MUSLIM AND CHRISTIAN YOUTHS UNITE FOR WATER

The Sitio of Tantawon in the Barangay of Sigayan in Sultan Naga Dimaporo is a seaside village where Muslim and Christian fisherfolk live as one community. Once riddled with animosity between neighbors, today`s village is a picture of harmonious living courtesy of projects over the years that enabled partnership and built peace at the grassroots.

One of the major concerns in the recent past was the lack of easily available sources of fresh water.

“Water used to be difficult to come by" says Tatang Badoy, an old time resident in the area. “We used to travel across to fetch water," he says, pointing to an elevated area across the estuary. He says that the almost one hour walk around the estuary made water gathering a chore.

According to him, the difficulty of gathering water made life more difficult in the village, which took a lot of time away from daily fishing. The lowered income, in turn, heightened the animosity between Christians and Muslim households that lived side by side.

This need for water prompted the community to find ways to enable fresh water to be made available to them more easily.

An organization called LAFCCOD that had previously helped organize fisherfolks groups in their village, and assisted them to create Marine sanctuaries in their nearby fishing grounds thought of organizing the youth in the villages to identify projects that could help the community and sustain the peace and harmony achieved in the community.

Fermin Flores, executive director of LAFCCOD worked with Voluntary Services Overseas Philippines (VSO) to seek volunteers willing to help organize youths and students in the community to work together.

Once gathered, they thought of simple artesian wells and piping systems across the estuary to deliver fresh water direct to common collection points near the village.

VSO, for its part, brought a group from the Philippine Association of Social Work Students in Davao City to work with local youths in Sigayan to get the projects going last April 2018. These students worked with local youths to the the project going.

Jhunrick Dalaguit, one of the youth leaders from Sultan Naga Dimaporo who workd on the project explains that apart from bringing safer water and making it more accessible, working together also gave them a sense of fulfillment. ‘We felt a sense of unity among Christian and Muslim youths,” he says.

Flores says that part of LAFCCODs work is to continue with peacebuilding efforts among the next generation of residents such as these youths.

Previous activities of the NGO along with VSO began in 2000 with the UK-based organization sending volunteers to help organize the marine sanctuary.

Today, there are three sanctuaries in the municipality, co-managed by fisherfolk organizations and the local government.

The youth water project capitalized on and further catalyzed the cohesion and unity already achieved with previous projects, and helps to further improve the quality of life of the residents, and engages the young people to sustain the harmony achieved within the community.

"We hope that activities like these can keep the peace and harmony strong among the children of those who we first worked with in establishing the marine sanctuary, almost 20 years ago" Flores explains.

As it celebrates 60 years this year, VSO has been providing volunteers around the world to communities like Sigayan and helping local non government and people’s organizations since 1958.