“You are now part and parcel of our lives. You did not only give us dwellings to live, you also paved the way for us to dream how to live our lives. And what we have today is a dream come true”.
Thus said Debrah Estreba, President of the Samahan ng may iba't ibang Kakayahan sa Dabaw or SAKADAB, in her response message during the turnover ceremony last Saturday, November 23, 2013 of the new Productivity Center constructed at the Davao City government's relocation site at Barangay Los Amigos, Tugbok District.
SAKADAB is an organization of differently abled persons who endeavor to live normal lives despite their being physically-challenged. The Productivity Center is a facility built specifically to provide venue for livelihood activities for its members and their families who are now residing at the Gawad Kalinga-SAKADAB Village in dormitories and duplexes constructed by volunteers from various entities including those from government and the business sector. Simultaneous with the turnover SAKADAB also opened its bakery and sari-sari store.
By “you”, Debra says “I mean the Gawad Kalinga, Davao Light & Power Co., Aboitiz Foundation, Inc., the City Government of Davao, the Our Lady of Victory Training Center, people like Mr. Art Milan, Mr. Oscar Hilado, Sister Cecelia Wood, Mr. Vic Rosario, then Mayor Inday Sara Duterte Carpio, Mayor Rody Duterte, Nilo Claudio and Architects Rene and Sylvia Rieta”. “Your unwavering support and hand-holding has inspired us to keep moving despite physical challenges that hinder our mobility”.
“Whatever we do and wherever our activities bring us, we know we now have residences that we can go home to; that we have a community we can claim we belong”, Debrah who is wheelchair bound, added with tears rolling down her cheeks.
She and the other members of her group were once wards at Our Lady of Victory Training Center (OLV) in Sasa. While inside they underwent therapy or physical rehabilitation. The harder process though was the building of their confidence as human beings knowing society's bias on people of their kind.
But it was their stay at OLV that also made them whole. They were taught various livelihood skills and people relationship building all of which were aimed at preparing them when they move out of the center and go back to the mainstream community.
Early on, according to Debrah, OLV took one more step higher in its preparation for the release of the differently-abled from its fold. OLV president Art M. Milan tied up with the Gawad Kalinga Davao for the mobilization of resources as well as to find a place where a new community for her group will be built.
After a series of negotiations with the local government of Davao City then under Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio through the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO), and the Office of the City Housing, a portion of the city's relocation site in Los Amigos was allocated for the construction of duplex houses and dormitories for the families of Samahan ng mga may iba't-ibang Kakayahan sa Dabaw.
As the land was made available and the Gawad Kalinga Development Foundation entered into an agreement with the city, a massive material and financial resource generation for the construction of houses was started. GK networked with various business, academic, and other non-government organizations to tap volunteers that will do the construction job.
On November 24, 2012 the GK-SAKADAB house build was launched. Thousands came to offer their hands and expertise. The sponsors as well as funds and material donors for the house constructions were there. OLV's chairman Mr. Oscar Hilado who is also chairman of the Board of the Phinma Group of Companies was also around to provide inspiration to the volunteer builders. Sister Wood, OLV's executive director, was there as well. So do were the executives of sponsoring business organizations.
On April of 2012 all three duplex houses and three dormitories were completed with lively colors. One duplex unit was built by employee volunteers of the city government. Another unit was primarily constructed by previous GK housing beneficiaries. Another duplex unit's construction was spearheaded by the association of Pilipinas Shell fuel dealers. The duplexes house the families of married SAKDAB members.
The construction of the dormitories that now house the single differently-abled individuals was led by corporate volunteers. One dormitory was built by cement maker Holcim Philippines employees. Another was constructed by volunteers from Aboitiz-owned Davao Light. The third one was put up by volunteers from Union Galvasteel.
Behind the build initiators were the hundreds of other volunteers sent by schools, barangays and other private groups.
The units were officially turned over to Debrah's SAKADAB on April 20, 2013. These were however, not occupied until late September when installation of power and water facilities were completed.
Exactly one year ago last Saturday, Debrah made her emotional statement right in front of a happy, yet sober, crowd of people including the families of the SAKADAB housing beneficiaries. The occasion was the formal turnover of a P1.2 million Productivity Center. The building construction was funded by Davao Light through Aboitiz Foundation, with counterpart from OLV. It now houses a bakery and a store. Both enterprises are run and managed by SAKADAB members. The bakers were trained to bake bread and other pastries while they were still at OLV.
In their messages both Mr. Hilado and Mr. Milan said that the GK-SAKADAB housing village and the Productivity Center is a “dream come true” for the former OLV wards. This Debrah proudly echoed in her thanksgiving speech, adding that what she said is not just hers but those of her fellow housing beneficiaries who feel that having a house to live and a center to work for a living is their collective “dream come true” as well.
Meanwhile the GK Development Foundation is well aware that its mission for the SAKADAB does not end with just turning over the houses and the productivity center. It still has to do a lot of hand-holding the organization of the differently abled to ensure that they let their “dream come true” live over the years.