In extending aid and assistance post-lockdown, listen to beneficiaries first

In extending aid and assistance post-lockdown, listen to beneficiaries first

“I learn many things ... We learn to (go to the) market and cook. We learn about safe and unsafe places. We eat in one table and pray. We are a family,” said Rebby (not her real name) who lives in ACAY house. Her personal account reflects perception and sentiments of NGO beneficiaries like her which are critical for those assisting her to hear.

ACAY Mission Philippines runs a residential home called School of Life program for young female victims of abandonment, negligence or violence. Sister Sophie, the founder, explained that the group’s goal is to prepare girls for progressive independence and reintegration to society.

A fundamental aspect of the educational concepts that the NGO has developed through the years is beneficiary participation.

Beneficiary participation refers to the involvement and influence of beneficiaries in the operations of a program. It engages beneficiaries in planning, organizing activities and even in decision-making.

In the Philippines, there are NGOs that deliberately practice beneficiary participation in various forms.

Dr. Vien Chu highlighted three levels of participation, namely consulting, partnership and delegated control.

Consulting aims at understanding the beneficiaries and the factors that affect them. This is achieved through surveys, meetings and formal complaint mechanisms.

ACAY, for one, developed a regular feedback mechanism where girls air their difficulties and complaints. Meanwhile, the Family Cooperation for Health Service Foundation (FAMCOHSEF) surveys health workers on their evaluation of speakers and topics after attending a module.

Partnership occurs when employees and beneficiaries work together to identify areas for development or co-administer a program. This is done through workgroups and beneficiaries’ representative council.

For instance, Teacher Meldy from St. Josemaria Day Care informed that the toddler’s parents have responsibilities in running the program. ACAY engages the girls to work on a roadmap wherein they learn to compute how much money they need until the end of School of Life program and determine how to earn it progressively. FAMCOHSEF conducts focus group discussions with beneficiaries in order to gather their insights on program development.

Delegated control means giving beneficiaries a voice in decision-making. Organizations invite select beneficiaries to sit in the board or advisory committee.

Roseanne Gonzalez, president of FAMCOHSEF, shared that they formed a committee composed of the social worker and three beneficiaries that channels feedback and provides advice to management.

Some organizations hesitate to seek the opinion of beneficiaries. Teacher Meldy, however, imparted that young people can answer surveys for as long as the questions are appropriate to their age and circumstance.

Keeping in mind the children who went through the day care, she shared “Ang mga sampung taong gulang... matatalino sila. Nakakasagot sila kung ano ang kanilang puedeng maambag sa pamilya at sa community nila.” (Ten-year old children are smart. They are able to say what they can contribute to their families and their communities.)

Beneficiary participation aids management in executing better services. In the case of ACAY, the roadmap project allowed management to identify the skills that each girl needs and assist her in developing income-generating endeavors.

The practice of consulting and working with beneficiaries, moreover, boosts their self-esteem. A case in point are FAMCOHSEF’s training program graduates who feel that the project is theirs and market the program to potential participants. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a deep financial and health crisis in our country. More Filipinos are in need economic, emotional and medical assistance. Bayanihan calls for existing and additional structures to tackle present-day hardships of the marginalized and vulnerable. In the effort to serve, it is propitious for key players to consult, partner with or delegate to beneficiaries.

These lessons and methods are not for NGOs alone.

Barangay captains can also consult underprivileged residents on food, milk and medicines they need to hurdle conditions after the enhanced community quarantine. The data can propel LGUs to strategize acquisition and distribution of supply. Corporations can partner with farmers to design a system for delivery and sale of produce. NGOs for the aged can spot spokespersons who are able to articulate concerns of their community and decide on action plans. Beneficiaries receive but can also give.

It is important to listen to the people we wish to help. It is vital to boost their talents and courage to converse with team leaders. It is worth involving them in decisions that determine their fate.

Beneficiary participation is a promising tool in responding accurately to the needs and interests of beneficiaries. What they say matters.

Adiel H. Aguiling is a certified public account and a coach at People Engaged in People Projects Foundation Inc. She is pursuing her doctorate in Business Administration at De La Salle University, Manila. You may reach her at [email protected]