From huts to sturdier houses: a story on empowerment

By May Grecia-Rago
DSWD Regional Information Officer

He wore a loose grey shirt and a tranquil face while sitting on a wooden stage set for the formal turn-over of houses that was about to happen in Brgy. Pawa, Panay, Capiz.

When I asked him where his house is, he pointed me to the rightmost shelter, beside the stage. It had a label placed adjacent to the door knob which showed his name boldly printed “Ramir Barrera.”

Thirty-nine-year-old Ramir Barrera of Brgy. Pawa, Panay, Capiz is one of the beneficiaries of the DSWD and UN Habitat shelter project

Thirty-nine-year-old Ramir happily showed to me his new home where he, his wife Emilyn and their two children will be staying for good.

“We are really grateful for the house given to us,” he said.

Just a few meters from Ramir was a young mother cuddling her baby.She told me that her name is May Deleona and said, We are very thankful because now we already have a house. Our house before was totally washed out by typhoon Yolanda.”

May Deleona with baby Nathan Lance is now staying in their newly constructed house

May, 23 years old, has a child, six-month-old Nathan Lance, with her common-law husband Frances Archivo. The young couple has not been married yet but hopes that one day, they will.

About seven meters away from May, I saw a group of women who seemed to have made the grounds of Brgy. Pawa as a place where they could chat from time to time.

The group was composed of Nora Vegas, Ma. Christina Veloso who was carrying her nephew JL, and Cherryl Barrera. When I approached them, Nora said, Building a house this big would not be possible if you (referring to DSWD, UN Habitat and partners) did not help us. Our small huts were totally washed out).”

One of the houses established in Belle, Pontevedra, Capiz

They were only part of the 660 homeowners coming from Capiz and Iloilo who recently received their Certificates of Occupancy from the UN Habitat with funding from the People of Japan, which implemented the Post Yolanda Support for Safer Homes and Settlements Project in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Housing and Urban Development Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), the Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC) and Base Bahay, Inc.

The houses are located in Panay, Pontevedra and Roxas City, all in Capiz; and Estancia, Iloilo.

The DSWD gave P42.7 million as a counterpart to the project, specifically at P70,000 each for 610 families, under its Core Shelter Assistance Program (CSAP).
Women have established friendship 
in the neighbourhood of Pawa, Panay, Capiz

“We would like to commend the people, the homeowners. You have made us believe that people’s process works. Now, we can say that we can do this to the rest of the country as well,” said Christopher Rollo, Country Programme Manager of UN Habitat.

The people’s process places people at the center of the project, not only to provide safer homes, but to empower them to become disaster resilient.

The project uses a community driven approach to recovery and rehabilitation, which provides opportunities for people’s participation in building their houses.

Consultation with community groups helped UN Habitat design and refine a sturdy house meant to meet basic needs of the beneficiary households.

The design was developed in collaboration with the Capiz chapter of the United Architects of the Philippines, and its structural integrity has been checked by the Capiz chapter of the Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines.

What followed then was a celebration of victory with the blessing of the Multi-purpose building donated by another partner, BDO Foundation.

The building, aside from being used as a venue for the community activities, can also serve as an evacuation center.

In the afternoon, the UN Habitat staff, DSWD workers and other partners went on with the festivity at Belle Village III, Pontevedra, Capiz.

Children were seen playing in front of their new houses, women were seen dancing Zumba, male teenagers showed modern dance and young mothers gave song numbers.

For me, it was a mirror of both joy and new discovery that there was power within themselves as people.

DSWD Assistant regional director for operations 
Rebecca Geamala and Country Program Manager 
Christopher Rollo of UN Habitat 
inspect one of the shelter units
“I feel like I am more beautiful now that I’m going home to a nice and sturdy house,” said Joan Alcazarin of Belle Village.

Joan, a mother to seven children, gave her testimony during the program.

“The typhoon destroyed our house. It leaned on one side and so I had to bend my back often when cooking. We were just thankful that we were given tents immediately after the typhoon. Had we not been given the tents, rain water would get us all wet because water passes through our roof and walls,” she said.

Joan said that one time, when their house was nearing completion and they went to check it, one of her children told her, “Oh we will be having a nice house ‘Ma.”

She expressed how grateful she is of the help that their family has received by saying, “I won’t have to bend my back anymore when I cook meals, we are safe while sleeping and at home, and even when it rains hard, we are not scared.”

More than anything else, it was they, the beneficiaries, who made the transformation happen because of their active participation./dswd6

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