BUTUAN CITY – As a day care worker way back in 2002, Gloria Leuterio’s mission in a modest village of Mat-e in Cagwait, Surigao del Sur was to simply look at the welfare of toddlers. She also makes hats made from indigenous materials to augment an income which can barely feed her family of five.

Each household in her village can hardly afford to have the basic necessities in life and as if this isn’t enough for one man to kneel and accept all the misfortunes of life, it pains Gloria’s heart to see those children’s translucent eyes full of hopelessness that pierce one’s soul. She could only wish to carry them herself. However, this didn’t stop her to create and lobby resolutions she crafted for both government and foreign agencies to fund a project in their village – a one-woman battle, so to speak.

She realized that what was very threatening in their village and surfaced as their number one problem was the velocity of the nearby river which increases every time there is a typhoon that hits this part of Mindanao. She recalled that in the middle of one elementary graduation rites, the togas the students wore started to soak and the mother’s face paints created an abstract painting in the creases of their mouths yet the program continued in a torment of chills and puckered skin. There was also an incident that as she was finishing a hat, she noticed that the water had reached their day care center and was reaching her waist and what a vision it was when she glanced through the window all types of livestock were swimming in the current.

But all of this is changing now.

With the ushering of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s anti-poverty special program, the KALAHI-CIDSS last February 2010 and her new position as the barangay captain, the daunting task of supervising her community and working with them in implementing the project have endowed a new sense of leadership in her. A kind of leadership that in a span of time she never would have thought could change the thread of life in her humble village.

The Barangay Mat-e residents have identified a concrete flood protection structure as their sub-project through a series of barangay assemblies and other social mobilization activities that the volunteers themselves conducted. Such was the passion of the volunteers that it only took them four days (starting October 5) to reach a 50% physical completion of the sub-project. With the volunteer’s unwavering support and commitment to Gloria as the head of their village and with further technical assistance and impeccable training provided to them by the Area Coordinating Team, the barangay even managed to save money and expand their riverbank structure to a nearby purok. The sub-project is now set to be inaugurated by January 2011.

Gloria, who had never been prouder since her eldest son graduated from high school professed that the feeling she has right now is comparable to that person who has reached nirvana – a sense of elation and complete blissful experience which she shares with other volunteers. This she owes to that empowerment that sprung from the passion of the volunteers and their unflinching belief that misfortunes could be seen as a motivation for change.

Gloria still knits hats and together with her council, they are now crafting their Barangay Development Plan for 2011.

Leadership and good governance she thinks make for a good new year’s resolution for the whole village. ###(Social Marketing Unit)