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On Monday 1st September, EcoWEB met with TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) in Tacloban, in a bid to see how they can combine resources to train and empower the survivors of Yolanda.  “The key is livelihoods”, says Nanette Antequisa, Executive Director and Founder of EcoWEB.  “If we can train the locals with sustainable skills, they can earn a living and support their families”.  Enter TESDA.  With the ability to offer scholarships to their training schools, plus a directory of professional trainers in a wide selection of skills, they can help survivors learn new professions to earn money and look after their familes.

Not only is Nanette aiming to help locals learn new skills, she also wants communities to have greater understanding of how the government works so they are able to take advantage of what’s on offer to them.  “One of the biggest problems is that many people, especially in the poorer rural areas, are unaware that they can get funding and help through various factions of the government and therefore they are missing out on a lot resources that should be available to them.” 

But not one agency alone can respond to all the needs of the people.  They need to join forces and work together. The DA (Department of Agriculture) have already expressed an interest and said they can help with machinery but before they can do this, TESDA has to help with training. “And along with this we need them to understand sustainability” says Nanette “and factors such as climate change which might lead to more bad weather.  We need them to know as much as possible about how to withstand another storm.”

With the forty one new shelters EcoWEB are building in Dulag, there is opportunity to train up new carpenters.  At the moment they are importing carpenters from Mindanao which seems extravagant when there is so much unemployment in Leyte.  But if TESDA can oversee these carpenters training up the locals with new skills, then hopefully the locals in turn, can qualify as professional carpenters and go on to help build more shelters when other agencies come later in the year to build more shelters. 

The other industry that has a lot of potential in Dulag is hollow block making.  There is a huge demand for hollow blocks as people are trying to rebuild their homes before the Pope’s visit on January 15th next year.  With all the raw materials at their disposal in Dulag, it seems like the ideal industry for them, again, as long as TESDA can help with the initial training. “We also need to look for livelihoods for the youth” says Nanette.  “The problem we have seen in areas such as Dulag, is the majority of people stop education at 6th grade and join the labour force.  They don’t understand that if they study for longer then, in the long run they will get better paid jobs and in turn be able send their children to higher education.  It’s about breaking the poverty cycle at root level.”  And if we are trying to encourage the young to go to college, then they need to be able to work as well as study, so they can pay for their transport costs.

So, although there is still so much to be done, with the right help, assistance and education, there is hope for many of the survivors of Yolanda – it’s just a question of getting them going on the route to sustainability.