Surviving the pandemic through handcrafting

Published by Nelson Osial on

The devastating effect brought by COVID 19 has killed lots of opportunities all over the world. Economic status is at worst – closing down of small and big businesses and increasing number of unemployment. But somehow, this pandemic helps all of us to keep going, to adapt to the new normal, and to embrace hope in everyday life.

The Sustainable Livelihood Program Association

The Municipality of Daraga is a growing town in the Province of Albay. Known as one of the suppliers of quality handicraft products from “karagumoy”” to abaca products, majority of its marginalized households are engaged in Handicraft Weaving/Making. With the increasing interest of people, specially tourists, the handicraft business prospers and continuously grows into a wide variety of market in and out of the municipality.

San Roque Handicraft Weavers Association in Brgy. San Roque Daraga Albay was organized in October 2016 through Department of Social Welfare and Development Sustainable Livelihood Program granted with seed capital fund amounting to Php 200,000.00. Most of its members were plain housewives earning a meager income to support the daily needs of their family.

The average income of the SLPA ranges from 5,000.00-10,000 per month depending on the season and bulk of orders.

After acquiring the assistance from DSWD-SLP, SLPA developed an operation cycle maximizing the competencies and expertise of each member of the Association. From checking the quality of raw materials during procurement, to division of labor among the members ensuring that all members have essential participation and contribution in each product being produced by the Association. (e.g. Food Cover Production –member handling the transactions concerning the production of metal frames, monitoring and checking the quality of the welded frames. Another set of members are in-charge of dying and drying the burlap/Abaca and covering the metal frames. The fruit accessories attached on the side of the food cover adding value is a product of another set of members having the expertise in making handicraft accessories.) This kind of operation ensures each member’s active participation and develops a sense of responsibility and ownership to the product produced by the Association.

Developing this strategy proves to be effective and resulted to a long-term effect on the business’ success. Association members are able to put up their own micro-enterprise businesses funded by the Association to increase their daily income, an agreement made between the member and the association.

Giving hope and opportunity

The San Roque Handicraft Weaver’s Association focused on the competencies and capabilities of their members. Having the knowledge of handicraft Weaving/making was a major consideration of the Association, the reason they proposed a handicraft-making microenterprise.

Not only did the association benefited from the livelihood given to them, they were also able to provide employment not just to their members but to those who are in need of interventions not covered by the program. The Association provided opportunities to the community that would help them meet their daily needs. With the continuous increase in the demand of handicraft products especially this Christmas season, the association outsourced handicraft weavers/makers in the community to serve as an extra hand in the production. All of the members based on the item being produced have their own sets of workers being outsourced to ensure that orders are delivered on time.

The workers being hired by the association on a part-time basis are mostly Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries from the same Barangay. There are workers from Barangay Kidaco and even in the Municipality of Jovellar, local suppliers from the municipality, and even DSWD-SLP organized associations engaged in handicraft business such as the Alcala Handicraft Weavers Association focusing on Burlap Production.

Moreover, to ensure the sustainability of the association, SLPA scouts for additional local handicraft raw materials supplier within the locality with quality supplies at lesser prices. A periodic market research and study are being conducted to ensure that the association is updated with the latest trends, movements of goods, prices and transactions in the market.

“Maraming pasensya ang kailangan para mamahala na isang negosyo, pero lakas ng loob ang kailangan para marating ang pangrap mo sa sarili at sa mga myembro.” (You need a lot of patience in managing business if you really want to succeed.) Mary Jean Noleal, SLPA President said.

“Ang pagiging responsibleng miyembro ng asosasyon ay susi para mantiling maayos ang samahan at patuloy na makinabang sa tulong na ito na gobyerno.” (Being a responsible member of the association is the key in having a working relationship among its other members, and to be able to continue receiving this aid of the government.), she added.

Being responsible and accountable helped the members of the association fully understand operating a business with a group of people having equal authority within the organization. The realization that they all play a vital role in achieving the association’s goals and objectives have an impact to the over-all performance of the association. The sense of responsibility and ownership of the SLPA is something that they developed through the course of their operation.

This also promoted women empowerment, giving them the opportunity to actively participate in the economic activities without being discriminated. This kind of advocacy helps women gain self-confidence and control over situations that affect their self-esteem, makes them realize their self-worth, gives them the right to determine their own choices and gives them equal access to resources and opportunities that can help them improve the level of well-being of their families.

Effect of COVID 19 outbreak to SLPA and their fight to survive

Due to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID 19) Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) implementation, the SLPA has been affected in so many ways. The increasing demand of their products decreased and production became impossible. The frustration they had experienced in finding clients and cancellations of previous orders greatly affected their busines.

But these challenges did not hinder the SLPA from moving forward but rather, this kept them looking at the brighter side amidst the situation. The SLPA continues their production at their own houses even if there’s no assurance that their products will be sold.

With the effort exerted by the SLPA President to find new clients thru online selling, and with the demand of their products to local buyers/resellers, the SLPA started to rise in the new normal situation.

“Kailangan naming ipagpatuloy ang buhay para sa aming pamilya’’ (Life must go on because our family depends on us). SLPA President said.

“Itong pandemic ay sinubok ang aming grupo kung paano namin sasabayan ang pagsubok na ito saamin, linawakan namin ang aming pagiisip para magpatuloy sa buhay.” (This pandemic shattered so many dreams, but we learned so much from these circumstances by remaining motivated and looking at the brighter side of life.), she added.

Unending Support to SLPA

Through the continuous support, coordination and efforts of the DSWD-SLP and the SLPA, the latter at this time of pandemic remains to operate. The PDO provides Technical Assistance to acquire clients, while the RPMO helps in the promotion of their products through TV and Radio Guesting.

The Barangay Local Government Unit of San Roque, the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office, the Local Government Unit of Daraga, the Project Development Officer deployed in the Municipality, propose that the San Roque Handicraft Weavers Association have a permanent showcase area within the Municipality where they can display and promote their quality products.

About SLP

SLP is a community-based capacity building program that aims to improve the socio-economic condition of the participants. It facilitates interventions that expand the existing livelihood assets (human, social, physical, natural, and financial capital) of the participants so they may either have gainful employment or establish their chosen micro-enterprise.

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