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SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: Building a Better Future for Filipino Children


World Vision Development Foundation National Director Rommel V. Fuerte talks about the importance of education and LGU linkages for community progress.




For Filipino parents, the dream is to give their child a better life through education. However, there are limited resources available, especially for those living in far-flung provinces. To bring development closer to communities, there are non-government organizations such as World Vision that tackle issues at the grassroots level, through sponsorships from donors, in partnership with the local government units. World Vision programs, which reach 1.5 million vulnerable Filipino children every year, help ensure that Filipino families and their communities are given a better future through education, health and nutrition, child protection, livelihood, and emergency response.

Breaking the Cycle

World Vision Development Foundation National Director Rommel V. Fuerte is far too aware of the situation on the ground, as he himself experienced the same obstacles that many students are still facing today because of poverty. “I grew up in Alamada, Cotabato. It’s a really small town. My father was a casual employee of the local government and his employment was on and off. My mother was a public school teacher and most of her income was really just spent on paying off their loans.”

There were five children in the family and he was the eldest, Fuerte says. With money tight, he had to make do with a lot of things, such as recycling his notebooks. He muses, “I would get used notebooks, cut out empty pages and staple them together to make my spelling booklet. I remember thinking that even though my notebook was recycled, at least my spelling was correct.”

There were times when he had to miss classes, because he had to look after his younger siblings, and he went to school in slippers that had to last for the whole school year. “Those are life experiences that taught me to really strive hard to graduate. That was why, with my brothers and sisters, we promised to move out of that cycle of poverty. [During my college classes,] I learned that poverty is not fate or a circumstance, but a condition that can and must be changed. This principle resonated with my condition during that time. I realized that we can either get out from that cycle or go around it for the rest of your life.”

Fuerte had originally wanted to take up nursing, seeing it as an opportunity for a better life because there are more chances to work overseas. “However, since we did not have the resources for me to get to the university in time, the slots for their nursing course were already full and I was waitlisted. I ended up taking a Bachelor of Science in Social Work course, which is also rooted in service,” he shares.

World Vision

As a licensed social worker, Fuerte considers his work as a vocation and not just a profession. “Aside from helping myself overcome poverty through my income, I’m also helping others to graduate from that situation. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone. If you can lift yourself from your condition, you can also do the same for others.”

His first exposure to the work that World Vision does was as a documenter during his college days. “They had a program in Davao, and I worked with them during my college days, documenting their trainings and events for extra income,” he smiles, reminiscing the past.

He did apply with World Vision after graduation but he never heard back from them, he says. “My first job was as a training officer with a cooperative that hired me even before I graduated.”

It was months after he sent his application that World Vision reached out to ask him if he wanted to be a volunteer. “There was an allowance involved, so I took it. I believed that the organization is aligned with my Christian values.” He moved to Capiz for the volunteer work, and when an opening came up for a permanent position in Surigao, he applied and was among the chosen three out of more than 30 applicants. “I literally rose from the ranks to be national director, the first to do so as they used to hire somebody from outside the organization to fill the position. I experienced the field work that our program officers do, including leading the Caraga Region (Region XIII) group for three years. On December 1999, I became the training officer of the Canadian government-funded Kusog Baga project which covered the whole country.”

Through the years, Fuerte worked in several capacities for the organization both in the Philippines and in its regional office. “I joined the Human Resource department to handle training, then I was assigned to be strategy management director, in what was a pioneering team. I left World Vision Philippines in 2009 to become strategy specialist for World Vision for the Asia Pacific Region while based in Bangkok, Thailand.”

He left the organization to return to the Philippines, where he co-founded Mindanaobased Glial Community Consulting that offers workshops, training, and technical support on strategy and communications work for community and grassroots organizations and took up teaching at the Southern Christian College.

He assumed the role of World Vision Philippines Operations Director upon his return and when the National Director retired in 2017, he took on the role, bringing with him his expertise that was built from the ground up, along with the desire to help more children stay in school and stay healthy so they can have a better future through their programs.

In 2018, Fuerte was recognized as the country’s most outstanding social worker in the humanitarian sector awarded by the Philippine Association of Social Workers, Inc. He wants to capitalize on such recognition to change the public’s perception of their field. “The mindset toward social workers in the Philippines is associated with distributing relief goods such as sardines and noodles. Our work goes beyond that; there are social workers in hospital settings, we handle cases of abuse, and we also do community organizing.

There is a science and art to social work.”

In 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed him as board member of the Council for the Welfare of Children. In 2021, he was invited to be part of the board of the Multi Sectoral Governance Coalition of the DSWD.

Fuerte is also currently the chairman of the board of Community Economic Ventures, Inc. (a micro finance NGO), vice chairman of the board of Philippine Children’s Ministry Network, convener of the Philippine Coalition of Advocates for Nutrition Security, and a member of the steering committee of Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Consortium.

Inclusive Growth

The focus of World Vision is poverty alleviation, through collaboration with donors and stakeholders in the community including the local government.

The role of the LGU is crucial to a program’s success, he adds. “We talk to the governors if there are advocacy issues, or policies or programs that we can do on a provincial level. We talk to mayors of municipalities and cities, and establish a relationship at that level. Then we talk to the barangay officials and the community when we do our ‘visioning.’”

Their strategy is participatory, and they ask the communities to envision their future together, what they want to see among their children, and their communities in general. So from that, when they have created their vision, that’s the starting point of developing programs. We stay with the community for 10 to 15 years, and support them in achieving their vision. That is where the education, health and nutrition, and livelihood programs come in.”

They are made aware that at a certain point, World Vision will leave them. “In Surigao del Sur, they started Lihok Surigao sa Kalambuan Association (LISURKA) to continue the development initiatives and we are helping them with technical support.”

Fuerte is happy to report that from 2016 to 2019, World Vision Philippines reached more than 3.1 million children through their child-focused programs, emergency response, and advocacy initiatives.

Under Fuerte’s leadership, World Vision Philippines continues to engage with the national and local government, the business community through corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship, the academe, churches, civil society, the media, groups and individuals who are committed to improving the well-being of children and building the nation, one child, one community at a time.

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