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BLIND SPOT: Livelihood as it should

I like it when I get official invitations to events. I get an escape from the pressures of regular work duties; and I get to go home earlier than usual; and I’m on “official business”. The Resource Center for the Blind’s Midyear Stakeholders Forum with the barangay health workers in majority of the attendance followed issues on update of database of persons with visual impairment in naga City, information dissemination procedures, efficient and comprehensive data gathering, and proposed livelihood projects, among others. A reverberating, resounding, recurring, echoing concerns raised by barangay health workers borne from their survey expeditions, is the clamor for “livelihood training” for persons with disability, who are indigent. Incidentally days ago, I was watching a popular national newscast set against a backdrop of a livelihood training of making of fashion beads (Can’t we get a more basic product?) for Mt. Pinatubo victims; and it got me thinking, “All this time, they still need livelihood training? Didn’t that happen 25 years ago. Am I just insensitively ignorant or shouldn’t the communities have risen back to normality by this time?” Well anyway, what I’m trying to say is, “isn’t livelihood training already become a household name by this time, and is it not time for communities to be necessitating more advanced concerns, or is it?”. Several years ago, in a consultative meeting for programs for persons with disability, coordinated by the local DTI office, the then regional director was passionately encouraging PWD organizations to participate in the department’s programs for livelihood and entrepreneurial industry, yet at the same time, emotionally lamenting the less than impressive state of products submitted by PWD groups for promotion of the department. Apparently, the product’s salability is founded on the appeal to charity for the less fortunate, which would not stand sustainability; and eventually, livelihood would not live up to what it should. In case you’re missing it, the cooperatives must have spent a considerable amount of fund in capital (through loans possibly from lending agencies). In this case, with little or no profit; well, you probably know what I mean. (Now, it wouldn’t be surprising if the project goes back to square one; that is, assuming it hasn’t been abandoned yet.) Maybe I wasn’t invited for the subsequent meetings, or I had gone out of the circulation; but I had not heard of the program since. I wonder what happened. In a conversation with Philippine Blind Union President Butch Robredo, he shares how a certain group of persons with disability took a shot at a venture into a handicraft enterprise. Before the project even takes off, he relates that another organization of able-bodied persons decides to run parallel in the same handicraft business. (Now, how’s that for fair competition?) This is not to mention that one completely finished piece accounts for a modest profit. So, do you still need a business analysis or a crystal ball to tell what would happen if both groups launch their business projects in full effect? Some people need a refresher on sensitivity. Having been in one a many gift distributions and capacity building trainings, it is an interesting observations that livelihood trainings are held on conference halls; while distributions of free packs of rice, grocery items and whatever else , occur on covered courts, multi-purpose halls, and coliseums, where you seem to get to meet the entire population of a given recipient community. Heck, even the most recluse of the farthest upper barangay show up; while a long list of excuses of ineptitudes are sent in place of physical attendance, when invitations for livelihood development activities are sent out. Get my point? While an African American disc jockey on a Snoop Doggy Dogg album asks his community, “Can you say farewell to welfare?”, Filipinos would support a presidential candidate who would intensify 4Ps to which full devotion if offered with a long snaking queue. Going back to the forum, in case you haven’t noticed, the livelihood training was a perceived need by community workers, a proposed project by a PWD resource center and people’s organization, and not actually a request from the recipient community. That’s just what some group of concerned people think they need; not what they say they need (despite the fact that entrepreneurial capacity may be the very service they need). Taking these all into perspective, faithfully functional poverty reduction measures requires synchronized coordination among the program recipients, program managers, and the surrounding community. (Whatever that takes) “…work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.” Ephesians 4:28

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