Bagis: the story of Filipino fishermen

For hundreds of years and since the arrival of the Spanish settlers, the wealth of Negros island, located in the region of Western Visayas in the Philippines, comes from the sugar cane. Despite this fact, many communities along the coast are using fishing activities as the main source of income. The local fishermen, who are poor and have little access to education, have to sustain their own needs and the needs of a growing population in this country. Mainly equipped with basic bancas (small wooden boats), they have been using for decades fishing techniques, which are harmful for the marine ecosystems: such as blast fishing , cyanide fishing, overfishing. The destruction of mangroves (facilitating fish breeding) for logging and the pressure coming from commercial fishing boats (always better equipped and very often nearly illegal) lead to a critical situation both for the environment and the communities who depend on it.

Actions are being carried out nationally and locally by different actors, which sometimes collaborate on that matter: NGOs, environmentalists, governmental organizations, associations, universities and individuals who are genuine nature lovers. These initiatives are dedicated to help the whole society to become aware of the situation, take responsibility and ultimately change the overall attitudes. A legislative arsenal has already been in place for many years to legally protect the most vulnerable population against the intensive exploitation of natural resources by companies which have limited concerns regarding wealth sharing.

Because of all these reasons, Simon Olivieri, one of our HOST-NGO volunteer involved in the projects implemented in Bacolod City for over a year now, has decided to launch a documentary film project: Bagis, which means shark in the local dialect. To conduct this open and collaborative work, Simon is supported by a team of four Filipinos, who are helping him to prepare and meet the local communities, and involve the persons who will be displayed in this documentary. Ebrahim Diallo, a French photographer, will join them for the shooting to be held over 25 days next November.

The movie will be an actual journey designed to meet with the communities who are facing these issues. It will also be the opportunity to introduce the actors who are helping them to improve their life by offering diversified livelihood activities and broadcasting useful information: on topics such as eco-tourism, sustainable fish farming techniques, better production management, enforcement of existing laws and environmental awareness. The project’s main objective is to highlight the stories of those who refrain from accepting poor living conditions and struggle to offer a better future for the next generations.

The project is mainly produced by Simon and Ebrahim but they need extra support from everyone wishing to help them covering the living costs during the shooting: transportation, accommodation, food and boat rental for a team of six members. To become a movie co-producer and find more information, click here: http://www.touscoprod.com/fr/project/shareActuality?id=3970


Positive feedback on CHR's involvement at the SDC

Since early August, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Bacolod City has been providing weekly services to the Social Development Center and the children taken into protective custody. This public organization, introduced in an article last month, has partnered with SDC and HOST-NGO. The CHR aims at raising awareness on children's rights and ensuring that these rights are fully observed within the center.

Following the first two months of this partnership, we have conducted a quick overview of the activities led by Mr. Romeo Baldevarona, CHR supervisor, and Mrs. Gina Alli, investigator and CHR officer. The first sessions have been dedicated to raising awareness on their own rights for every child catered at the SDC. The objective is to inform the children on their right for protection, especially in case of child abuse or exploitation committed by adults. The issue of child labour and child trafficking was also discussed by the CHR members and the children at the SDC. These activities showed to be perfectly adapted to the youth's needs and challenges as many of them have a disadvantaged social background and have been facing such issues. Our young beneficiaries have been carefully listening to the various testimonies and advice, and even shared their own experience with the other participants.

The CHR has also been conducting two sessions on individualized legal support targeting the children in conflict with the law who are dealing with a court case. This activity aims at informing each targeted child on his/her particular situation, rights and duties, so that he/she understands the issues at stake and take the necessary decisions to fulfill his/her own interests. As of today, a dozen young people have been supported thanks to the CHR's useful explanation and advice, in addition to the daily follow-up provided by SDC's social workers.

The coming activities will be dedicated to carry on this awareness project while working on another important topic: staff training on issues related to child-rights protection. Seminars will be held by the CHR members to help SDC's team to offer better services to answer the specific needs of their young beneficiaries and reduce the risk of child abuse.


