How can we end hunger? At ATD Fourth World (All Together in Dignity), we believe that an essential step to overcoming extreme poverty is to listen and reflect with people who experience these conditions every day. We listened to the stories of Ate Aurora, Arlene, and Marissa. Like any one of us, these women contribute to and look for the solution of our common ambition: zero hunger and zero poverty.
Here are their stories:
Relocated, stopped schooling
I am more often hungry since we were relocated in August, Ate Aurora says in Filipino.
After two days we had nothing to eat anymore. Our neighbors offered us food, some vendors allowed us to have something to eat that we can pay for later, we asked help from an organization already present there and we borrowed some money from an NGO we know from Manila who visit us regularly.
We paid everyone back when we received the financial assistance of the government, with which we also bought a sidecar (bike).
My daughter of 14 years old fetches water for our neighbors. She chose to do this rather than continue school and add to the expenses. Our plan is that she will enroll next year. Ate Christine knows our situation and regularly asks us to fetch water for them even when her husband is there and could do it himself.
We earn P20 for 4 containers. With this we can buy half kilo of NFA rice; a kilo costs P32.
My sons Joel and Allan continue to be street vendors in Manila. They send us money through neighbors we trust when they travel back to the relocation site. The wife of Joel and their child live with us in Calauan in the same house.
Even if we are two different families we decided to apply only for one house because we know that there will be expenses for electricity, water, and amortization later.
Recently, a foundation proposed us to make salted eggs and do sewing. Before the start of the training in January, I decided to come back in Manila to start again my kalakal (trade). But it is too difficult as I don’t have my kariton (pushcart) anymore, because we had to use its wood to be able to cook.
‘Livelihood projects not enough’
Ate Arlene continues, I am used to taking breakfast and lunch as one same meal. Because we don’t have much it is important to know how to budget.
When I have just P100 for the 7 of us in the family, I buy one kilo of rice, oil, charcoal, the cheapest ulam (viand) and milk for the baby. I go to the market around noon, when fish is at its lowest price. If the tilapia is too expensive, I look for eggs, vegetables ordilis, or simply vetsin (monosodium glutamate) to add some taste to the rice.
To earn some extra (money), I attend livelihood seminars. I learned how to make a bed sheet, together with other community members. This was an order from an Australian friend of an NGO I am active with. It was difficult for me at the beginning as I don’t know how to sew, but the people had a lot of patience with me.
When we finished I told them, “Now I know how to sew.” For Christmas season, they have a project of candle making and Christmas lights.
These livelihoods help because they diminish our stress and diminish our hunger. But for sure it is not enough to do only this; we have to continue our own livelihood.
I also went to a dentistry school, where board exam students practice to make dentures. They are the ones paying us. Each student pays us P400. As they were two, I earned P800.
At least 5 different ways to earn
Ate Marissa lives in the North Cemetery. Income as a mausoleum caretaker is very little and irregular while her husband finds work from time to time when a mausoleum needs to be built.
I am a street sweeper of the barangay, reporting every morning. But I need to look for other ways to earn. I buy empty bottles of gin from people in the community, for 50 centavos each. When I have many I sell them to a junkshop double price.
I also run errands for neighbors, like going to the market for them. Then they give me some money or some of what they have bought. In [order of] priority the money goes to my grandchildren, to make sure that they can eat and go to school with a baon (snack).
My neighbors know that I often go hungry. Around noon some would ask: “Did you eat already?” I answer, “Yes, yesterday!” They invite me to eat with them.
Stories such as the ones told by Ate Aurora, Ate Arlene and Ate Marissa show that beyond the need of support, they are active members of the society.
These stories show that solidarity within a community and the ingenuity of its members happen every day. They are not simply waiting support from others, but are acting members of the society.
Acts of solidarity, the interdependency within a community are less obvious to the outsider’s eyes and ears than quarrels, making less noise, but they are, sometimes with NGOs working closely with them, the foundations of their own safety nets, from which they continue to build their lives and hope.
Therefore one main goal of any outside intervention would be to know and support the already existing solidarity within community members and other groups acting with them, in order to ensure that the people who are most often experiencing hunger are reached, acknowledging and recognizing that they too are actors in their own rights, beyond being beneficiaries.
A version of this article originally appeared on Rappler.com