Conversations with the Community
TALKING COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT WITH CANDONI VOLUNTEER PASTOR JOSEPH ELUMBA
Barangay Agboy is one of the most far-flung villages in Negros Occidental. In the uplands of Candoni, Brgy Agboy and its approximately 1900 residents face many daily struggles.
Resident and local community volunteer Pastor Joseph Elumba has seen what his community has been through. This was why, eight years ago he began volunteering with Quidan Kaisahan as they began their work with the community in Agboy.
An active member of the barangay, Pastor Joseph was instrumental in introducing Quidan and the programs to the wider community. Community members were understandably cautious about new groups and people in their village. Since the 1970s, Candoni has been caught in the middle of armed fighting between rebel groups and armed forces.
“Many people [in Brgy Agboy] wondered if there was something wrong with Quidan,” Pastor Joseph admits.
As a community, they were cautious and disempowered. ‘Back then, people didn’t have interest in their local government. They had their needs but didn’t know what they could do,” says Pastor Joseph.
Among the major issues were the lack of access to clean water and the high number of young people out of school because there was only an elementary school available in the area.
Together with Quidan, Pastor Joseph visited the local puroks (smaller areas of the barangay) to raise awareness of Quidan and the importance of open conversations between the community and barangay officials.
And many now are thankful for Pastor Joseph’s and Quidan's perseverance in the beginning. Eight years later, Pastor Joseph is proud of where is barangay has come.
“We have women, farmers and youth attending barangay assembly meetings, their voices are being heard.” Pastor Joseph explains. Together, these community groups have lobbied government support for projects that will assist their areas most. “Farmers have had successful proposals for farming equipment and there was a ramp pump built for a vital water source."
In March this year, the community shared the pride of Quendelyn Occeno the most recent Quidan-supported college scholar and ALS-graduate who completed from her Bachelor of Agriculture with honors.
Quendelyn represents the hundreds of out-of-school youth in the Agboy community who have returned to their schooling through Quidan-supported programs like the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System (ALS) and Drop Out Reduction (DORP) support in formal schools.
Pastor Joseph hopes for even more support around child education and protection. He continues to work side by side with Quidan, recently joining the team of community volunteers to help implement the new Child Sexual Abuse Prevention program targeting at-risk children in his community.
Quidan is grateful for the support of community volunteers like Pastor Joseph. These dedicated individuals help Quidan reach more families and build sustainable growth for their community.