At a very young age, Kirsten Gabriel experienced the hardships of life. She struggled keeping herself sane, her parents were not in a very good relationship; they fought every day. One day, they decided to get separated. This had a very bad impact on Kirsten. For a while, she stayed with her mother.
Kirsten, being a “rebellious” daughter, decided to try her luck living alone. She had to leave her mother and faced life on her own. Being a “jack-of-all-trades”, she applied for every job she could possibly encounter. She landed as a Dance Instructor (DI), and she did this for a long time. She was able to support herself even if this kind of job was not enough. Kirsten also joined dancing competitions to be able to earn more; she joined every contest she can in all barangays to be able to provide for her needs. Along the way, in her journey in life, she crossed paths with the man she fell in love with.
In their town in Pagadian, she met Junie, an employee at the local mining firm. They fell inlove with each other and later on had their own kids. They had 3 children, namely Dimple, 16; Glyce, 12; and Eloise, 5 years old. It was almost perfect, however; it was like what the saying goes, history repeats itself. Like what happened o her parents, Kirsten and Junie got separated, they came to a point where they cannot stand each other. Kirsten was busy to serve the multitude, while Junie became busy at work. He had bad vices such as drinking and gambling. Kirsten admits that she lacks time for Junie, but she was also determined to give her time serving the poor people who also need her help.
Kirsten needed to raise her children alone. To be able to support them, she did buy and sell.
“Kung ano yung puhunan ko kailangan ko ma buy and sell. Halimbawa yung palay, tapos kailangan mapagaling ko yun. Dayun ibenta ko yung mga bigas na sako sako sa mga bahay na umoorder. Isa yun sa negosyo ko. Dumaan din ako sa buy and sell ng alahas, ganun.”
In 2010, Kirsten qualified for Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and became an active parent leader.
After several years, in 2014, one of the core programs of DSWD was introduced to Kirsten and the other members of 4Ps, the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP). SLP Project Development Officers, met with them to relay the good news about the additional assistance that will be given to them.
The program was thorough explained to them which lead in deciding whether they will be given aid individually or as a group. Each member had different choices. Some wanted individual funding, while others want to start an association.
As individuals, beneficiaries were given 5,000 pesos from the Seed Capital Fund grant. Kirsten used this money as a capital for her buy and sell business, involving jewelry and rice sales. She earns 5 to 10 thousand a month from her rice sales, depending on the market demand. She has a physical store in the market of Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte. Also, she earns not less than 10 thousand pesos from her jewelry sales.
“Ako ang magpapagaling kase mas profitable. 65% bigas, 35% tahup.” Kirsten said. As wise as she is, the “tahup” gathered from the rice that she brought to be milled, was what she used as payment for milling the rice. Therefore, this was a form of saving, because no money from her pocket was used.
Aside from receiving individual fund, she also joined a group which later became an association, which engaged on general merchandising. She became president of the association which she leads up to this day.
In the municipal level, she was also voted as president among all other presidents of the different associations under their municipality. The group agreed to collect 500 pesos from each of the members to make this as savings. The money was from the Cash Building Livelihood Asset grant. They also did general merchandise where they cater the farmers. They sell fertilizers, abono, and such.
At one time, PDOs from the provincial cluster invited the presidents from the different municipalities. PDOs presented their project proposal to the members that they believe will further improve their lifestyle. The proposal presented was the idea of the provincial coordinator.
The project proposal of a 3-storey microenterprise federation incorporated came to a reality. The soft opening was on September of 2015. This was BIR and SEC registered before it officially opened. Kirsten who was very transparent and having good intentions for the project was elected for the third time, and this time, as president of this project. She promised to herself that she will not let all the beneficiaries down who made this project possible.
Although other members supervised the operation of this building, Kirsten also looks after this herself. The association offers catering services, they have a sari-sari store, an area for skills training, as well as a dormitory for in-house beneficiaries. The members believe that this building is their hope especially more trainings were coming their way.
Eventually, the Technical Vocational Institutes became their partners. Skills training were held in SLPPMFI building. This meant this was a good opportunity for them, because the venue was paid for, as well as the food they served.
