This is a story of an enduring struggle to get out of the bondage of substance use, and Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) assistance that generates inspiration to start a new life.
Serge is a father of four and living in a shanty in a laid-back barangay of the Municipality of Hamtic, Antique.
When he started using prohibited drugs in 2012, he lost his tricycle and his piggery. Worst, he neglected his family’s needs.
When his kids got sick, he incurred debts for their hospitalization. On most days, they hardly had food on their table.
He put up a small batchoyan or noodle shop in a small space within a relative’s sari-sari store, the small earnings they have were just enough for his vices.
When the government intensified its “war on drugs”, Serge voluntarily surrendered and attended cooking classes under TESDA for drug dependents.
The training enhanced his knowledge and skills but enough capitalization was a challenge for him to start a business and build a new life.
The DOLE Kabuhayan Program came just in time when Serge badly needed a capital for his struggling batchoyan.
With the assistance, he was able to secure a stove and an LPG tank, a refrigerator and some utensils. He was also provided with start-up raw materials.
”Bahol-bahol gid nga bulig sa akon kag sa akon pamilya ang gintugro nga livelihood project kang DOLE, a big blessing from God, wara ako it mahambal kundi duro-duro nga pagpasalamat (The livelihood project provided by DOLE is a big help for me and my family. It is a blessing from God. I cannot say anymore but thank you),” he said.
“We are one with our government in the fight against “drugs” and we believe that people like Serge deserves a second chance so we provided livelihood assistance to help him recover, to empower him economically,” said Ms. Carmela M. Abellar, DOLE Antique Field Office Head.
The livelihood project provided by DOLE motivated Serge to bounce back from his past and gave him hope to start again and to work harder for his family.
“These people who wants to go back to the mainstream of the society, just needs support to inspire them to take the right path,” said Regional Director Atty. Sixto T. Rodriguez, Jr. “DOLE is here to help them renew their lives.”
With DOLE assistance, Serge focused on his batchoyan and earns around P2,000 per day and even extended the business to the school nearby for additional daily income of P1,500.
From his earnings, he bought a television set, plastic tables and chairs, additional utensils and cellular phones for the kids’ use in their online classes and a motorcycle.
Through the DOLE Kabuhayan Program, Serge not only able to provide for his family but he was also able to open a savings account at Egaña Parish Credit Cooperative.
With a good record, Serge received the 2nd Kabuhayan assistance from DOLE to enhance his business. He was provided with new tables and chairs. Through his earnings, he was able to put up his own batchoyan structure this time.
However, like all other businesses, his was also affected when COVID-19 pandemic hit. Yet, he continued and persevered. Again, he drives a tricycle which gave him some additional daily earnings.
He kept his hopes high in the midst of the pandemic and looks forward to sending his children to college, put up a restaurant and build a house for his family.
Serge has proven that there’s always a second chance. His transformation not only radiates at home but goes beyond the community. He serves as Barangay Tanod in their barangay and as president of the Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association (TODA).
He is determined to continue his batchoyan business and to even expand it to show his gratitude to the Department of Labor and Employment for trusting with such a great opportunity. He was not only provided with livelihood assistance when he badly needed it but was also given a great opportunity to start a new life, a life with dignity and became an inspiration to others.
When asked about his message to those who are into substance use, Serge advised, “Dapat tinguhaan da nga matadlong anda nga kabuhi (They should try to change their lives for the better).”
Serge is now happily embracing his hard earned freedom from substance use and spends more time with his family while making his batchoyan business more savory and profitable.