“Adopt a tree” – HUGPONG’s first eco-friendly activity

HUGPONG, our local group gathering volunteers' organizations, participated into a tree planting activity last Saturday. The Mayor of Don Salvador Benedicto invited HUGPONG organization to join a project called “Adopt a tree”. The municipality has indeed designed an environmental program designed to promote forest preservation in a participatory approach. It is dedicated to ensure a fresh, pollution-free and cool environment for every inhabitant in Don Salvador’s area.

The tree planting activity encourages the local community to engage itself for the protection of the environment. Indeed every interested person has the opportunity to support the city’s eco-friendly program with the symbolic “purchase” of a tree to be planted in a designated area. The current area is located along the road going to San Carlos (western coast of Negros Island), which is approximately an one-hour drive from Bacolod City.

As a not-for-profit organization, HUGPONG has been offered one of the pine trees to be planted during the first ceremony held on September 14th. The second batch of trees will be planted next December. Nearly one hundred people attended to witness and/or participate into the tree planting activity. The trees had been purchased for one thousand pesos (€17) by individuals, companies, associations as a donation dedicated to the protection of the environment. It showed the commitment of the community members to preserve the nature and the eco-system and raise awareness on this sensitive issue. As a member of Hugpong, HOST-NGO joined the event along with local volunteers from LEAD (League for Environmental Advocate for sustainable Development) and Warriors for Peace. The students association of Saint La Salle University and the Artists Association of Bacolod also planted their own trees. A total of 50 trees were planted by the participants. The formal ceremony was followed by a friendly lunch organized by the Mayor in a building owned by the Department of Education (DepEd) in Don Salvador.


A sustainable partnership with PEACE CORPS

Since the departure of Daniel, our former Peace Corps volunteer who dedicated eight months of his mission within the SDC, we were impatient to hear about her or his successor. Her name is Terry and she will join us in Bacolod City in a few weeks only. We will publish a detailed profile as soon as she has settled down.

As an historical background, the Peace Corps were established in 1961 by Senator John F. Kennedy with the initial goal of promoting peace and friendship. He called on American youth to give back to their country by living and working in developing countries. The Peace Corps’ mission has the following objectives: helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women, and helping promote better mutual understanding of the Americans and the communities served. Peace Corps Philippines is the organization’s second oldest program. Back in 1961, there were 130 volunteers assigned in the Philippines as teachers of English language, mathematics and science. As of today, over 8,000 volunteers have served in the Philippines in broader fields. The ultimate purpose of Peace Corps is to foster world peace and friendship through cross-cultural contact and collaborative development efforts.

Bacolod City, with the support of Virlanie Foundation and HOST-NGO [via the People-Private-Public Partnership], successfully requested last year the assignment of a Peace Corps volunteer to support the SDC. Daniel has been the first volunteer to join the programme under implementation within the frame of our SDC project. His main responsibilities were to ensure the sound implementation of the activities at SDC, while sharing his expertise in the field of psychological support. Along with our team, the Peace Corps volunteer aims at fulfilling the needs of the most vulnerable kids based on the most efficient and sustainable approach.

Upon Daniel’s return to the US, it was essential to assign a new volunteer whose mission inside the SDC is important for the time being. Terry has been assigned by Peace Corps organization and after a three-month training in the Philippines, she will arrive to Bacolod City around September, 19th. We are looking forward to meeting her and introducing her to our beneficiaries and to her new teammates!

Daniel with one of our beneficiaries at the SDC

Support program for vulnerable children and families in Bacolod City

The objective is to design and implement a development program supporting the disadvantaged members of the community of Bacolod City, Philippines. This approach is based on the observation of best practices identified in various projects implemented in Southeast Asia and in the rest of the world. The program aims at providing rehabilitation opportunities to isolated children and families in order to facilitate their successful integration into the local community. This includes dealing with social inclusion, socioeconomic development, public health, sustainable production and consumption, as well as green technologies.