Montevista, Compostela Valley (DSWD XI) – In a barangay forum, Heidi Telic, 37 years old, a Kalahi-CIDSS volunteer and a member of Matigsalog tribe, stood in front of local government officials and her fellow community members. She did not have a formal education, but what she had are her dreams, hopes, and aspirations. Little did she know that her determination would lead her to new discoveries and improve the lives of Indigenous People (IP) in their village.

Dark past

Not so long ago, Telic, like other members of her community, found it hard to imagine a brighter future for themselves when their reality was stark. She and her husband are farmers who planted coconut, cacao, and potato for a living. Access to even the most basic social services was a challenge to them: Telic’s family lives in a small village in Barangay Dalaguete, where it takes almost an hour to and from the village center by habal habal (single motorcycle).

Safety was also an issue. For years, residents here worried about their family’s safety returning back home from school or work whenever dusk starts to descend upon the barangay. “Before, there were no lamp posts to light our streets, endangering our lives to vehicular accidents,” Telic shared.

When the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) entered their municipality in 2016, Telic took this as an opportunity to change their situation.

Fulfilling the dream

The most challenging part of Telic’s journey was to convince the IP villagers to participate. Besides the formal assemblies and meetings, she took whatever opportunity was available to explain and educate her tribe on their issues and concerns.

“While it was difficult since most of the rural IPs here are illiterate due mainly to lack of access to basic social services compared to those who live in urban areas, I spent time to make the community understand the process of Kalahi-CIDSS, that this can benefit them,” Telic recounted.

With her leadership skills, Telic became the Kalahi-CIDSS Barangay Sub-Project Management Committee (BSPMC) chair, who led the overall implementation of the sub-project in their village.

“After I defended our proposed sub-project for funding, I got nervous and excited at the same time. I couldn’t contain my joy after I presented. I never imagined that Kalahi-CIDSS program would open opportunities for us women to participate in various activities,” said Telic. Telic, with her determination, was able to inspire her community. She helped the tribe in the sub-project implementation, communicated with local leaders, and joined trainings initiated by the program. She was later elected as Barangay Kagawad after the community saw her potential as a leader. 

Since then, the IP communities have been actively involved in all aspects of the process from canvassing, budgeting, milestone monitoring, among others.

Through Telic’s efforts and massive volunteerism of community volunteers, the whole village is now bright and lively because residents were able to put up 195 units low cost solar home lighting at Php 1,711, 452.00 through Kalahi-CIDSS with a Local Counterpart Contribution of Php 129,658.00.

Gains by women

Telic was one of this year’s Kalahi-CIDSS community volunteers recognized during the Gawad Paglilingkod sa Sambayanan (GAPAS) awards at the 68th anniversary celebration of DSWD.

“Kalahi-CIDSS provides opportunity in far-flung areas through basic social services where indigenous people, especially women, are recognized and capacitated,” said DSWD FO XI Director Mercedita P. Jabagat.

As of 2019, 57.71% of Kalahi-CIDSS community volunteers in Region XI are women. About 29.32% of these women volunteers belong to the IP sector.

Kalahi-CIDSS is one of the core programs of DSWD  that aims to empower communities through enhanced participation in local governance and poverty alleviation projects.(DSWD/Julie Ace Brandon F. Ramos)