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Story by Nilda Udarbe | Community Facilitator | TOUCH Foundation
and Sensoy Constante | Program Officer | Heifer Philippines
Photo by Nilda Udarbe | Community Facilitator | TOUCH Foundation

Demetrio Apinan and his wife Aivy Bacus met in Quezon City, Philippines—a highly urbanized city near Manila. They worked as banana vendors, earning a meager income that barely provided their basic needs.

City life was harsh, especially with their two children, Wendelyn, 4, and Kean, 3. The couple returned home to Agusan del Norte in hopes of escaping poverty and built a small house on a relative's lot.

Another relative offered Demetrio a job as an overseer on a farm, which paid about $60 a month. He tilled the land in exchange for a 20 percent share of every harvest. He was also given two female cows to care for and received one calf after the cows gave birth the following year.

With all the blessings received in this new job, Demetrio earned just enough money to provide food on a daily basis, leaving him uncertain of his ability to meet his growing family's future needs. He dreamt of earning more income to fully support his wife and children. He wanted to give them a comfortable home for protection and savings that would ensure his children's future. 

Demetrio was not aware when Heifer Philippines partnered with the TOUCH Foundation to implement the Developing Dairy Zone for Smallholder Farmers in Agusan del Norte Project. 

He was busy working on his own farm in the field one day, when his brother-in-law came rushing toward him and told him to change his clothes and attend the 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development workshop. By chance, Demetrio was chosen as a participant when another person backed out for health reasons. 

During the workshop, Demetrio said he was nervous because of his lack of education. He was thankful that the other participants and facilitators welcomed him and made him feel comfortable.

Demetrio was grateful he was chosen to participate. "I learned a lot from the workshop, it gave me time to reassess my self-worth and values," he said. "It also gave me the opportunity to meet my neighbors, whom I see every day, but did not even bother to talk to and say hello."

Demetrio said that in his heart he knew that it was the beginning of something big. He took the Cornerstones to heart and centered his values on them. He made sure to actively involve his wife and children, too.

He continues to participate in trainings and meetings to improve the Heifer project. Demetrio and his family will receive a dairy cow from Heifer Philippines in partnership with the National Dairy Authority (NDA) in an upcoming ceremony. In preparation, he planted napier grasses (a forage plant) on a about 2 ½ acres of land.

"I still can't believe that an opportunity like this came my way when I least expected it. I am glad I grabbed the opportunity," Demetrio said. "I feel so much better knowing that a ray of hope for my children's future is shining brighter."

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Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.