The members of youth volunteer organization Keeping Hope Alive visit Sitio Cabuyao with the Sikat teamThis series that shows the impact of the Lopez Group’s CSR activities in communities brings us to a geographically isolated and depressed area, or GIDA, in the southern part of Oriental Mindoro. What makes this project unique is that the effects of the help extended were immediate.
Somewhere on the mountainsides of Oriental Mindoro lives the Hanunuo Mangyan indigenous tribe. They can be found in Sitio Cabuyao, Brgy. Panaytayan, one of the 24 areas belonging to the tribe.
The members of the community mostly depend on upland seasonal farming for their livelihood. With luck, some members may land blue-collar jobs in the city even if it takes them four hours to trek down the mountain. Even with the progress and prosperity that the province of Oriental Mindoro is experiencing, it has still to reach and touch the lives of the indigenous tribe which has limited access to health resources, and lack basic social services and farm-to-market roads.
They keep hope alive
In 2018, a youth volunteer organization called Keep Hope Alive (KHA) was supported by Sikat Solar Challenge Foundation Inc. to bring help to Sitio Cabuyao through KHA’s Project Bantay Kalusugan. Specifically, KHA joined Sikat Impact Challenge, an incubation program for renewable energy projects for rural development.
Sitio Cabuyao is one of the communities under KHA’s outreach programs for medical missions and grooming sessions in communities, which they have been doing for several years. Many of the members who benefited from the project have also become volunteers of KHA, joining outreach activities in neighboring communities.
For their part, as one of Sikat Foundation’s active supporters, Power 4 All enabled the piloting of the first Mission solar power station in Sitio Cabuyao during a community visit conducted by Sikat and KHA in January 2018.
For this visit, the team had to take a two-hour boat ride and a three-hour land trip to Mansalay from Calapan Port. Then they trekked five kilometers up a mountain while experiencing alternating rain and glaring sun. They brought with them two boxes of d.lights donated by First Gen Corporation and the components for the Mission solar power station—a 350-watt solar panel and a 20-kilogram 1.2-kWh long-life battery pack.
Their own nebulizer
After setting up the Mission solar power station at the site, a nebulizer provided by KHA was energized to cater to asthma patients. Before, residents suffering from asthma attacks would be rushed to the local health unit only if the case was extreme. With their own nebulizer in the community, asthma attacks can be easily addressed and prevented from worsening the patients’ condition.
According to kindergarten student Edwin Ayupad, he would usually be absent for two to three days because of his asthma attacks. With the nebulizer, he misses only a day of school. His mother says: “Malaki ang tulong ng nebulizer sa Sitio Cabuyao dahil makakatipid kami at ligtas na po ang anak ko.”
A baseline study on the community’s health problems showed that respiratory ailments were the highest among the identified illnesses of children and women in the area.
It usually costs P300 to P500, one way, to transport a patient to the rural health unit of Mansalay. If the patient’s family cannot afford the motorcycle fare, they would carry the patient to the health unit—a three- to five-hour trip.
“Since the arrival of the solar power pack last January 5, 2018, people have been using the nebulizer regularly,” says Elmer Ablaza, the community’s head teacher and community organizer. The nebulizer is operated by the health unit’s doctor and nurse, both health workers of the barangay.
Power 4 All power station energizes community
Aside from the power station, the d.lights from First Gen that were brought to the mountain were distributed to the grade school students’ families. These are used at night to provide light for the homes and add to the students’ study hours at night. Monitoring of the lights’ impact will be based on the grade improvements of the students.
According to Ablaza, the Mission solar power pack was used during the barangay’s graduation ceremony in various ways. It provided power for the sound system as well as for the public address system for flag ceremonies and special occasions. It is also used to power eight laptops and four printers in the school in order to provide printed materials such as work sheets and reading materials for the students.
This additional service provided by the power station helped the teachers to further improve the quality of education in the community. As a result, in a span of only two months since the Mission solar power station was put into use, the number of non-readers enrolled in the school was reduced from 18 to zero. This has inspired KHA and Sikat Foundation to continue developing Project Bantay Kalusugan so it can reach out to the other communities in mountainous areas. (Story/Photos by: Dulce Festin-Baybay)
KHA deploys the Mission solar power station