BELFAST, Ireland — For many Filipino women, poverty is cyclical and intergenerational. Many people living in poverty, particularly women, lack access to education or skill-building opportunities, which makes it difficult to secure a job or engage in skill-based income-generating activities. Women’s lack of stable income also impedes their children’s access to education, which would serve as a pathway to meaningful employment to break the cycle of poverty. According to UNICEF, more than 13 million children in the Philippines live below the poverty line, and, overall, 51% of Filipino families consider themselves impoverished. The Ten Foundations empowers impoverished women in the Philippines in several ways.
Ten Foundations is a Northern Ireland-registered charity in Belfast, started by Ian Campbell in 2012. The Ten Foundations has charity shops located around Belfast selling second-hand clothing and furniture as well as school bags made by participants of the foundation’s Livelihoods and Employment Programme in the Philippines.
In an interview, Campbell told The Borgen Project that he was inspired to start the charity after noticing the rampant poverty in the Philippines while on vacation in 2011. Filipino children who reminded him of his own children and grandchildren had to collect and carry gallons of water to their homes due to a lack of running water and very few of them could attend school. Moved by these conditions of poverty, Campbell set out to help struggling Filipinos through the Ten Foundations charity.
The Ten Foundations Livelihoods Programme
The Livelihoods Programme is the main focus of the Ten Foundations — a skills training and employment program that helps impoverished women in the Philippines escape destitution by teaching them textile and design skills after teaching them how to use industrial sewing machines. The women design and make school bags in the Ten Foundations textiles workshop in the Balayan region of the Philippines, which the women then sell in Ten Foundations’ shops in Belfast and online.
The program started from the idea of teaching sewing as a skill — Campbell initially provided a second-hand industrial sewing machine that the women could learn to use. The program has expanded significantly with the help of grants and donations and now employs around 70 women in the workshop — 60 who design and make the bags and 10 staff who oversee operations and run the workshop. These women now have the skills to become self-sufficient and break cycles of poverty.
The Story of Babalyn
According to Campbell, a Ten Foundations employee named Babalyn has benefited immensely from the work of the organization. Babalyn had five children by age 28 and lived in extreme poverty. She struggled to provide for her children and herself and her situation became so dire that she had no choice but to put her fifth child up for adoption. She dreamt of a better future for all of her children. Campbell relays Babalyn’s words, “For someone like me, no education, I could not get a job.”
Her house comprised basic materials such as rice sacks and scrap plywood. She did not have electricity or running water and her family could not eat even two times a day if her husband did not catch enough fish. Through the support of Campbell and the Ten Foundations, Babalyn transformed her life.
The opportunity to learn new skills and earn money through the Ten Foundations program enabled her to eventually build a concrete house with electricity and running water. She can now afford to send her children to school and is able to ensure her family does not go hungry. “Ten Foundations transformed my life from dim light into a bright future,” she said to Campbell. “It [did]really change my life.”
How Ten Foundations Helps its Employees
Ten Foundations pays employees’ social security and health insurance (PhilHealth), which also covers the employee’s children. Furthermore, the organization provides free breakfast and lunch to employees on working days along with childcare and after-school care for their children.
The school bags that come out of the Livelihoods Programme are completely handcrafted, so each bag represents the unique story of a family, such as Babalyn’s. Additionally, for each bag sold, Ten Foundations provides a school bag for a child in need in the Philippines, ensuring that children have the resources necessary to attend school and complete their education. Campbell says, “Our school bags have become a huge part of the Ten Foundations story. I want to build a brand that is synonymous with fair trade, with integrity and honesty, a brand that people can trust. I want that brand to be the first choice of primary school kids everywhere, I want them to know that they really can change lives, a simple thing like a schoolbag, making dreams come true.”
Campbell’s goal is to expand Ten Foundations and build more livelihood centers across the Philippines to help more people escape the cycle of intergenerational poverty. “My dream, my vision is to have many livelihood centers all over the Philippines, helping and training many more Filipinos to lift themselves and their families out of the dreadful cycle of poverty they have been born into.” Fortunately, Campbell’s template for the Livelihoods Programme can be easily replicated across the country to empower more impoverished women in the Philippines.
– Molly Wallace