From Family to Community: How FORGE is creating SAFER Homes across Cebu

Queenie* is 28-years old and a mother of two from Cebu City. She hails from Brgy. Quiot, a low-income urban barangay. In 2020, Queenie attended a series of Family Strengthening sessions sponsored by both the Consuelo Foundation and the Fellowship for Organizing Endeavors Inc (FORGE). These sessions covered effective parenting, open communication, and children’s rights. She shared how the sessions had a great and positive impact between her and her now-husband. Decision-making between the couple is smoother, and they have learned to value healthy and open communication. Through FORGE’s micro-entrepreneurship program, Queenie was able to purchase a second-hand sewing machine and is now creating side income for her family through various sewing projects.

Queenie’s drive and passion go beyond her husband and children. Since enrolling in the Family Strengthening sessions, Queenie has participated in the community’s home visitations, case conferences, and study sessions which seek to address domestic family concerns on a larger community level. She joined fellow members of Brgy. Quiot’s People’s Organization who, together with FORGE and the Consuelo Foundation, lobby for sustainable community development programs. Queenie is just one of the emerging beneficiaries-turned-advocates of FORGE and Consuelo’s pilot project, the SAFER Home Project.

The Strengthening a Family Environment towards Resilient Home Management (SAFER Home) Project is a joint effort between FORGE and the Consuelo Foundation. FORGE, a non-government organization based in Cebu City, specializes in community organization. The SAFER Home Project supports at-risk, urban families in two ways: enhancing parents and caregivers’ personal knowledge and skills on how to protect and nurture their children, and empowering families to lobby for development programs in their barangays. The project began in 2020 and has since reached over 170 families in Cebu City.

A Vision for the Family

The SAFER Home Project was initially implemented in two low-income barangays in Cebu City: Brgy. Quiot and Brgy. Banilad. Families in these local communities were already quite organized and community-driven with their own People’s Organizations: Lower Mahiga Inahan sa Kanunay’ng Panabang Homeowner’s Association (LMISKPHOA) of Brgy. Banilad, and Sitapra Panaghiusa Homeowner’s Association (SPHOA) in Brgy. Quiot.

From the onset, these People’s Organizations have played an active role in designing and implementing the SAFER Home Project in their respective barangays. In a series of Family & Community Visioning & Planning sessions, representatives from these People’s Organizations expressed strong concern for family issues; they observed abuse and poor communication among family members, as well as deteriorating moral values among the youth.

And with the support of their respective Barangay Councils, FORGE and the People’s Organizations identified qualified and trusted Family Strengthening Facilitators (FSFs) who would conduct learning sessions on family dynamics, child abuse, neglect, and exploitation (CANE) issues with their member families. Through the Consuelo Foundation, these FSFs are specially trained to deliver the Family Strengthening modules. They attend a series of trainings on Behavioral Family Therapy, Expressive Sending and Empathic Listening, as well as Abuse Case Management and Trauma-Informed Care. These specialized trainings allow the FSFs to not only run effective Family Strengthening sessions, but also to properly attend to the families’ specific needs. The SAFER Home Project staff then regularly conduct meetings and debriefings with FSFs in order to evaluate the families’ response to the modules.

Community members were largely appreciative of the Family Strengthening materials. Many expressed realizations on corporal punishment, like how physically hitting a child, even in the name of discipline, is a violation of their rights. Maria* shared how she was initially prompted to leave her husband because of the way he would physically harm their children, but that he has changed drastically since joining the sessions. “The [Family Strengthening] study sessions I attended with my husband contributed to the changes he is showing now…he is working now, and whenever he disciplines [our] children, he talks to them seriously. He even finds time to play with them.”

A Community Effort

Separate still from these FSF debriefings are the Case Conferences, a monthly initiative by the SAFER Home project staff. These conferences are thorough discussions on different cases among member families in the communities. Here, relevant patterns emerge, such as: corporal punishment, mental health issues, lack of birth and marriage certificates, and financial incapacity. From June to September 2021, 149 family cases were tackled.

The conferences, home visitations, and debriefings have all allowed FORGE, the People’s Organizations, and the FSFs to work on community solutions with the Local Government Units (LGUs). In 2021, 21 families were referred to the office of the City Councilor for assistance on birth certificates. In that same year, an FSF helped 10 families gain Barangay assistance to construct their own toilets.

All these successful efforts speak to the strong, cooperative environment FORGE has fostered between the communities and the LGUs.

SAFER Homes All Over Cebu City

It is nothing short of remarkable how the SAFER Home project has served over 170 families in just two years. As of writing, officials from both Brgy. Banilad and Brgy. Quiot have expressed immense appreciation for the SAFER Home project and its impact. They have pledged continued support for the program and hope to replicate it across Cebu City. With plans of expanding their micro-entrepreneurship program to improve the families’ financial capacities, as well as more key partnerships with various organizations, FORGE is just getting started.

FORGE’s expertise with community organization has allowed them to capitalize and mobilize these passionate People’s Organizations. By training community members to actively work with the Barangay LGUs and local Gender and Development offices and participate in the program planning, FORGE has empowered the community to truly build a safer home for their children. FORGE’s passion and innovation continues to bring hope towards the cause of children’s rights in the Philippines.

*Names have been changed to protect the respondents’ identities

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