An Experience Like No Other!
We thought we were too young to make a difference or influence positive change, but our IP journey simply proved and justified that we are much more than what and who we think we are.
Besting the 140 entries nationwide and being named the grand champion for Ideas Positive (IP) Run 4 has left the team in amazement and awe. Perhaps, it was just hard for us to digest the fact that we finally made it! We reached the zenith after journeying through the arduous yet satisfying valley of hardships.
Truth be told, we really had no idea what we were getting into at first. Since it was a competition, we wanted to do well in this race. Little did we know that the experience would radically change us in the process.
After visiting Sitio Lapyahan, Brgy. Labogon in Mandaue City, the site of the largest broom-making production in all of Cebu, we simply could not stay blind or deaf to what our eyes had seen and our ears had heard. We were appalled by the dire working conditions of the hardworking broom makers. We saw disturbing disparities: an old woman who should not be working anymore; children innocently and happily playing in the unsanitary workplace; and worse, school-aged children forced to skip classes and work instead.
When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, a boy named Joshua desolately answered, “Aw! Murag pareha na lang jud ko ani nila Mama ug Papa nga mamuhatay ug silhig (Well! I guess I’ll be like Mama and Papa who’ll be making brooms).” Joshua is just one of the many children in Sitio Lapyahan who have long been deprived of good opportunities.
“Naanad na lang man me (We’re used to it),” Tatay Serving, one of the broom makers, blamelessly responded when asked about his sentiments regarding their very filthy workplace. Words like Tatay Serving’s and Joshua’s ignited the fire in our hearts to help. It was clear to us then that something had to be changed – and that it had to start with a mindset overhaul.
From then on, we called ourselves Team Transformer – a prophetic declaration that we would be an agent of radical transformation in the community.
After making it through rigorous screening to become one of the Top 14 teams awarded with seed money, we thought we were all set to build a healthier Lapyahan. But as we implemented the project, we were proven wrong. Community members were not receptive to our interventions. They questioned our motives, saying, who were we to disrupt them? In their eyes, we were mere students who knew nothing about their work. We heard someone saying that we were no different from those local groups and foreigners who took pictures of them then disappeared. To be honest, at some point, we thought of quitting. But the hard work of the broom makers, the state of the workplace they have fought to keep for years, and the hope we saw in the eyes of the children reminded us where our purpose should lie – rooted in love, passion and commitment. We learned that we had to love what we were doing, because love never gives up, it never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures every circumstance.
We eventually gained the trust and cooperation of the community, and changes started happening.
25 Sagip Kalusugan Nipa Huts were constructed in the production site to shield the broom makers from the excruciating heat of the sun as they execute their tedious “laba” process.
21 ponds were restored, redefined, and made deeper through our Sagip Kabuhayan Fence, resulting to increased productivity.
20 trash bins were positioned in strategic corners in the locality.
25 masks and goggles were distributed to the broom makers for their protection.
All of these interventions have significantly reduced the upper respiratory tract infection cases from 44 to 7 as of April 2014. To sustain the project, we integrated each intervention into the fabric of their livelihood.
Our journey towards building a healthier Sitio Lapyahan and winning the top prize would never have been this meaningful without the community which we considered as our competitive advantage; our benevolent project partners and volunteers who exerted much effort and time; and of course, the Almighty, whose power and grace have truly manifested and sustained the team.
IP has indeed been a lot like rain after a long drought, falling on our thirsty minds and showering our dehydrated ideas, finally transforming our dreams to realities. We thought we were too young to make a difference or influence positive change, but our IP journey simply proved and justified that we are much more than what and who we think we are.
As I come to my concluding statement, allow me to challenge the Filipino youth with these questions: When will you concretize your illusions, your positive ideas, and your enthusiasm for the welfare of our nation? When will you prove that greatness is not only for a chosen few, but also for all of us? We did it. You, too, can make a difference. The choice to explore the power of your ideas is in you. Stand up, and together, let’s build a healthier Philippines, one community at a time.
Jerome is the leader of Team Transformer, Grand Champion of Unilab Ideas Positive Run 4. He is a 4th year BS Accountancy student of University of Cebu - Banilad.