By Ruby Ann Kagaoan – Calo
1. Housing for the Poor
It starts with having a home.
A family must have first and foremost a home from which to plan and strategize their move out of poverty, a home where they can feel safe, secure, and free from the fear of eviction or demolition.
A top priority for poverty eradication, therefore, should be projects of housing for the poor and relocation of the squatter communities out of urban places where they wallow in filth and diseases and haplessness and succumb to the temptations of crime and prostitution.
Urban planning is necessary where the leverages of slumlords for political gain must once and for all be disregarded. In fact, slumlords themselves have to face the law and be stopped from further exploiting the poor and their being exploited by politicians.
Professional squatters have to be identified and those families who are truly in the greatest need for permanent homes have to be given priority in the housing program.
We need to tap funding for housing beyond what the Government can supply. In our nation, housing for the poor is not progressing as fast as the proliferation of slums and slum dwellers, so private and non-government initiatives must be intensified.
2. Early Childhood Literacy Programs for the Poor
Next, we need literacy programs for the poor.
Quality education is the only permanent solution that we can give the poor so that they can help themselves climb out of poverty. Houses can be taken away by disaster or financial loss, but education cannot.
There must be educational interventions given to children aged 6 and below so that they can have a head start at learning, develop good study habits, and thus have a greater chance to survive the elementary, high school, and college years.
Some municipalities like Pasig City already have public preschools, and observably children who graduate from these public preschools perform very well in Grade 1.
What children learn before the age of 12, especially before the age of 6, stay in their minds and hearts the longest and thus shape their characters and personalities the most.
There needs to be a link-up with private educators and with the Department of Education in starting literacy programs for preschool-aged children.
3. Medical and Health Programs for the Poor
Medical and health programs for the poor have to be improved.
Poor families become more destitute when an adult member who contributes to the family’s total income becomes ill.
Medicines and hospitalization are elusive for the poor. Some die or become permanently disabled needlessly because of dire poverty.
If the poor could have themselves confined in a public hospital, they usually have to share beds. In a pediatric infectious ward of a labor hospital, for example, it is a common sight to have two up to four children lying down on one pediatric bed. Sick babies, children, and adults die unnecessarily in public hospitals because of the lack of medical equipment and facilities.
We thus must ensure that the poor have access to medicines and medical help to ensure that they stay able-bodied and healthy enough to work and their children grow up healthy, are able to go to school, and eventually become productive citizens.
4. Debt Pardon
If there are those who have become poor because of debts with the banks, there must be also a debt pardon and assets of these bankrupt families must be returned to them so that they can start anew.
The Government, therefore, needs to order the banks to review their roster of acquired assets and release back to their debtors their assets.
The LORD Himself commands this debt pardon to the Jews as their way to honor the Sabbath year and the Jubilee – there must be a pardon of debts and a return of acquired properties to those who had been indebted.
We cannot expect debt pardon from nations and foreign financial institutions if our country’s local banks themselves cannot pardon those among our people who have become poor and unable to pay their debts. Let us begin with our people, then I believe grace will also be shown our country when we as a Government and as a nation seek the pardon of our unbelievably enormous foreign debts.
A debt pardon to our nation will release more funds for education and social services which are fundamental tools to eradicate poverty.
Migration is always an alternative to look into when certain areas are no longer fit for the survival of a certain population.
The movement of poor communities from crowded urban areas to underdeveloped regions of our country and simultaneously our Government and development organizations directing investments, development assistance, and infrastructure development to these areas of relocation need to be intensified. This ties up with my first suggestion of housing for the poor as a top priority to take in the agenda of halving the poverty incidence in the Philippines by 2015.
Livelihood opportunities have to be near or within the houses of these relocated communities. Financial stewardship and entrepreneurship must be part of the public education system and public training programs to equip the poor in handling microfinance assistance.
6. Righteous Leadership
What is a righteous leader?
The most straightforward way that I can define a “righteous leader” is a shepherd after God’s own heart who will shepherd a people with knowledge and understanding. The Scripture passage on which I have based this definition is found in Jeremiah 3:15.
12 Go, proclaim this message toward the north: “‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever. 13 Only acknowledge your guilt– you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’” declares the Lord. 14 “Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you–one from a town and two from a clan–and bring you to Zion. 15 Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.
All the programs that I have suggested can be carried out when we have a nation led by leaders who are after God’s own heart, not compromising virtue and duty for favors. The Creator of all things promises to give such leaders to a nation that acknowledges its guilt and returns to Him.
We know what we are guilty of as a nation – prostitution on all levels of our society. We sell what is sacred, like the votes we cast or our positions of influence or the very lives and future of our children, for unrighteous gain. It is time we return to God, clear our conscience, and on the next national and local elections, vote wisely for men and women who can shepherd us after God’s own heart and who will lead us with knowledge, understanding, and a clear and specific platform that upholds moral and creational norms that are aligned with the standard of a holy God.