Until recently, 29 year-old Merry Rose De Vera was homeless, living on the street, and making ends meet by going through people’s trash.
De Vera, who eloped with her boyfriend when she was only 19, lived in along the South Pier in Manila, where she became a mother of three children. Because of their horrible living conditions, her kids grew up sickly and weak, and were constantly in and out of government hospitals because of pneumonia.
“Ang buhay po sa kalsada sobrang hirap. Naranasan ko na kumain ng galing sa basurahan… Hindi kami halos makaligo ng isang linggo. Ang hirap po talaga tapos kapag umuulan, hindi mo alam kung saan ka tatakbo para makasilong kasi mababasa ka talaga. “’Yung mga anak ko nga halos laman ng ospital ‘yun e… laging polmunya ang sakit,” she told ABS-CBN News.
After suffering through domestic abuse from the father of her children, Merry Rose decided to find away to achieve gainful employment that would provide her children a better life.
The answer to her prayers came from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), who suggested that she should attend the free livelihood training offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in Sampaloc Manila.
“Inalok po ako ng DSWD kasi po 4Ps [Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program] member po ako… Tinanong po nila ako kung gusto ko daw po mag-aral ng TESDA [Technical Education and Skills Development Authority] para magkaroon ng trabaho. Sabi ko ‘susubukan ko po,” she says.
Merry Rose and other benificiaries of the 4P program were the first batch to finish the Tile Setting training in the Technical-Vocational Training School of the DSWD in Sampaloc which allowed her to get a better job as a tile setter in a construction firm in Makati. As of writing, she has been gainfully employed for 7 months.
As a result of the training, she has moved her kids out of their shanty in Sampaloc, Manila into a better apartment near her place of employment. Her kids are now able to attend school.
“Hindi kagaya dati na wala kaming kasiguraduhan kung may kakainin pa kami bukas, paggising ba namin mayroon ba kaming aalmusalin. Ngayon, sigurado na pong may kakainin ang mga anak ko,” Merry Rose says.
Merry Rose has a simple message to the people that are going through the same ordeal: “Ang masasabi ko lang po sa mga nakatira sa kalye na tinutulungan ng DSWD na huwag po nilang sayangin.”
The 4P’s program of the DSWD provides monetary grants to the poorest of the poor, giving conditional cash grants to qualified families for better nutrition, education and to take them out of the poverty threshold.
The TESDA training center in Sampaloc, Manila, gives 4P benificiaries a number of livelihood training programs to help impoverished families learn useful skills that will allow them to join the workforce. Everything in the course is free: from the uniform, tools, the fares to and from the training center, and even the meals they eat, allowing the poorest of the poor a chance to lift their families from poverty.