Taguig PWDs gain hope thru Pondo ng Pinoy
People with disabilities (PWDs) in Taguig City have found a way to stand on their own feet, through a Church-backed, environment-friendly livelihood project that keeps their hands dirty with soot.
Members of the Samahan ng may Kapansanan ng Taguig (Samakat) are proud of their “Eco-Uling,” slow-burning charcoal briquettes made from water hyacinths and other biodegradable raw materials
Their success story was a highlight of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Catholic Church-led fundraising movement Pondo ng Pinoy on Thursday.
At a charcoal-making site on C6 Road in Barangay Calzada-Tipas, Samakat members demonstrated how water hyacinths harvested from Laguna de Bay, along with coconut husks and shells, are dried, crushed and molded into briquettes. The commercial-grade fuel is sold at P50 per pack of 24 pieces with the help of Pondo member dioceses.
Launched in 2004 by then Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, Pondo ng Pinoy encourages parishioners to donate at least 25 centavos a day to fund projects for the poor. To date, the initiative has funded P200 million’s worth of health, livelihood, learning and feeding programs.
Samakat got the attention of Pondo organizers when members Danny Aquino and Marcos Cruz, both polio survivors, approached lay coordinator Riverita Soriano of the Pasig City diocese last year for microfinancing assistance on behalf of the PWD group.
Soriano, who first learned of the Eco-Uling product in a trip to Palawan, urged Samakat to go to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for training, while referring the project proposal to the Pondo ng Pinoy main office in Manila.
With Pondo assistance so far amounting to P580,000, Samakat was able to open two charcoal-making sites in Taguig and buy a tricycle to serve as the delivery vehicle for the venture.
Polio-stricken Anna Reyes, 35, who is tasked to pack the charcoal briquettes, broke into tears as she recalled the first-ever payday of her life, which put P500 in her pocket. “Thank you so much for the skills and opportunity,” she told parishioners in Calzada-Tipas on Thursday.
The project also changed the daily lifestyle of polio victim Marcos Cruz, 40. “I used to just waste my mother’s money playing tong-its (a card game) or mah-jong. Now, I’m the one giving her money.”
Another Samakat member, Mario Galvez, also became emotional as he addressed the audience. “Even though we have disabilities, this is our gift to you,” referring to his finished products, which he said turned “pests” like water hyacinths into an alternative source of cooking fuel.
Trees need not be cut for firewood, he said. “We do this for love of nature.”
Addressing the people behind Pondo ng Pinoy, Euphemio Ranghel, a former driver who lost his left foot in a car accident, said: “We became survivors. At first we thought we no longer had any hope. But you enabled us to stand on our own two feet and live with dignity.”