Merlie, a Transform participant from Zamboanga del Norte in Mindanao, believed that education was the best way she could leave a mark, so she dreamed of becoming a teacher. She eventually completed her teaching degree and felt proud of her achievements. “No one in school knew me until I graduated and was able to work as a teacher in a private school,” she shared.
Everything was going well for Merlie—she was working toward a teaching licensure, got married, and bore a child. But what seemed to be success made her look down on other people, straining her relationships. “My life drowned in pride. God allowed my downfall. My family rejected me; I never felt accepted in my family and community. My spouse broke up with me and told me that I am useless,” she shared. Merlie had stopped working when she had a child, and she was left alone to raise her son. She wondered how they would make it. She found a temporary job and found one at a restaurant but had to hire a babysitter because she was not allowed to bring her child.
Merlie’s dream of becoming a licensed teacher was shattered when the babysitter stole her bag containing the documents she needed to apply for the licensure exam for teachers (LET). Afraid of being seen by her abusive husband, she did not dare go to her hometown to get a new set of documents from her university. Besides that, she also had no money to pay for replacement documents. Hopeless, Merlie just moved on and focused on making a living for her son, unsure of what the future held for them.
Merlie met her now partner when working at a restaurant, and they had a child. She stopped working and stayed home to care for her children while her partner worked on a farm. But quitting her job meant losing her income, so survival was always difficult.
Merlie’s life took a turn when she joined Transform. Through the program, she gained livelihood skills and now earns around PHP150 (HK$21) a day from selling puto cheese (steamed rice cakes with cheese topping), kutsinta (glutinous rice snack), and banana cakes. She also learned to grow a garden. “I felt so happy when I received vegetable seeds from ICM. I planted the seeds and cultivated a garden at the back of the house. It supplies food for our family. I also earn money when our neighbors buy some of my harvests,” Merlie shared. It is even incredible that she can do all of this without leaving her children or hiring someone to take care of them!
Attending Transform’s values lessons, Merlie learned about humility. “Before, I was overconfident because of fame. For 20 years, I lived in pride and resentment, thinking that being proud is admirable. When I attended the Transform program, I realized that letting go of my pride and having a humble heart is essential to having peace,” she told us. Merlie also discovered how to better handle her relationships, especially with her partner. “I used to exchange hurtful words with my partner when we argued and would run away from home to escape the problems. Now, I know how to settle things that caused our arguments. I learned to value my family.” Merlie did not just change her actions but also her heart.
“I felt hopeless and discouraged in my life. When I attended the Transform program, my mind was renewed, and my whole life was redirected,” she told us. With her hope reignited, Merlie realized she could dream again! Transform opened up new opportunities for her to make money, treasure the dreams she once had, and dream new dreams she never knew she could have.
Through Transform, thousands of women like Merlie are empowered to get involved in business, plant gardens, and improve their relationships. To help more women like Merlie as they navigate the challenges of ultra-poverty, donate here!