Ricky Assislo, former marijuana farmer, has used the SLP seed capital fund in his soft broom making project.

Santol, La Union – The Local Government of Santol, La Union has turned its drug surrenderers, now called completers, to productive mircoentrepreneurs through the implementation of DSWD’s “Yakap Bayan”, a program that aims to turn recovering drug dependents to community leaders, volunteers, and active citizens in the society.

Part of the reintegration program is the provision of seed capital fund to the beneficiaries to start and/or improve their chosen income-generating activities. In April 2018, DSWD Field Office 1 – Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) granted PhP158,000.00 seed capital fund to the 65 members of Pagsadagan nga Agturong Raniag ken Ekonomiya (PARE) SLP Association for their furniture and soft broom making, bonsai beads making, and barako coffee and food processing projects. “Marami ang binigay na mga training sa amin sa loob ng anim na buwan pero mas pinili ko ang furniture making dahil marami akong tanim na mga puno. Gusto ko, ako ang gumawa at magbenta (There are lots of trainings provided to us within six months; however, I chose furniture making because I own plenty of trees. I want to be the one to make and sell furniture),” said “Cardo”, a completer from Brgy. Mangaan. Now, Cardo is earning decent money and supplying furniture to April Joy Home Decors and Furniture, one of the biggest furniture retailers in Region 1. Cardo also employed his co-completers as furniture makers in his budding business.

Meanwhile, Eliza Olario, former marijuana courier, shared that after her six-month stay in the Camp, she can now sleep well. She also realized that if she were caught by the police because of selling marijuana, she would not be able to hug her children again. The program enabled her to see the real value of her family. Eliza, one of the recipients of the SLP seed fund, is now selling banana chips and earns a daily average income of Php200.00, a great help to augment for their day-to-day requirements.

Reformed mindset

Lack of capital build-up, skills enhancement trainings, proper orientation on the effects of dangerous drugs, and other factors of poverty forced the members of the Association to engage in the Marijuana business. “Wala kaming alam na pagkakakitaan na magbibigay sa aming pamilya ng malaking kita maliban sa pagtatanim at pagde-deliver ng marijuana (We did not know of any other livelihood that can give our families high income except marijuana planting and shipment),” shared Eliza. “Nung una ay nanghinayang pa kaming sumuko. Pero nagpapasalamat kami sa LGU at DSWD dahil sila ang tumulong sa aming magkaroon ng marangal na trabaho na may magandang kita (At first, we had regrets surrendering. But we are later thankful that the LGU and DSWD helped us seek dignified source of livelihood with good income),” she added.

Sa tulong ng iba’t-ibang line agencies na nandiyan araw-araw sa loob ng six months, ang mga drug surrenderers ay marunong nang manalangin. Iba’t-iba ang natutunan nila sa ating community-based rehabilitation gaya ng livelihood (In six months, through the daily help of various line agencies, the drug surrenderer learned how to pray. They have also learned different undertakings such as livelihood through the community-based rehabilitation program),” said Santol Mayor Magno A. Wailan.

A Livelihood Focal was appointed by the LGU to help DSWD staff monitor the progress of the livelihood projects implemented in the municipality, provide additional technical assistance, and assist in the marketing of their products. The Negosyo Center located inside the municipal building was opened to promote the town’s products to visitors while providing means of livelihood to local product makers which include the PARE SLP Association. “Yakap Bayan” was launched in 2017 not only to provide rehabilitation, aftercare, transformation, and reintegration support for recovering drug surrenderers, but it intends to help create a safe society for the new generation. # By: Darwin T. Chan, Social Marketing Unit