An overview of the Independent Living Program (ILP) achievements made possible by EMpower

Last year 2018, 2 youth graduated College, another 1 last June 2019; 4 passed the Assessment and Equivalency Test for ALS and 4 have landed on a job: 1 as seafarer, 1 admin assistant, 1 hotel cook, 1 BPO (call center) employee. These were made possible because of the 3-year support of Virlanie Foundation, Inc.’s partner, EMpower to its Independent Living Program (ILP).

These achievements, along with some challenges, were personally reported by Thomas Mouliac, Executive Director, Cenen Milan, Program Director, and Faidah Cayongcat, Education Manager to EMpower representatives who visited the Foundation last September 27.

EMpower supports local organizations that work to improve access to education, promote better health and well-being, and enhance livelihoods for at-risk youth ages 10-24. Since 2017, they have given a grant amounting to PHP 1 million per year to ILP, helping our young adults to transition to independent and self-sustaining life.

Last year, EMpower’s President and CEO and two staff already visited Virlanie. This time, 11 members of EMpower came to our Head Office and Residential Homes, including President and CEO, Board of Trustees members, staff and supporters. They came from New York, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Stories of independence and skills-building

Members of The Rising Youth (TRY), the Virlanie young adult’s organization, shared their testimonies and life stories to the visitors. They explained how Virlanie, and more specifically, ILP trainings and mentoring helped them to integrate to society.

Some of the young adults who gave their speeches were sent-off from the Residential Program last year and are currently transitioning to supervised independentliving: living in a boarding home, working, studying and still being monitored by ILP. They shared how ILP trainings helps them overcome the challenges of their every-day life and adjustment to independent living.

Riza, 19, shared her experience of moving from Elizabeth Home to a boarding house:

“At first, I found it really hard to live without my Virlanie family, but I slowly adjusted to this new life and we are lucky to still share our dorms with other ILP members”.

They also continue to attend the ILP life skills trainings that aim to equip them with the practical and moral skills needed to live independently:

ILP helped us a lot in terms of skills building. Even if I still find it hard to budget my daily expenses, I do my best to apply the budgeting and savings learnings that I acquired through ILP.”

On the other hand, Mary, 18, shared how TRY helped her build her leadership skills:

“The ILP trainings have helped me develop myself, and through TRY I learnt how to challenge myself to become a leader. I used to be very shy but, look at me now, I can speak in front of all of you,” she said.

Cynthia Steele, President and CEO of EMpower, stressed how impressed she was to see them giving their speeches: “I want to thank you for sharing your stories with us. Let me tell you that your English is amazing and that you can be proud! At your age, I would surely not have been able to give such speeches in front of an audience. THANK YOU!”

Mark, 26, former beneficiary of ILP and TRY Adviser who just graduated and became a licensed Social Worker closed the youth sharing session:

“It is a privilege to see you and to thank you in person”. He shared his life story and how Virlanie and ILP helped him change his life: I used to be a street child who had a substance abuse disorder. Thanks to the long-lasting support of Virlanie and ILP trainings, I was able to catch up with my studies and learn everything I know today. Now, I am proud to say that I am a young adults’ adviser and a social work graduate.” He is looking forward to apply his skills in his future job : “ I am now applying to become a social worker and I am confident about the skills I’ve learnt through ILP and TRY. I know I have developed good facilitation skills, which will be useful in my future job to help more children like me.”

Promoting social entrepreneurship for professional integration of the youth

The discussion continued between EMpower board members and Virlanie staff on the current Virlanie programs and project that will improve the youth’s professional and social integration.

Thomas Mouliac, Virlanie’s Executive Director, emphasized on the current Social Entrepreneurship Projects such as Likhaya by Virlanie brand that has grown a lot for the past months. He also mentioned that among the future projects of SE Department are an organic farm near Metro-Manila and a restaurant that could be serving food in the future Virlanie Center. These two projects would be a great help for the youth skills-building and employment opportunities.

Thomas Mouliac also mentioned about the efforts that Virlanie has made to improve its program designs and log frames last year, and how they are now implementing a strong Monitoring & Evaluation system in all programs for better follow-up and continuous improvement of Virlanie programs.

To end their visit, EMpower representatives, Virlanie staff and youth went to visit Tanglaw and Elizabeth Homes where they had time to meet and bond with other children and staff.

TRY members also gave them a hand-crafted sculpture representing The Rising Youth. The sculpture represents a growing tree with some of their greatest achievements hanging to each branch of the tree. The visitors were all amazed by their creativity and thanked them for the gift.

“It was a great visit. We were able to learn more about the organization as a whole, as well as understand better how EMpower’s contribution fits in the bigger picture. Thank you to all the youth who were part of the visit. We were impressed by their self-confidence and determination; and happy that they were eager to interact with us. We learned a lot from them,” shared Cynthia Steele, EMpower’s President and CEO.

Thank you EMpower for supporting our young adults!

Just like EMpower, you can support Virlanie’s Program through partnership (corporate) and sponsorship (individual). They need YOU.

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