Ang kalisod dili babag sa kalamboan, ang edukasyon maoy yawi sa kalamboan (Poverty is not the hindrance to success, but education is the key to success),” said Sahara Torres.

Sahara came from an impoverished family in the town of San Jose, Negros Oriental. Born into humble circumstances, Sahara’s family constantly struggled, where meeting basic needs was a daily struggle. Their meager resources were stretched to their limits as they worked tirelessly to make ends meet.

Sahara Torres poses together with her parents and siblings.

Amid economic hardship, Sahara’s family displayed resilience and determination to uplift themselves from poverty. The insufficiency of material wealth did not lessen the richness of their familial bonds, and love became the cornerstone of their existence.

As Sahara grew, the lessons learned from poverty served as a foundation for her determination to break free from the chains of poverty.

As the eldest daughter among the children of five, Sahara knows the hardships of her father, George, a farmer, and her mother, Lelita, who sells fruits and vegetables in their local market.

George, a dedicated farmer, painstakingly tills the land owned by the family, where he plants a variety of fruits and vegetables, including bananas, papaya, string beans, okra, and eggplant.

In sustaining their agricultural livelihood, the family has diversified their efforts by cultivating various crops and raising livestock. Their livestock includes cows, carabaos, and hogs. This variety of produce fulfills the family’s nutritional needs and is the source of family income.

Despite their limited resources, the family happily shared their fresh produce with needy neighbors. Through this, Sahara’s family sustains themselves and contributes to the well-being of their neighborhood, creating a generous relationship with those around them.

Life is not easy. Their family’s earnings could not sustain their daily needs, which include food, clothing, and education, but Sahara is grateful and proud that both of her parents did their best to support them.

Miski lisud among panginabuhi, wala gyud mi gipaundang og eskwela sa among mga ginikanan. Kabalo sila unsay kalisud kung wala kay nahuman ug dili ka makakuha og nindot nga trabaho o panginabuhian (Despite the hardships, our parents continued sending us to school. They know life would be difficult if you do not have education and you cannot acquire a rewarding job or livelihood),” she said.

George and Lelita have not finished their elementary education and cannot access job opportunities due to low educational attainment.

Becoming 4Ps Household Member

By 2011, the Torres household became a Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiary. Implemented through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, it provides cash grants to the family that secures the educational needs of children – school uniforms, school supplies, and food augmentation.

“The assistance we received had not only alleviated our financial burdens but also been instrumental in fostering positive changes in various aspects of our lives,” added Sahara.

Meanwhile, George and Lelita alternately attended the enlightening monthly Family Development Session (FDS), offering a platform for learning and growth beyond financial aid. The monthly sessions have enhanced decision-making capabilities, refining child-rearing and discipline techniques, family planning, and even providing valuable insights into organic farming practices.

As a 4Ps household beneficiary, the Torres family recognized its holistic approach to addressing the many faces of poverty.

ESGP-PA

“After graduating from high school, I wanted to pursue my college education, so I decided to work and study at the same time. I submitted resumes to selected companies and also tried to apply as a working student to some households just to support my expenses in college,” shared Sahara.

Sahara proudly wears her toga during the college commencement exercises.

On May 27, 2014, coinciding with her 15th birthday, she received a message from a 4Ps Parent Leader that she could take an entrance examination at Negros Oriental State University (NORSU) to avail of the Expanded Student’s Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA).

The ESGP-PA was implemented by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) together with the DSWD, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). The program provided opportunities to 4Ps households that have children who are determined to pursue a college education and qualified for the scholarship.

Ni-take gyud ko ato nga examination tungod sa dakong paglaum nga makapadayon ko eskwela og college. Bahala na lisud ang exam, nag-ampo nalang ko sa Diyos nga makapasar unta ko isip birthday gift sa akoa (I took the examination because of high hopes that I can pursue my college education. The examination was difficult, and I just prayed to God that I would be able to pass it as a birthday gift),” she shared.

Indeed, she passed the entrance examination at NORSU Main Campus and enrolled in a Bachelor of Secondary Education major in English course.

As an ESGP-PA grantee, she received Php 20,000.00 for one-year tuition fees, Php 2,000.00 for book allowance per semester, and Php 3,500.00 monthly for school allowance.

After four (4) years of hard work, she successfully graduated from college and immediately worked for a BPO company in Dumaguete City. To pursue her teaching career, she also took this time to review for the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET).

“I rejoiced that I passed the LET in December 2018 and bravely applied to different schools for ranking. Unfortunately, my name was not on the list of the registered qualified applicants from 2019 until 2021 but I did not lose hope and I just continued to work in the BPO industry,” said Sahara.

Sahara doubled her efforts and worked as a part-time instructor in one of the private schools in Dumaguete City during the day time and as a customer service representative during the night time.

Her prayers did not go in vain for in 2022, she ranked number two (2) among the registered qualified applicants as teachers. She was hired in a job position of Teacher 1 at San Jose Provincial High School in her hometown.

Self-sufficient level

Being a dedicated daughter and sister, Sahara skillfully manages her family’s daily needs amidst the challenges posed by the rising cost of living. She ensures that every penny is allocated wisely to cover essential expenses for the family.

Currently, Sahara supports her younger siblings in college, namely Dondee, a first-year Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology with a major in Electrical Technology, and Aiza, a graduating midwifery student. The remaining siblings are still in high school: Christian, a Grade 10 student, and Jon Cris, a Grade 9 student.

Sahara presently works as a teacher at the San Jose Provincial High School.

Sahara enrolled herself in a Master of Arts with a major in Educational Management.

“No matter how difficult life is, we should not lose hope and just continue dreaming. I cannot imagine myself as a teacher right now, but I am thankful that I grew up with parents who instilled in me the value of hard work, responsibility, and faith in God,” underscored Sahara.

Even though Sahara already has a job, her family continues to farm and tend their livestock for their consumption and livelihood.

Sahara’s ability to make informed choices sets an inspiring example for her siblings, students, and all 4Ps student beneficiaries. Her resilience was commendable, and even in challenging circumstances, one can journey through the complexities of daily life with determination and grace.

A compelling confirmation of the family’s overall prosperity is reflected in the recent Social Welfare and Development Indicator (SWDI) assessment conducted by the DSWD. The results position the family at Level 3, underscoring their commendable self-sufficiency.

The family demonstrated strong economic standing, indicating their ability to meet their basic needs and maintain financial stability. This achievement underscores their successful efforts in achieving a balanced livelihood with careful financial management, supported by incomes generated from agriculture and Sahara’s salary as a public teacher. ###

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