More and more people who are struggling with poverty in the provinces continue to flock to the cities in search of better employment and living conditions for their families.
However, many of those who lack educational background and skills end up in the slums and find themselves in worse situations. Most of them don’t only worry about getting a job, but also about where to get the food to feed their hapless children.
BRIDGING THE GAP
Recognizing the importance of resolving these issues of the urban poor, EnFaNCE (Encouraging Families in Need and Care for Education) Foundation, Inc. has initiated programs to improve people's lives while bridging the gap between the poorest of the poor and the existing organizations providing health, education, social and economic services.
A non-profit, non-government organization (NGO), EnFaNCe was created with the support of French NGO Inter Aide that specializes in development programs such as the Family Development approach that fits the context of emerging countries like the Philippines.
For almost 10 years now, the foundation has been changing the lives of people in the settlements in Tondo, Baseco and Smokey Mountain through a microfinance program. This initiative proves the best solution for families whose small incomes are usually spent to pay debts.
"Tondo is one of the poorest areas in Metro Manila. The residents live hand-to-mouth day to day. Sanitation is non-existent. Child mortality is rampant. Education is scarce and generally, families just try to survive. However, the people are strong, resilient, and happy despite having nothing. This kind of happiness is something to inspire even the coldest of hearts," says EnFaNCE executive director Kirsty Milev.
The communities are receptive and cooperative about all their programs that the staff who visits these areas four times a week to carry out the projects have already created an excellent relationship with the people.
There are also volunteers in the communities who promote EnFaNCE's projects and answer questions when the team is not available.
THE POWER OF A COIN
The organization believes that a continuous effort is required to be able to achieve a long term solution. Instead of just giving them provisions that will not last, EnFaNce motivates the members of the community to care for their own welfare by taking an active role.
Through its Family Budget and Savings (FBS) Program in partnership with microfinance institute UPLIFT, families were given the capability to gain back their income. Under the “Piso-Pisong Ipon (PPI) program, families are able to open and maintain a savings account with only one peso as initial deposit.
Milev says, “The FBS program includes an extremely effective micro-savings product which is the PPI with intensive social support enabling families to change their own lives. It is their money and dedication that make the change happen but EnFaNCE stands beside them, encouraging them all the way to achieve their dreams."
Currently, the PPI has 1,500 members and still growing, due to the regular home-visits which encourage families to save and manage their money.
EnFaNCE also conducts community information sessions on budget management to equip members with the right skills to properly handle their family finances. The "Dream Your Own Project" pulong, on the other hand, urges the people to create their own project for their families, and helps them execute it.
"Our program is an enabler. We provide the tools and support (that the) community members (use) to change their lives. Economically, some families buy houses and others create their businesses. Families are also given access to medical centers. Employment is offered. Even marital relationships are mended and parenting is worked on," reveals Milev.
AN ORGANIZATION WITH A HEART
Recently, EnFaNCE together with Alay Kapwa Foundation, Caritas Margins, KIDS Foundation, and Labor's Advocacy for Reform Movement has been recognized by Adamson University's Saint Vincent de Paul (SVP) National Awards for its outstanding dedication and achievement in empowering poor communities through collaborative efforts of both the foundation and their beneficiaries.
"EnFaNCE is an organization with a heart. It is the first organization that I have ever worked for that is really transparent and is really working with the poorest of the poor. It has changed me in the way I understand development problems. More importantly, it has fostered in me a monumental respect for the poor in the way they manage their situation and remain positive through all the trials they face," she says.
For Milev, no singular action will solve any problem. She hopes that people from different walks of life will work together in a comprehensive approach, guided by a common cause. And that is to create a better future for everyone.
"The reward of helping people take control of and change their lives is what drives me to continue in my line of work. Try it! There is no way to describe the feeling. It is happiness without selfishness, a pure form of fulfillment," Milev says.