Sunday, November 8, 2015

Building Back Better for the Marginalized Youth of Typhoon Yolanda

[reposted from website]
In November 2013, 18-year-old Jocelyn Guilan of Hernani Eastern Samar was poised to enroll at the University of the Philippines (UP) School of Health Sciences in Palo, Leyte, having been accepted as a full scholar in midwifery. But when Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda, struck on the morning of 8 November, Jocelyn’s life was put on hold. UP Palo was destroyed and months later she could no longer take advantage of the scholarship. “With our family’s livelihood destroyed, if we did not have enough money for daily meals, then how much more for school expenses?” says Jocelyn.

Julie Ann Tabuclao, 20, from Barangay Old San Agustin in Basey Samar, had also earned a scholarship from Leyte Normal University. But when funding for the scholarship fell through, she went to work as househelp in Manila, determined to save enough money to go back to school. Julie Ann was able to re-enroll in Eastern Visayas State University (EVSU), but then Typhoon Yolanda struck and her father got very sick. Julie Ann had to use her hard-earned savings for the hospitalization and medical bills of her father, who eventually died months later.
Jocelyn and Julie Ann are only two of countless youth whose lives were completely disrupted by Typhoon Yolanda in the central Philippines.
In the wave of post-disaster relief and recovery, it is not uncommon for certain sectors or groups to get priority over others. Elementary schools, for example, often get rehabilitated first while high schools remain dilapidated with nary a make-shift classroom built nor learning materials provided. This is because elementary schoolchildren are considered more vulnerable and given priority by development agencies. Livelihood programs, on the other hand, are directed to heads of families and the elderly, who are also seen as more vulnerable, while the youth have to join the queue.
In the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda, things have been done differently. Recognizing the critical need to support the often forgotten youth sector, one component of a Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction grant to the Philippine government provides free tuition, vocational and life skills training, meals, board and lodging, transport for job searching, and other materials to help youth like Jocelyn and Julie Anne get back on their feet.

Training for a lifetime of opportunities

After careful screening, 201 girls and boys were enrolled in technical-vocational courses at the Kananga-EDC Institute of Technology (KEITECH) in Kananga, Leyte, and Balicuatro College of Arts and Trades (BCAT) in Allen, Northern Samar. As one of the students optimistically puts it: “[We are] away from home but with a purpose!”
The aim is for the students to gain training certification by the country’s Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, as well as an English proficiency certificate they can present when applying for jobs abroad. Yet, not many of them are planning to go abroad. Some students dream of becoming entrepreneurs, while others intend to find work in their home communities or nearby cities to help with the reconstruction effort.
The government agencies, local authorities, and ADB's implementing partner, Plan International, are committed to help them look for work. Those who would like to start their own businesses have the possibility of joining the community-based enterprise development training supported by the grant.
Eleven scholars have already graduated, nine electricians and two carpenters, all passing their certification exams at their first attempt. Nikko Badanoy, 22, from Suluan island in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, decided to train in electrical maintenance because after Yolanda a large number of families and barangay officers received generators from aid agencies, which will need maintenance.
Fresh from graduation, Nikko now works as an electrician for a construction company that is rebuilding 11 classrooms at Guiuan National High School. He is due to travel to his home island of Suluan to repair the local elementary school, which he thinks will surprise his home community.
Dickson Ogario, 19, of Cansumangkay, Balangiga, Eastern Samar, is now a certified carpenter. When asked about how he felt after the graduation ceremonies, he cannot hide his joy. “This might just be what we need to make our dreams possible.”
Jocelyn, who received a full board scholarship, will graduate in mid-November in housekeeping. Meanwhile, Julie Anne is about to finish her motorcycle and small engine servicing course. Asked why she opted for this subject instead of more traditional courses, she answers without hesitation that it was because of financial considerations.
“Motorcycles are the transport mode in rural areas, and there are a lot of them, [while there are] too few mechanics,” she says. “I thought that would be a big opportunity for me!”

Building lives back better

The concept of "Building Back Better" is commonly believed to refer to stronger, more resilient infrastructure: houses, schools, and other community buildings. But in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda, in addition to infrastructure, young lives and communities are being rebuilt better, thanks to the youth-focused component of a grant administered by ADB.


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