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Mary Ann Collado: Yes, The Rural Youth Can!

Our youth can be a tool for development. Given the right attention and proper direction, they too can play a vital role in shaping a brighter future for our country. However, due to the harsh circumstances tht beset our youth today, like drug addiction, vices, gambling and crimes, this statement can either be true or not. Here’s a story of Mary Ann Collado, a timid lass from a nondescript town in South Cotabato who was able to show the potentials of our so-called “hope of the motherland”. 

In a dismal town of Tampakan, in the province of South Cotabato, juvenile delinquency is one of the problems that are faced by its people. The town is considered as one of the poorest municipalities of the province, where farming is the main source of living. Because of poverty, many youths are not able to continue their schooling. They spent their time doing farming activities instead of attending classes. In many cases, some of them are involved in vices and drugs. The police often caught some of them in a pot session smoking marijuana. This deplorable condition has caught the attention of the rural youth coordinator of Tampakan. In order to divert the attention of these juveniles from the ill effects of drug addiction and vices, the youth coordinator sought the help of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) in region XII. Living by its mission to improve the living condition of the farm families, including the rural youth through capability development, ATI-XII responded in the effort to reach out to the out of-school-youth (OSY).

The rural youth coordinator organized the group which forms the 4-H club members of Poblacion, Tampakan. Since training is its main job, ATI utilized training as its initial intervention. On May 1993, the ATI conducted a Livelihood Skills Training for the Rural Youth. The training aimed to capacitate the youth of Tampakan to become productive members of the society and utilize their energy into a worthwhile endeavor. They were taught entrepreneurial skills like swine, poultry, goat and vegetable production.

This training did not end there. They were also taught how to prepare proposals and source out funds to support the micro-projects they would like to venture in. Thus, the Small Economic Enterprise Development (SEED) Project evolved. The SEED Project is a training and livelihood package, which aimed to harness the skills of the rural youth in handling entrepreneurial activities that can provide additional income to the family. ATI South Cotabato ushered the 4-H Club of Tampakan to different funding institutions, like the Provincial Government of South Cotabato and the Local Government of Tampakan.

After a series of consultations and dialogues with the rural youth, together with their parents and guardians and the different funding institutions, the SEED Project was implemented on September 1993. Base on the agreement, each government institution inolved shall provide financial and technical assistance to the youth and their family to start the specific project they would like to implement. ATI was tasked to support the beneficiaries of the swine raising project.

One of the beneficiariesw that were assisted by ATI is Mary Ann Collado. Shy and timid, Mary Ann was still sixteen then when she, along with her family accepted the project. She was the second to the brood of three. Her father is a very hardworking farmer while her mother is a grade school teacher in the town. Their family income barely meet their needs, especially the children’s schooling. Mary Ann wants to be a teacher like her mother someday. Her older sister is taking a mnursing course, where financial support is really necessary. At least, through the swine project, the family can hold on to it as an additional source of income.

ATI-XII provided a financial support of around P100,000.00 to help start their project. They were able to improve their swine housing using concrete materials. They were also given three sows as initial stocks. Feeds were also subsidized for some time. Their family’s counterpart was the labor in the construction of pen and management of the swine project.

Regularly, the Collado’s were visited by ATI staff to provide the support they needed. “The ATI was there when the project experienced ahrdships especially when the sows were afflicted by diseases”, Mary Ann says. She quickly adds; “They were always ready to provide technical as well as moral support”. Little by little, the Collados considered ATI as their friend and somehow a member of their family.

Gradually, with the help of the project, the family was able to cope with theirfinancial difficulties. In less than three years, they were able to pay the loan provided by the ATI. As a roll-over scheme of the project, the Collado’s paid back in the form of stocks, which were passed to new project beneficiaries. Through the project, Mary Ann, along with her sister was able to finish college. Her younger brother decided to manage their backyard piggery, together with their father.

What more, the experience she got from handling the project allowed her to go places. In 1996, she was sent by ATI-XII to the International Training on Pig Husbandry (ITCPH) in Lipa City to attend a month-long Farmer-Leader Course on Pig Husbandry. She confessed; “It was agreat privilege for me, since the project did not only broaded my experience in swine raising, but it has also given me a chance to go places I have never imagined”. She added; “Because of the learnings and experiences I got from attending these trainings, I had developed my self-confidence. Now Mary Ann can say with pride: “I am able to help other people by sharing what I have lerned from handling my project”.

Armed with renewed confidence, Mary Ann, along with her other members of the 4-H Club in Tampakan competed for the Outstanding National Youth Organization in 1996 and won the title. Jubilant, she mused; “For the first time, I was able to enter Malacanan!” With a sigh of relief, she quips; “Now we are reapinf the fruits of our sacrifices”. In 1998, Mary Ann was again chosen to represent their organization in a National Feed Formulation Contest in Imus, Cavite. She got the second highet place.

Since she handled the project, it became a frequent site for field trips. She gladly accepts the invitation of ATI to bea resource person during trainings on swine production. At present, Mary Ann is already teaching at San Isidro Elementary School in Tampakan. During her spare time, she still manages to provide consultancy service to a farm piggery in their town. Her father, who is already getting old has stopped farming and now manages their piggery, along with her younger brother. They were also able to improve their house from the earnings of their project.

Many things had already chanaged in the lives of the Collado’s. But Mary Ann could never forget on moment in her life when she was given a project, which had changed the course of their lives. When she was given a privilege to give her testimony in front of all the ATI family during the mid-year conference in year 2000, she disproved her detractors when they said that the rural youth, whom they once considered as menace of the society can never move on. “The SEED Project, which was implemented by ATI given us a chance to prove our worth”. She said in tears in her eyes, “ATI has been a great part of what I achieved now. What I am today is because of the untiring help of this Institution”.