MANILA -- Living in the strife-torn Indanan, Sulu without educational plans to back up her future, 20-year-old Marshaida Hamid, at one point, almost lost hope she would be able to lift her family from poverty.
At an early age of 12, Marshaida had to stop schooling and give way to her two younger siblings.
"Because of financial problems, I had to stop back then. Naging hopeless ako na baka hindi ko na matupad 'yong dream ko kasi nga huminto na ako. Ang ginagawa ko noon nasa bahay lang, tumutulong sa magulang. (I became hopeless that I wouldn't be able to achieve my dream because I already stopped schooling. I would just stay at home and help my parents with the chores)," she told the Philippine News Agency in an interview.
"Every day, I see my parents struggle, whether it's heavy rain or under the scorching sun, they work vigorously in the farm. It's difficult that I have to see them struggle," she narrated.
Then came the United States-funded Mindanao Youth Development (MYDev) program and Marshaida's life took a better turn.
"I learned some basic life skills that I'm able to use in putting up my own business. After that, I was able to get a scholarship and finish my Bachelor of Science in Fisheries major in Food Processing degree last month. Now, I'm returning the favor, I'm now mentoring other youth. Back then I didn't have the confidence, I was scared to even hold a microphone and speak in front of the crowd. But after the program, nawala 'yong doubt ko sa sarili ko mismo (I now have the confidence)," she said.
Marshaida considered MYDev program a “big opportunity” that came into her life.
"Back then, I'm an out-of-school-youth. Now, I'm an outstanding youth," she said.
During the MYDev completion ceremony in Makati on Friday, dozens of beneficiaries from Mindanao, including Marshaida, extended their gratitude to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the funding agency for the PHP832-million project.
The six-year MYDev program entered its last leg this 2019.
As of April 15, at least 25,719 youth benefited from the program, 22,163 of whom have completed life skills training and technical-vocational skills training.
Lawrence Hardy II, USAID mission director in the Philippines, said there are around 3 million children and youth who are either out-of-school or out-of-work in Mindanao.
"Supporting these young people in realizing their potential will pay dividends for years to come as they will become leaders who shape the country’s future," he said.
While the MYDev project is coming to an end, Hardy vowed that the US would continue its support to the youth in the region.
The program, which began in 2013, was implemented in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
During the completion ceremony, the US government turned over life skills modules developed by the Boston-based Education Development Center to strengthen work readiness skills, leadership ability, and resilience of youth to the two agencies.
The DepEd and TESDA are expected to incorporate these modules into ALS and technical-vocational training this school year and implement the training nationwide. (PNA)