By Maranatha B. Estrada
At first I cannot verbalize and clearly see what really is my purpose in life. But something intervened and slowly made me realized. . .my purpose!
It was summer 2003, our Barangay Captain asked me to attend a seminar about Adolescent Reproductive Health (ARH). At first, I wasn’t interested. My only concern at that time was to spend my summer vacation and enjoy every day of it. That seminar opened my eyes to what really is happening in our country and to my fellow adolescents. I was shocked to know all those numbers. It was like a divine intervention that made me think to help my peers, not just to look on those data and cry.
It was the time that I joined and volunteered in the Reproductive Health program of Makato. We named our organization as Cayangwan-Aglucay Adolescent Reproductive Health Organization (CARHO). The members are teenagers ranging from 10 – 19 years old, both in and out of school youth. I was elected Chairperson which gave me the opportunity to make a difference, to educate our community especially young people and lessen if not eliminate all those rape cases, people with AIDS, abortion and teenage pregnancies.
The organization aims to provide education and services among adolescents and to help them decide and live a healthy self-concept of themselves. We envisioned a society where its youth have access to information and services, empowered to make good and sound decisions.
As the chairperson for two years and several months now, we meet once a month to tackle and address the different problems in our community, even though I’m studying in Iloilo City now, which takes 4 hours to travel from Aklan. I strongly believe that though I’m just a teenager, I could do something. I initiated different activities such that we could answer these problems, especially when it involves young people. With my leadership skills I’ve developed during my high school days as the Supreme Student Government President of our school, I was able to influence and motivate my members to volunteer and commit to the ARH program.
With the help of my active, dedicated, committed members and advisers and the undying support of my parents, I was able to accomplish the following projects with flying colors:
a. Formulated our own by-laws, the only ARH organization in Aklan with Constitution and by-Laws.
b. Trained 15 adolescents in our community in answer to the illiteracy problem of our peers about their Reproductive Health including their Reproductive Health Rights. Because of the late successful impact to our community, another batch of training was conducted on Reproductive Health with 30 participants who became members of our organization.
After the series of trainings we conducted, wherein we served as the speakers and facilitators, and with the guidance of our Barangay Captain and Municipal Health Physician as our Advisers, we have noted that the substance abuse cases in our rural community greatly lessened. After the training we saw group of young people smoking in the plaza and drinking alcoholic beverages unlike before. The number of young people going to our Health Center to avail its services increased. They became well informed of the services available provided for them, such as medical consultations and medicine.
c. The theater presentation about Reproductive Health, specifically about Violence Against Women and Children, Managing Complications of Abortion, Teenage Pregnancy, Substance Abuse, STD, HIV/AIDS, and Maternal Health Care and Nutrition. This was conducted during our Inter-sitio Presentation, entitled "PAGPABUGTAW" or enlightenment. It was like a street theater. The only difference was that we need to cross rivers and rice paddies and even walked for hours in order to reach the places where we performed. We believed that those people are the ones needing our services as they were deprived of information and services.
d. Conducted parent counseling – we saw how deprived they were from information especially about certain infections and illness such as STD, HIV/AIDS. We saw how poor they are and how difficult their lives are, especially that they have so many children. According to them, they are not aware that there is Family Planning. Some did not even know that sexual harassment could be reported and there are laws about these things. Even in Maternal Health Care and Nutrition, some of the mothers did not even know that they should undergo prenatal check-ups during pregnancy. Some did not even know what precaution to take when they are pregnant. On the other hand, the young people were stunned about what they’ve heard about the negative effects of substance abuse, especially with the information we have shared with them.
That was a success, even though I have sacrificed a lot of my time for my studies but then I am honored and happy having served my fellow sons and daughters of God.
e. The publication of the 1st Community Newsletter of ARH in the province of Aklan, the "KAHAYAG" which means "Light", I am the Associate Editor, and Lay – out artist for the first two issues. It wasn’t difficult for me to come up with the publication because of my background in journalism as Editor In Chief of our own high school paper. We were writing about our programs and projects, not to mention we were also addressing the different issues concerning young people in our articles.
g. As resource speaker & trainer in regional, division, district and school levels ARH trainings. Because of my background in ARH, different schools and organizations always invited me to talk on Reproductive Health and on other topics about the adolescents aside from my speaking engagement on leadership & journalism.
h. Conducted peer counseling – I also do counseling to my peers that needed advice, especially those who were abused by their fathers and teens who want to undergo abortion. I offer them correct referral services and educate them with the possible effects of their decision.
i. Formulated Action Plan – at the beginning of very year, I spearheaded the group in formulating Plan of Actions for the whole year for us to address and pinpoint the needs and problems which needs immediate action.
k. Conducted RH Training for teachers & 4th Year students in my alma mater where I took the initiative in conducting an RH Orientation for all the students & teachers.
l. Constructed the Youth Teen Center in our school – solicited from UNPFA 1 complete set of computer & printer, 21 inch television set, 1 globe, 1 thesaurus & different sports & musical equipments, now housed in that Ten Center for the use of my schoolmates at the Regional Science High School, Kalibo.
My involvement in this community service greatly influenced me in taking up Nursing as my course now, not because I want to go abroad but to help the needy especially those who are not capable to finance their health problems.
It seems difficult at a certain point to become a catalyst of change, I even would say I shouldn’t continue, but hearing those cries and helpless voices, I couldn’t imagine taking them for granted, that’s why I always tell myself – you are working for them – you are doing this for the next generations – with these, you are serving the Lord. /MP mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org