Lighting Paths, Healing Lives
Community Based Development Program
The Agape Rural (Health) Program (ARP) is a community based development program that was developed to help needy and underserved Filipinos improve their quality of life through holistic health services anchored on the socio-economic and spiritual upliftment.
It adopts a curriculum that covers community health development and leadership as well as the sociological and moral principles for establishing change movements. With programs in recruitment, training, outreach and networking, ARP volunteers partner with local folk and leaders who share the same dedication to physical and spiritual empowerment of the local community.
ARP recognizes that Community Based Health Program has proven to be an effective approach for:
(a) Wider scale and coverage of the general health services
(b) Developing specific strategies to address health and Developmental concerns
(c) Ensuring program sustainability
Furthermore, it allows bridges for working relationships of various sectors from both government and private groups.
ARP believes that progress and development is a team-effort involving all levels of society, from the grassroots to the top socio-political level in the implementation of any program.
An Executive Director who oversees all operations and functions of the program manages the ARP. Different committee coordinators who are responsible for the different aspects of the program namely, administration and finance, training, community projects, compassion projects, and social marketing support the Executive Director. Regional coordinators supervise and implement their own program in their respective regions. ARP operates in 5 regions in the Philippines.
The health of the Philippine population was always a concern as eighty percent (80%) of these communities and municipalities have little or no access to any health care services. It was envisioned that physical health and social/community development multiplication might be approached concurrently under one program. Summer vision trips among medical students were started for the rural Mountain Provinces in Northern Philippines. These endeavors laid the initial indelible impression that reaching these areas with holistic health care as the entry point would accelerate the goal of development throughout the Philippines
The concept of reaching the communities in urban and rural areas for health and moral development through trained health care volunteers was noble. The desire to reach the country through holistic health and community development remained high. Regular summer medical mission trips were continued and later the service was expanded to include dental health care. These small dental and medical clinics provided a continual impetus for the student leaders to expand their vision to fulfill the social development aspirations beyond the medical schools and hospitals. It also provided an avenue for the graduates to continue to express their felt need to still be involved.
The majority of the volunteer students after graduation eventually pursued residency training. One of these, Dr. Editha Cañete, went further to take a fellowship in infectious diseases. After completing this training, she together with Miss Judy George, a nurse, re-ignited the vision of reaching the rural communities using health as the entry point. They believed that unless health is taken in the context of total dimension of a person (physical and social/moral or holistically), any health intervention will at most have only a superficial impact. The social and moral change of the individual brings a total change in a person from inside out and health outcome, therefore, is strongly enhanced. Since health is mainly the outcome of lifestyle and prevailing economic and political factors, empowering a person’s moral conviction can empower him towards health promotion and development. The latter will serve to empower the community to overcome social, economic and political adversity that impedes health development at the community level. Thus the Agape Rural Program (ARP), led by Dr. Editha Cañete and Judy George was born in 1986.
The ARP vision was to provide continuing development opportunities for new graduates mainly from the health professions including nurses so that they would become community multipliers wherever they were placed through this holistic approach to health. Graduates of other disciplines like social work, engineering, agriculture, planning, architecture, public administration, and education were included. It was also envisioned that the socially and geographically disadvantaged population would be reached with social change and development.
Since its beginnings in 1986, more than 137 volunteers (doctors, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, psychologist and other professionals) have been recruited and trained. Their training consists of one-month didactics on Holistic Community Health Development. They are then sent out for 2-4 months to selected communities for field work. Here they discover how to live out the principles they were taught. Within the four months stay in the community, they are to recruit and train local volunteers for health care delivery and social multiplication and these will continue the work after the ARP volunteers have completed their assignment and subsequently exit from the area.
Presently, ARP is working in five provinces in the Philippines: (Tuguegarao, Cagayan; Guimba, Nueva Ecija; Baler, Quezon; Leyte-Samar, Palawan). All these areas were initiated by and are under the supervision of former ARP volunteers who have completed the six months program. They are now practicing as doctors/professionals and at the same time overseeing a similar ARP community based health programs in their areas. Each area also has a campus, community development and professional network. In Palawan, they have the village health development program where the physical and social needs of the communities are met. All municipalities in Nueva Ecija and Palawan, two in Cagayan and one in Leyte-Samar have had presentations of moral stories through clinics and film shows.
ARP indeed is a fulfillment of a vision. Students and professionals develop a burden for the underprivileged by joining full time community work and short term opportunities. One essential factor in the success of the ARP program is the development of local indigenous health volunteers and leaders who become both their partners and co-laborers in the great task of the Philippines’ rural and community development.
The Holistic Approach
Much of modern development philosophy is divided into two camps. One group has dedicated itself to social, moral and spiritual development primarily through emphasis on education and spiritual teaching – and has virtually ignored the social aspects of life. The other camp focused so much on the physical aspects of education and health, etc while neglecting community development especially for the poor, whether rural or urban.
The ARP uses a two-pronged approach by combining both strategies to meet the social and moral development with the physical needs of men which is called the holistic approach.
Mission and Objectives
To love and serve the poor by being agents of change, empowering people through holistic development.
1.To train individuals and educate poor and needy communities towards self- reliance.
2.To develop community projects resulting in improved quality of life.
3.To provide compassionate health services to address urgent needs.
4.To develop social marketing tools and strategies to promote the program.
5. To provide continuing staff training and development
6. To ensure sustainability & functionality of program processes.
Social workers, postgraduate medical and paramedical students and others from sectors like agriculture, engineering, accounting and education are first recruited and trained for six months in holistic health care. They are fielded to live in or near to selected communities that are socially and geographically disadvantaged. During such immersion, it is hoped that they would catch a vision for the needy and poor and become change agents. They are called ARP volunteer training teams. These volunteers are not given any monetary remuneration but rather raise their own funds for their transport, food, and housing within the Philippines.
Village Health Workers are recruited and trained on basic health care to become frontliners in the delivery of primary health care. As these future health workers are community based, the community is ensured to have accessible health care providers. The ARP volunteer training teams model and mentor them closely.
Transferable, appropriate, and simple materials are developed by ARP and are used for enhancing the capabilities of the community. Participatory and adult learning methods are used to ensure an effective learning process of the local health volunteers.
ARP believes that unless man will radically change from within, local empowering will at most only bring cosmetic changes to the community and ultimately not be full of impact as to bring a total community transformation. Health is only a by-product of the social, political and economic determinants. These latter issues to be addressed will require no less than the transformation of man from within through moral and social values formation.
B. Community Development
Local people are chosen by the community to form their health committee. The Health Committees (HC) help in the selection of Village Health Worker (VHW) who are subsequently trained by the ARP volunteers to take the leadership of the local health program. This helps to ensure local ownership and sustainability for health care and services in the community. By organizing the community, helping them learn self-governance, while equipping them with the basic ropes of leaderships, the community stands the chance for future survival and sustainability.
The community, together with ARP and other agencies also implements community projects that help improve the quality of life. These projects vary depending on the identified needs of the community.
C. Social Marketing/ Program information dissemination
The task of true health development is not easy. It will need the concerted effort of both government and non-government organizations. The community is taught how to tap resources to help meet their needs.
Health clinics are conducted to serve as training grounds for the Community Health Workers(CHW) and the Health Committee members. It is also designed to meet pressing health needs that cannot be handled by the CHWs.