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Former 4Ps beneficiary to represent PH at prestigious UN global learning event in Luxembourg

A daughter of a former household-beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) will represent the country at the prestigious Luxembourg Global Learning Event of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Asst. Secretary for Strategic Communications Romel Lopez said on Thursday (February 28).

Asst. Sec. Lopez said that Hanelie Millamina-Lopez, from Barangay Canan, Pasacao, Camarines Sur will be in the European country on March 19 to 21 to embark on her learning journey with the goal to expand her advocacy efforts on Indigenous People’s (IPs) rights.

“Hanelie is an employee of our Bicol Region Field Office as Project Development Officer II and designated as the Regional Indigenous People Unit Focal,” Asst. Sec. Lopez, who is also the agency’s spokesperson, said.

“She was nominated and eventually chosen to be part of the UN learning activity because of her exemplary articulation and representation on IP rights during an Enhancing Resilient Communities (ERC) Flagship Initiative in Tiwi, Albay last December 2023,” the spokesperson continued.

For Hanelie, she cannot help but express her excitement to this once-in-a lifetime chance to represent her country.

“I feel so excited as the event offers me a valuable platform to engage with international peers and effectively enhance my knowledge in working with Indigenous Peoples and other sectors we serve. It serves as a platform not only for learning but also for sharing valuable insights from my own experiences,” Hanelie said.

Gaining insights and experience from her current work in the DSWD at the regional level, Hanelie was able to focus on her advocacy to promote IP rights and inclusivity as an IP focal.

“Our goal is to uphold fairness, equity and inclusivity in our efforts. Also, I am to share experiences and promote the Indigenous Peoples Rights and Social Inclusivity, ensuring that no one is left behind in our mission to improve the lives of those we serve,” Hanelie added.

4Ps paved the way

Hanelie owes her modest achievements in life to 4Ps which puts a premium on prioritizing education.

Upholding this 4Ps principle that education is the best way to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, Hanelie was determined to finish her schooling despite being poor.

Growing up, Hanelie saw how her family struggled to make ends meet. Her father Lauro Millamina is a hardworking farmer, while her mother Merlita Millamina stayed at home to take care of her and her other ten siblings.

“Ang aking ama ay isang masipag na magsasaka subalit ang kanyang kinikita ay sapat lamang sa aming pangangailangan sa araw-araw, at madalas ito ay kulang. Kung kaya, siya ay madalas nagtatrabaho sa palayan ng ibang tao upang may dagdag pantustos sa aming pangangailangan,” shared Hanelie.

(My father is a hardworking farmer, but his income is just enough to meet our daily needs, and often falls short. He often works in other people’s rice fields to provide additional support for our family.)

Most of the time, Hanelie and her siblings went to school without any allowance to buy their meals. They also walked several kilometers to go to school because they cannot afford local transportation.

After finishing their secondary education, she and her older brother decided to stop their schooling to generate additional income for their family.

Despite these adversities, her faith and dream of a better life for her and her family did not falter.

In 2009, a beacon of hope emerged in the lives of the Millamina family when they were chosen as one of the beneficiaries of 4Ps.

“Laking pasasalamat namin sa gobyerno dahil sa tulong na ito. Alam niyo po, dito nagsimula na makamit namin ang aming pangarap na makapagtapos ng pag-aaral,” said Hanelie.

(We are grateful to the government for this assistance. This is where we began to achieve our dream of finishing our studies.)

Contrary to misconceptions about the program, Hanelie explained that becoming a 4Ps beneficiary did not foster their family’s dependency to government aid, instead, the program ignited a flame of determination to return to school, while finding other ways to contribute to their family’s livelihood.

“Despite of so much hardship that we experienced along the way due to financial difficulties (our parents’ earnings is just enough for our daily needs with 13 members in the family), my siblings and I never stopped until we graduated from college,” she said.

Hanelie’s perseverance bore fruits when she became an Expanded Students Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGPPA) scholar at the Bicol University in 2011.

The ESGPPA is an educational grant implemented by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), together with the DSWD, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), to prioritize the college education of 4Ps household-beneficiaries.

To augment her allowance while studying, Hanelie sold peanuts, yema, cosmetics, and other personal care products to her classmates and teachers. There were also people who helped her and opened their homes when she was studying away from home.

“Akala ko noon, di na ako makakatapos sa kolehiyo subalit napakabuti ng Diyos,” she exclaimed.

(I thought back then, I will not be able to finish college, but God is so good.)

Through prayers and perseverance, Hanelie was able to finish her degree in AB Sociology with Latin honors (cum laude) in 2015.

“Before I enrolled in college, I was a volunteer church worker focusing on serving and supporting the youth and children within the community. This experience ignited my passion in serving and engaging with people,” she shared.

After graduation, she was hired by the DSWD Field Office-5.

The employment opportunity given to her in the DSWD Bicol Office has allowed Hanelie to help their family and support the education of her younger siblings. It also paved the way towards waiving their household’s membership from the 4Ps in 2017.

“We decided to waive being beneficiaries of the program because we saw that we were already capable of supporting our siblings’ education and providing for the daily needs of our family. We also wanted to allow others to experience the opportunity to be beneficiaries so that they could also be helped,” she shared.

Hanelie’s story serves as a reminder that with determination and support, even the most daunting obstacles can be overcome.

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