Vilma Bitcher, thirty-five year old and a mother of two is an active volunteer for barangay San Isidro, Liloy Zamboanga del Norte. She works as a Barangay Nutrition Scholar and is also a parent-leader of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), treasurer of Damayan-SLPA Finance Credit and the Barangay Sub-Project Management Committee Chairperson for Kalahi-CIDSS since 2016.

But before becoming a part of Kalahi-CIDSS, Vilma recalled how passive the community was. They pay little attention interms of the activities in their locality and participation is hardly felt. This is partly because of the difficulty of their living condition, Vilma shared that majority of the people in this barangay are indeed very poor.

Kalahi-CIDSS NCDDP is one of the poverty-alleviation programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development which uses community-driven development (CDD) approach, a globally recognized strategy for achieving service delivery, poverty reduction, and good governance outcomes.

When the programs and services of the department entered San Isidro, they knew it would be an opportunity for the community to propose for the construction of water system since water has been scarce in this part of Liloy. Their only source used to be an open well which dries up during summer and is not safe for drinking. As a matter of fact they had experienced high cases of diarrhea with their children before.

And through a series of barangay assembly being called upon as required by the Kalahi-CIDSS, they were able to identify who were willing to provide their services as Community Volunteers and with that they were armed with trainings in terms of budgeting, procurement process, project proposals preparation and the implementation process of the sub-project in general.

But the implementation has been very challenging to the people, “noong una noong hindi pa nila naiintindihan iyong Kalahi-CIDSS, parang walang may interesado. Pero noong unti-unti na naming napapaliwanag sa mga mamamayan, unti-unting naliliwanagan ang mga isip nila… ay ang ganda pala ng layunin ng Kalahi, isa pala iyong programa na makakatulong sa pangangailangan namin sa barangay”, shared by Vilma.

Even she, herself was unsure of the turn-out of the program, she started observing and at that time during Cycle 1 despite the efforts done they weren’t prioritized. That frustration has challenged them to mobilize the community once again. With better understanding on the objectives of the program, she earned the trust of the people and that’s when she started taking charge as the BSPMC Chairperson.

“Bilang isang BSPMC Chair, naramdaman ko ang malaking responsibilidad, ikaw ang nagsisilbing pinaka-leader ng Kalahi dito sa barangay. Alam ko na kaakibat ng tungkuling ito ay kailangan maging isang mabuting huwaran ako sa lahat, na may maipagmamalaki hindi lamang sa  salita, kung hindi meron din sa gawa”, these are the words of Vilma when asked about how she carried her role in the implementation.

 True enough, during the planning process, the people came in unity in identifying what’s truly needed in the community, thus the construction of water system in barangay San Isidro has been prioritized under cycle 2 of Kalahi-CIDSS NCDDP.

Their efforts were paid off as they got lucky to be prioritized during the 3rd Cycle of KC-NCDDP. It was during the MIBF when they show how much they needed a school building for their elementary kids. Vilma’s child is among the students who take classes in the makeshift mini-gym. It wasn’t as comfortable as it can be, the makeshift classroom holds their classes on three grade levels with noises overpowering one another which is truly not conducive for learning.

With all the implementation happening in their barangay, the people felt great about the objectives of the program, they saw the intention of involving the people in project implementation and they also felt the importance of their involvement, their contribution to the community and the learning they’ve received.

They were simply grateful that through the program, even those coming from distant Puroks have access now to water supply, and with the completion of the 1 unit- 2 classroom school building, students will no longer suffer from its inconveniences.

Vilma admitted that everything she had experienced with Kalahi-CIDSS has only developed her into a more confident person despite all the struggles that came along. Although there remains to be more issues needed action in the community but they are hopeful that they can eventually find ways on how to address them.  ### JGA