Being a public servant, especially a leader definitely eats up your time. Kirsten, being a mother, is always thankful that her children understands her passion for work,
“Sinasabi ko lang sakanila na lahat ng pagsisikap ko hindi lang naman yun para sa atin, para makakain tayo, kundi para din sa future nila. Kase alam ko naman na mangyayari sa darating na panahon, alam ko na pinaagi ba sa akoang leadership nako, paningkamutan nako na ang hinahawakan kong mga posisyon ay mapalambo ang mga federation building. Sinabi ko sa mga anak ko na intindihin niyo ako kung wala man ako dito palagi kase para sa future niyo ‘to.”
Kirsten was also very proud of her 2 elder chidren,
“Yung mga anak ko walang year na hindi mag 1st. Yung dalawa, naapektuhan man sila kase lumipat kame sa poblacion dahil nagpatayo ako ng bahay dun. Pero kahit na ganun ang nangyari lagi naman silang nasa top 10. Hindi parin ako nabigo kahit na hindi ko sila masyadong naaasikaso dahil nasa top 10 naman sila. Nag aaral talaga at nakikita din nila yung pagsisikap ko para kung ano yung pangangailangan nila maibigay ko talaga.”
As in any situation, struggles are always present, just like in Kirsten’s group. Collecting dues from the members of the association wasn’t easy. As some of the members were hopeful, others were doubtful.
“Pinapaintindi ko sakanila na “Nag sasave tayo para sa future dahil time is gold, time is money. Maghintay lang tayo ng tamang panahon magkakapera tayo.”
If Kirsten was a hero, she would be like “The Flash”. Whenever the barangay, municipality, or the provincial cluster needs her, she always rushes to their aid, wherever she is, and whatever she’s doing.
There were also times when she cannot sleep in her own bed. Due to the time required by her job, she often rents a room whenever it’s too late for her to travel home. She also uses the extra time to prepare for the next agenda rather than travelling home.
Being hired by the SLPPMFI, salary is based on how many clients they’ll have. She can truly say that there was a huge change in her life.
“Dati kase yung involvement ko sa public barangay level lang, ngayon kase malaki na ang pinasok naming negosyo. Malaki na talaga ang naitulong sakin ng DSWD, physically, emotionally, pagka empower ko, lahat lahat yun.”
She will never be afraid to commit herself to give her services to the poor people, especially in the grassroots level. She believes that her strong will to help improve their lives will surely help pull them out of the situation they are in right now.
“Nagpapasalamat ako na may ahensya na DSWD kase lahat ng Pilipino na mahihirap na tao tinutulunagn talaga nila, nakikita ko yun actual talaga dahil isa akong member for 8 years.”
“Sa lahat ng president na dumaan na hindi nila niwala ang pantawid, ang 4Ps isa din yun sa mga pinapasalamatan ko.”
“Kay sir Donato Savella kase concepto niya yun. Siya talaga ang nag initiate, siya ang nag encourage. At siya din ang nag advise na ganito ang mangyayari sa future. Maramiakong natutunan sakanya.
Kirsten also thanks the Almighty God, the PDOs, MLs, her children, and Association Presidents. Also, she is thankful to the people she serves, “Pasalamat pod ko sa katawhan kay kung wala sila hindi ako magiging ganito.”
Kirsten continues to inspire people who were deprived of having a good life, those who are fighting the struggles of life.
“Sa mga beneficiary gaano man tayo kahirap ngayon, kung nahihirapan sa ngayon wag sumuko. Hindi man ngayon ang time na aasenso tayo kailangan magsikap, magsikap talaga. Dagdagan at habaan pa yung pasensya tungkol sa pagsisikap kase hindi tayo magsikap para sa sarili natin walang mangayayri. Hindi natin maibibigay kung ano yug dapat obligasyon natin para sa anak natin at pamilya. Aya kailangan talaga ng pasisikap isa yun ata saka wag na wag silang mawalan ng pagasa. Dahil habang buhay ang tao may pagasa. At wag kalimutang magdasal sa Diyos. Bago ang lahat ng gawain sa lahat ng oras sa lahat ng araw bago matulog at paggising sa umaga magdasal talaga dahil wala ng ibang mas powerful pa kundi ang diyos. Lahat ng dasal ibibigay niya yan pero may mga rason na hindi man niya ibigay sa ngayon, sa darating na panahon ibibigay niya sa tamang panahon. Kaya huwag mawalan ng pag asa sa mga mahihirap na bene dahil isa yun, andito din ako para sakanila.”
Kirsten is now living with her kids and her soon to be husband whom she met after 4 years of being single mom. They are now together for three years, hoping for a love to last.