Quezon City Convergence: Poverty in the Urban Realm
When people think of extreme poverty, they often think about areas in far, distant rural communities. Cities are usually depicted or expected to have modern technology, high-rise buildings, and overall, a convenient livelihood. However, ZEP2030 saw the other side to this picturesque. It recognized the slums and the struggles of those trying to get by in the painstaking route to survival in the city.
In the attempt to pivot from the thematic clusters to local convergences, the 2019 ZEP2030 General Assembly segmented roundtable discussions to invite member organizations to identify particular areas they were interested in convening – one of which was Quezon City. Many of those organizations based in the National Capital Region (NCR) expressed their liking and participated in the first conversation that would eventually form the Quezon City Convergence.
In January 2020, those same organizations were called to the very first Quezon City Convergence meeting. 12 organizations from the initial group attended and committed to work together to uplift Filipino families living in extreme poverty in the city to self-sufficiency. These organizations include RealLife Foundation, Promised Land Child Development Center, World Vision Development Foundation, Lao Foundation, Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), J. Amado Araneta Foundation (JAAF), Foundation for the Development of the Urban Poor (FDUP), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Educational Research and Development Assistance (ERDA) Foundation, Partnership of Philippine Support Service Agencies (PHILSSA), Association of Foundations (AF), International Care Ministries (ICM), and Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP). Aligning their goals, the attendees engaged in the initial sharing of their programs and areas where they operate. This geared the convergence to identify the top three priority areas to conduct the PPI Profiling and FCV. These areas are Barangay Payatas under Promised Land Child Development Center, Barangay Bagong Silangan under ERDA Foundation, and Barangay Bagumbayan under Lao Foundation. Later on that month, the convergence organized an orientation on the ZEP2030 PPI and FCV workshop for its members and community workers. Five organizations participated in the orientation, including Lao Foundation, Foundation for the Development of the Urban Poor (FDUP), ERDA Foundation, Promised Land Child Development Center, and Manila Water Foundation. FDUP hosted the training and co-facilitated with the technical working group and Secretariat members: PBSP, AF, and ICM. Data gathering was scheduled to commence in February 2020, targeting to have an initial set of data by June 2020.
Convergence building in a pandemic
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic posed an obstacle to the burgeoning convergence. Similar to many businesses, the convergence’s plans were put into a halt. The three-month NCR-wide lockdown and the succeeding issues of travel restrictions, let alone the risks of getting infected by the virus, impeded the plans to profile the families in the selected communities. Transitioning to the new normal for the convergence was not as seamless either as each organization had to re-strategize their approaches and structure. It was only in January 2021, a year after the first convergence meeting, that the convergence members were able to reconvene.
“The pandemic is not a major obstacle, it’s a given at this point. Marami humihirap ngayong pandemya. Isn’t that an opportunity rather than an obstacle? We have to recognize that and start the process of addressing the issue”, Maricel Genzola of FDUP said. Re-assembling the convergence was an opportunity to re-assess and re-align the capabilities of the members to achieve their goals in the realms of a pandemic. Genzola praises the passion of each member to get involved and see how they can each contribute to the movement, a motivating characteristic of the convergence. Despite the pandemic, the convergence was determined to continue profiling to define the ZEP2030 families in each area.
The first data set from ERDA Foundation was previously collected from a total of 603 households from Bagong Silangan. With regard to the households’ per capita income, reports show that 354 households earn about Php 1,000 – 1,499 – and only 81 households earning above Php 1, 500. Out of the 603 respondents, 393 household heads report to rely on skilled work as their main source of income. Data also shows that six percent do not have water connection, and nine percent do not have access to sanitation. Twenty-five percent (25%) report they either share, have a submeter, or rely on illegal connections to have electricity supply. In terms of ownership, 57% of the total surveyed reported having ownership to their dwelling, but only 46% of which squats on the lot. Eighty-two percent (82%) of these dwellings used concrete materials or wood to construct their homes. Within these homes, 87% owns a television, 9% owns a refrigerator, and 14% owns a washing machine. Only 26% of the respondents mentioned have been served by a welfare agency. In sum, two households fall under the three ZEP2030 extreme poverty indicators: income below 60 per person/day, no access to safe potable water, and no access to own sanitary toilet; and 51 households fall under 2 indicators: no access to safe potable water and no access to own sanitary toilet.
To validate these data, the convergence plans to facilitate a role-playing activity with ERDA Foundation. The results of the COVID Pulse PH Survey will also be used for validating the gathered data.
Considering that it is still in its early stages, the Quezon City Convergence prioritizes the profiling of the families to discover their needs and aspirations. Genzola affirms that having this data would help create a more solid outline of intentions and a more tailored set of programs for the communities’ needs that could be presented to future potential partners, including the LGU. Having said this, the convergence has not yet implemented direct programs in their communities. A few staff and beneficiaries of the member organizations, however, have benefitted from JAAF’s COVID-19 vaccination program with the LGU, held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in June 2021.
What works and what is hoped for
Going at its own pace, the ZEP2030 Quezon City Convergence models a common process but a unique distinction to convergence building. The openness of each member towards one another became a vital foundation in their collaborative work. This allowed them to appoint roles, assign tasks, and specify agreed plans that each could comfortably follow through. FDUP currently acts as the local convenor of the convergence with JAAF as Co-Chair.
With regard to expanding the barangays covered by the convergence, initial conversations have already been opened to the floor. The convergence sets eyes on three areas: Barangay Batasan Hills under FDUP, Novaliches under PHILSSA, and Agham Road under JAAF. JAAF already began profiling last May 2021. Conversely, hoping for support, FDUP has yet to organize initial profiling activities in Batasan Hills.
Despite having introduced ZEP2030 to the Quezon City Social Welfare Development office in early 2021, the convergence aims to have contiguous LGU involvement in its activities and potentially being one of the leaders of the movement.