Scattered in small communities throughout the mountainous island of Negros Occidental are an indigenous people called the Ati. They are the first settlers of the island but being a small minority, they are seldom seen and almost forgotten. Like many other indigenous peoples, they are among the poorest in the Philippines, often experiencing neglect and discrimination. This is the story of Jachel, one of the members of the Ati tribe served by our Bacolod base.
Jachel’s family is one of 168 Ati households in the community. Living in a secluded area with four children and a fifth baby on the way, she and her family would have experienced hunger if left without help. Jachel’s husband is a farmer, the only one working in their family. What he earned could hardly support them. When Jachel’s community was put on lockdown, they found it especially hard to provide for their basic needs.
Like many ultra-poor families, Jachel could only depend on others for help. Neighbors shared food with one another and received support from local government agencies, but this could not meet all of their needs. Thankfully, one of our partner pastors, Pastor Flordeliza, stepped up despite the challenging situation. Jachel’s family received nutrient-rich food packs, which were personally delivered by Pastor Flor. Jachel says she uses these to make arroz caldo, a hot rice porridge that her children and husband love.
“We didn’t expect any help from ICM because of the restrictions. It’s hard to transport the supplies from Bacolod to our place. We were all surprised because the help was very timely. We didn’t have anything to eat, but ICM was there, ready to help.”
Jachel and her community did not only receive food packs. The Marikudo Tribal Community, the name of their community, has been receiving constant support from ICM through the Transform program. With the help of ICM staff, participants go through livelihood, health, and values lessons so they can live healthy and productive lives.
“Most of the help comes from the church and ICM. This is why the tribe is very thankful to all the staff of ICM.”
Jachel reflects that life would have been really hard without the unexpected help that she received. She has this message for those who shared their financial support through ICM:
“My heart is really overjoyed knowing that there are people who are still willing to extend their help and love to our community, that there are still people who have the desire to assist us, especially in this trying time.”
There are around 1,000 members (including children) of the Ati tribe in Jachel’s community. Many of them make a living by going house to house to sell herbal medicine, something they cannot do during lockdowns. Most families have five children or more and have little access to adequate health and social services. If you would like to get involved and help communities like Jachel’s, find out more here!