Pocket road of rage

This blog has very humble beginnings with pen, paper and deep-seeded rage. The type of anger that sits down in your belly; cancerous, festering, raw.

I’m in our Eastern Samar office in Guiuan, visiting various barangays meeting smiling farmers who proudly display their simple yet incredibly effective organic farming methods. From San Jose farm in Mercedes we walk to Cabunga-an along a ‘pocket road’, a potholed dirt track registered as a completed bitumen road by corrupt officials. Since the funds have been ‘pocketed’, this road will only ever exist on paper and will never be seen by the community of Cabunga-an.

I am shown the house of a poorest of the poor (POP) that cannot repay their credit scheme with us. A dilapidated bamboo hut with no appliances and Lord only knows how many children. The community development workers (CDWs) can’t say no to this family in desperate poverty and extend their loan.

However, how can we justify that some families who can’t pay the loan are cut from the program while others can stay on?

Our NGO is based on compassion and committed to alleviating poverty but we must be sustainable too. It’s all very well for me to recommend cutting off all barangays that do not meet our 50% + 1 repayment benchmark, but what happens to those we leave behind? Certainly no level of government is willing and/or able to help them.

Development work is similar to the medical profession in a way, compassion draws you to this line of work, but cool rationalism maintains your sanity. You have to focus on the task at hand so you are not overwhelmed by anger, sadness and impotence. I try to listen to the little activist revolutionary inside me (a hybrid of Che Guevara and Anita Roddick), alas today she is drowned out by the enormity of the problem.

The hunger aches, the directionless existence that the people of the bamboo shack must endure would make life a constant misery. I can’t get the listless look in their eyes out of my mind.

I have to listen closer for my little optimistic activist because her voice is lost in an ocean of despair, and I’m going down with her.

 (written 19th May)

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