

“I was very happy I was selected to be one of the lucky community members who got this valuable opportunity. I was overjoyed because I saw my dream of being a student again coming true,” shared Helen.

Her wish came true when the Kalahi-CIDSS (Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan -Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services) conducted Participatory Situation Analysis (PSA) in her village in Sitio Pegalongan, Barangay Malamba.

PSA falls under the social preparation phase of Kalahi-CIDSS that helps people identify top sub-projects that fit their immediate needs.

Kalahi-CIDSS, one of the core programs of DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) aims to empower communities through enhanced participation in local governance and poverty alleviation projects.

Community struggles

The community has a total population of 450, all from the Matigsalog tribe.

Getting to Sitio Pegalongan from Datu Salumay Proper (Davao-Bukidnon highway) would require some four to five hours of trekking through five mountains and crossing two treacherous rivers -Simud and Davao River.

Pag muabot na ang tubig sa tuhod, makulbaan na mi. Kabalo na mi na paspas ra kaayo para muabot ni sa dughan. Unya mahunahunaan namo among mga ani na gibiyahe, mga tao na pwede maaskidente ug uban pa (When water level reaches knee-deep, we become anxious because we know  it would only take minutes to get to chest level. We then start thinking of the danger we face as we travel, the possible accidents that could occur and other untoward incidents),” Helen recalled.

Up to this day, the poverty-stricken community has no electricity, cellphone or TV signal.

“Lisud palambuon ang livelihood diri. Hangtod karon wala’y konkretong dalan, pasilidad ug kuryente. Padayon gihapon kini nga hagit sa mga lumulupyo diri” (It’s hard to sustain economic activities here. Until now, there is no concrete road, community facilities and electricity. All these remain a challenge to the community),” admitted Randy O. Halasan, school principal here of nine years.

Helen is third of seven siblings.  Her parents, Simeon and Anita, struggled to make ends meet for the family. The family earns a measly income of P 2,000 in three months through farming.

Amidst all the difficulties, Helen still topped her class and graduated valedictorian in elementary.

“Gipaskwela ko ni Sir Randy, amoang principal, og high school sa Davao kay dako iyang paglaom na akong matabangan akong pamilya kung makahuman ko sa pag eskwela (Sir Randy, our principal, sponsored my education in high school in Davao because he had high hopes that I could help my family if I finish schooling),” Helen said.

Unfortunately, two of Helen’s brothers died. She became pregnant but lost her baby to miscarriage. Her dreams of education crashed then took a back seat.

Her life changed overnight –from a promising student to a married woman and mother with burgeoning responsibilities

In 2015, her first child died in her womb. “Nag overdue akong anak sa akong tiyan. Walay naka monitor sa akong tiyan tungod sa kalayo sa among lugar (My child was overdue in my womb. Nobody was able to monitor the progress of my pregnancy due to the remoteness of our place).”

Until today, having a baby remains a great risk to the lives of the women in Sitio Pegalongan because there is no health facility in the area.

After her child died in her womb, Helen realized their poverty-stricken community is really in dire need of development.

Dreams restored

Helen, an aspiring community volunteer, has undergone plenty of hardships and tragedies before getting back on her feet and start dreaming again.

She was so enthusiastic about the conduct of PSA in their community. In a crowded classroom full of community volunteers, Helen was one volunteer who stood out.

Through PSA, villagers learn and affirm what is currently prevailing and what their top needs are.

“Data generated by PSA become bases for identifying community development problems and priorities and in planning for appropriate interventions,” said Kalahi-CIDSS Community Development Officer Glenn Paul Ylan.

Helen knew the value of basic facilities that they need in the village as she herself experienced the difficulties.

Soon, community members underscored their pressing needs -farm to market road, hanging cable foot bridge, level II potable water system, and health center.

All the way, Helen was rooting for basic health facilities that could readily provide immediate and safe medical interventions to her fellow Matigsalogs.

Following the PSA, DSWD workers conducted the Pantawid Pamilya’s Family Development Session (FDS) and Youth Development Session (YDS), as well as an orientation on protective services that cover legal adoption, social pension, supplementary feeding, foster family care and anti-human trafficking.

“I am now more than eager to learn again and participate in all community activities in our area,” declared Helen. “With the outpouring and continuous support from DSWD, I will make every effort to help our community.” (DSWD)