In the remote Barangay of Alang-Alang lives Realino Cabugos. The 47 year old is a father of 8: his eldest child is 18 and the youngest are three-month-old twins. His main source of income has been firewood collection, which he sells to his neighbors and community. He has no land to cultivate, though sometimes he does farm labor during crop season.
He generally gathers around a hundred bundles of firewood every week, selling them for Php 15 per bundle. This earns him a maximum of Php 1,500 per week. His earnings are barely enough for their weekly budget for food; basic needs such clothing, medicine and education are sometimes disregarded due to the lack of money.
His income could not account for their basic needs, and their financial problems became dire as the family continued to grow. There were times when his children would miss school in order to help him gather firewood. This year, in fact, his eldest daughter has been forced to stop in order to help the family. She would have started on her first year in junior high.
“My heart was in pain when I said yes to my daughter, allowing her to pause her education. It may be a right or wrong decision, but I have to, especially as the family needs increase. It has to be the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life, because it’s my dream that all my children finish their studies,” Realino said. He is hesitant to borrow money from other people or from banks because he has no stable source of income.
When ADRA launched the Support to Shelter Recovery in Leyte project, Realino was chosen as one of the partners. Now he has been chosen as one of the livelihood beneficiaries of the Economic Recovery in Leyte (ERL) project. The ERL project is an initiative lead by Swiss Solidarity, ADRA Switzerland and ADRA Philippines directed at helping families re-establish their lives after the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. Realino proudly acknowledges that ADRA has helped him a lot: “I was very happy because ADRA gave me another opportunity to improve my life and I can send my children back to school.”
Realino has participated in many different activities led by the ERL project: he has also attended trainings for cash flow and poultry management. As part of these trainings, ADRA taught him financial management and skills, such as how to make business plans. For his specific income generating activity, Realino chose to raise poultry.
“I am very excited about my proposed project and I cannot wait to see myself collecting the eggs every day. I could change my income from collecting firewood to poultry-raising because collecting firewood is not environmental-friendly.”
This may be the start of a significant change in his family’s welfare. A comfortable life, self-sufficiency, and sustainable livelihoods are all possible for Realino and his children. Now he may have more income, not just for food but also to cover his family’s other basic needs. Providing for 8 children is not easy, but now Realino and his wife Jennifer have hope of a better future, making their efforts to sustain their family more efficient and durable.