Butuan City – When others see things as junk or garbage, some see them as food and survival.

Relying from the considered waste of the industrialized Butuan, a group named NAgkahiusang PUBring MangayKAYay (NAPUBKAY) is one in their deemed means of surviving. The foods they serve on their tables were their gains from scavenging the used, wasted bottles, plastics, and materials from the mound of garbage situated in Doongan. Though there is much risk in scavenging wastes, but they condone it because this is their only means of feeding their families.

doongan johnson
Christopher Johnson shares his testimonial during the turn-over ceremony of their laundry shop sub-project.

Purok 3, Doongan used to be a haven for the thirty (30) families who depended so much on the dumpsite. But with the growing industry of the city, the site was relocated, and it was developed into a Tree Park.  Members of the NAPUBKAY association felt very hopeless as to what they will do to make a living. Most of them are only elementary graduates and it is difficult for them to apply for jobs in the city. They have nowhere to go since they don’t have properties other than their small, dilapidated houses.

“We were told many promises of help from many agencies, but the only realized promise was that of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)”, shared Christopher M. Johnson, 29, single, president of the NAPUBKAY.

“A center of livelihood was our request ever since the dumpsite was developed into an Eco-Park. We clearly articulated this during the barangay assemblies, and in the proposals that we submitted.” Christopher added.

The assemblies and community proposals are integral parts of the Community-Driven Development (CDD) approach of the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan- Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) Urban pilot project. This is a poverty-alleviation project of DSWD which is pilot tested in Butuan City for the region, which aims at bringing the participatory, transparency, and accountability principles of the CDD technology into the urban setting.

“KC-CDD Urban opened doors and built bridges of camaraderie within and among our humble community,” Christopher shared.

“During our assemblies conducted by the DSWD, we were tasked to discuss with our co-villagers about the immediate needs of the whole community. Two (2) Puroks outshone the others considering the criterion of which group needs the grant most. Purok 10 competed against us during the prioritization since their area also badly needed a day care center, but the funding assistance was only one million pesos (Php 1,000,000)- an amount enough for one project in a purok. Both parties were so aggressive in winning the grant. However, with the help of the Area Coordinating Team (ACT) of the KC-CDD Urban, we were able to strategize by outsourcing from other concern agencies.” Johnson shared.

“Gladly, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Caraga, extended an additional fund for our proposed laundry shop livelihood center. With the help also of the City/Barangay Local Government Unit’s counterpart, we were able to realize the said center,“ he happily expressed.

One woman volunteer, Lolita Daquila, 49, wife of a scavenger husband served as a bookkeeper for the project implementation. As she shared her experience of implementing the sub-project she recalled their experiences before it has come into fruition.

barangay assembly in doongan
2nd Barangay Assembly in Doongan, Butuan City

“The way the sub-project was implemented is far-different from the other government projects that I have known. In the CDD, there was a community-level consultation that happened. Even to our surprise, we were the ones who were entrusted to manage the whole implementation.” she shared.

Lolita, who does dressmaking and selling flowering plants to provide the needs of her eight (8) children, was elated when she experienced capability building trainings through the project. She shares how her financial literacy and management trainings changed her outlook in terms of budgeting her family’s finances.

“I’m proud that I have added skills other than dressmaking and gardening, I now know how to make proposals, to review Disbursement Vouchers (DVs), to craft liquidation reports, and to prepare procurement documents,” she enthusiastically quipped.

These trainings were conducted to them to facilitate and equip them in the implementation of the livelihood center.

Lolita and Christopher’s community wasn’t excused on the presence of hindering factors as they journeyed in realizing their dream sub-project. Their group met communication gap problems, confusion of the CDD process, and some unavoidable political rivalry since the implementation process was at the peak of the barangay elections.

Little did everyone know that it even came to a point that the barangay captain decided to pull out the project in the barangay because he didn’t like the selected community volunteers and he misunderstood the CDD process. But since the Kalahi-CIDSS project strongly exercises participatory and informed decision-making, the ACT, and the Regional Project Management Office (RPMO) staff, together with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), coordinated to the Barangay LGU for assembly and discussion about the issue. It was then settled after transparent communication and discussion within both parties.

laundry shop
The NAPUBKAY Laundry station in Doongan, Butuan City

Behind all the in spite and despite, finally, the efforts of the community volunteers came into realization as the laundry shop started operationalizing on June 9, 2014 which benefited the families of the NAPUBKAY association.

“We braved ourselves and our incapacities with the opportunity provided to us by the project.” expressed Christopher.

“When others only see us as lowly scavengers, the CDD approach of Kalahi-CIDSS reflects us as leaders and facilitators of change and development in our community. We initiated and worked hard. Thus, we can say, yes, KAYA NAMIN ANG PAGBABAGO!” summed Christopher. ###(Social Marketing Unit/DSWD Field Office Caraga)