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Philippine villages get BOOST

CAMIGUIN ISLAND, Philippines (BP)–The setting looks idyllic. A lush tropical island, crowned by rugged volcanic mountains, rises out of the sparkling blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Life here can be anything but pleasant, however. Many people eke out a meager existence in isolated villages accessible only by motorcycle, horseback or foot. Most communities know nothing of clean water or electricity. Health care is virtually nonexistent, and many children don’t live to see their first birthday. Few people can read the books that would help them improve their lives.

But Southern Baptists have made a life-transforming difference for hundreds of people in more than a dozen villages on Camiguin Island in the Philippines. A BOOST (Baptist Out Of School Training) community development project mobilized extension workers from the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center and members of evangelical churches in the island’s main city, Mambajao.

The project addressed a wide range of needs, said Darrell Wilson*, a field partner of Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist relief and development organization.

“We established 13 community-based centers that trained 157 people on quality-of-life issues related to agriculture, health, sanitation, literacy and livelihood improvement,” he said. “We helped families set up 78 FAITH (Food Always In The Home) gardens, and 18 farms were upgraded with SALT (Sloping Agricultural Land Technology) techniques.”

The project, which was launched in 2006 and completed at the end of 2007, also planted fruit trees and donated animals to start livestock herds, Wilson said. An estimated 950 family members benefited from the life transformation experienced by graduates of the training.

A key emphasis of community development projects is helping women find ways to generate income to improve their families’ lives, Wilson said.

“One of our extension workers was conducting a Women’s Livelihood Training workshop, and a participant was teaching recipes to the other trainees,” he recounted. “During the training, she realized she could prepare some of her people’s favorite delicacies and sell them in the local market.

“Now she is cooking three times a week and more if there are special orders. This is the beginning of a small business that will help her family and help build the local economy.”

Extension projects like these are coordinated with local and regional governments and tribal leaders, Wilson said.

“Two years of successful community-based extension work and training has resulted in a growing awareness of and cooperation with local and regional government,” he said. “This good reputation has helped us reach out to another nearby island, where a good relationship has been established with a tribal chieftain. The Rural Life Center is one of the few non-governmental organizations that have been granted permission to work in the tribal villages there.”

The relationships developed with those communities have provided access into some normally inaccessible areas where people have extreme physical and spiritual needs, Wilson said.

“We had an opportunity to conduct island-wide training for church members that we call ‘Empowered to Serve,'” he said. “Those people and the extension workers in turn were able to help more than 600 villagers understand how to experience a full and meaningful life and show them ways to raise their families in confidence, build their communities with dignity and share this life with others.”

The MBRLC extension workers often are asked why they would come to live in remote villages and work to improve the lives of the poorest of the poor, Wilson said.

“They often reply: ‘Because the love of Jesus compels me to help.’ People who care always come to the aid of people in need.”
*Name changed because of security concerns.

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  • Mark Kelly