Claire is a 46-year-old mother and wife from Naic, Cavite who suffered from impairments secondary to diabetes. She was first diagnosed at the age of 22 however, poor nutrition slowly worsened her condition. In 2014, she started developing lesions which would not heal normally. In 2018, she lost total control of her legs to neuropathy while her hands and arms have begun to lose muscle strength. Her vision was badly affected as well. She also has high-blood pressure and lump in her breast and heart.
In 2019, their families’ finances had run out. Claire’s husband is a senior citizen who is also suffering from ailments and has not been able to work for years already. She could not get medical attention and her family survived on a hand-to-mouth basis. She felt inutile because of her disabilities.
Their son, 16-year-old Paolo had to scavenge through dumpsters to look for things that would sell in the junk shop. When he is not studying or helping in the family finances, he stayed with Claire and encouraged her to hang on and believe that she will overcome her disabilities.
“He would massage my arms and legs and tell me, ‘Mama don’t lose hope. You can get through this. You are strong, you can do anything.’ He always reminded me to have faith,” Claire shared.
Somehow, Claire managed to regain some of her hand and arm strength that allowed her to do some cooking. But before she could recover, things turned for the worse when the pandemic hit and the whole country was put on community quarantine—she was gripped with fear of the virus and the feeling of uncertainty began to take her hope away. She recalled, “When the hard lockdown hit, we just stayed at home. We came to a point when all we ate were 1-peso chips and rice. We didn’t know until when the lockdown would be. I was so afraid for myself and my son.”
Without any savings or source of income, Claire felt that she had to overcome her fears and anxieties and do something for her family to survive. They planted vegetables in the front yard for additional food and they sold and exchanged some of their things online for food and medicines and goods that they can sell in their retail store.
Claire then thought, “what can we do that people would buy this pandemic?” Without any capital, she started reaching out to ready-to-eat food suppliers to resell their products. She shared,
“It was a team effort. I would look for suppliers online, my son takes screenshots and posts them for orders, and my husband delivers them to the customers. I got the items on consignment, so I did not have to pay immediately.”
Claire was thankful to have found such opportunities to earn a living, but she wanted to grow her small enterprise so she her family would have enough for everything they need especially their medicines and her son’s schooling.
As the pandemic eased, their financial situation somehow got better. But the game changer was when Paolo learned about Save the Children and its project for women and persons with disability. He asked his mother to join a meeting where he said she could learn some skills.
“Save the Children? I thought ‘it is for children, why would I even get myself involved?’ I approached the leader of the PWDs in our area and told him about this project. He and my son both said that I have nothing to lose, and I could learn something from the meeting,” Claire recalled.
Her first session with Save the Children’s and Bayan Academy’s Skills for Employment and Recovery of Vulnerable Enterprises of the Poor or Project SERVE brought back her faith and hope. The project, which aims to build people’s skills towards economic independence, allowed her to find her purpose and get her dignity back through livelihood education.
Claire happily narrated, “With the initial allowance they gave us, I took 400 pesos to buy 3 packs of dried fish, onions, carrots, and other ingredients. I made gourmet tuyo and had some people in the neighborhood try it. I needed to know if it’s any good and they liked it! I never really cooked all my life, but I had to try and apply what I learned from Chef Joan. I was ecstatic when I learned that I could cook well and thought that this could be my chance at growing my business.”
According to Claire, she learned a lot from her trainings under Project SERVE including how to scope the market so she could identify what people would need and how much they are willing to pay for a certain dish. She studied their preferences by asking for feedback after every transaction and learned how to advertise her products online.
It was a team effort for Claire’s family. Her husband and son would go out to do market scoping, food delivery, and getting feedback from customers while she practiced cooking different recipes. In less than a month’s time, she was getting more orders and had to find another person to help in their growing business.
Of all the things that she learned, financial literacy is the one that stuck to her. She is now able to start saving for the rainy days, and thanks to the allowance from the project, her investment capital is also growing. Claire began to dream again for herself and her family. She now has plans to expand her business as soon as she receives the starter kit.
“I really wanted to grow my business. In two months, I would have enough capital to also include processed meat in my product list. I’ve done this before I got sick and before the pandemic. I know that I could do it again,” said Claire.
She takes to heart everything that she learned from the trainers of Bayan Academy especially food handling and sanitation so that her customers would continue to trust her and be confident with her products. She says that it is important so she could retain her customers and widen her customer base.
Claire is now preparing to add another staff in her team since face-to-face classes are taking place soon and her son would not be available to help in food delivery. She did not realize that she can also give livelihood to others.
“I will be forever thankful to organizations like Save the Children and Bayan Academy for giving hope to people like me. I did not realize that I would ever get another chance like this. I was useless when my arms and legs got paralyzed. I thought I was going blind. I was in despair. But look at me now. I’m also helping others earn a living.”
Claire is slowly able to walk again. She might not be able to fully regain her strength but she knows that her heart and mind are strong enough to face challenges that will come her way.
“Remember that there are always people who will support you and motivate you to move past your doubts and fears. The truth is none of us is useless. We all have a purpose and we all can do something good. I’m thankful that I have people around me who made me realize that. I would do the same for mothers and women like me,” said Claire when asked for her message to other women and mothers.
She hopes to inspire other people with her story and support them as they find their hopes back. She added, “I am a woman, I am a mother. I will always stay steadfast and face whatever challenges life throws at me for my son, my family, and myself.”
Skills for Employment and Recovery of Vulnerable Enterprises of the Poor or Project SERVE is a one-year project implemented by Save the Children and funded by Accenture through Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP). SERVE is also under the corporate citizenship initiative of Accenture called “Skills to Succeed” which aims to educate people and build their skills which will enable them to participate and contribute to the economy and society.