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A New Way to Move Families From Poverty to Prosperity

By Jenn Winter

Before anything else, Marites is a mother. The first thing she asks herself every morning is how she will get food on the table for her children that day. She is learning better ways to answer that question through the LIFE (Livelihoods for the Extreme Poor) poverty graduation pilot program that she joined through Opportunity’s local partner in the Philippines. The graduation model has proven to be a scalable, cost-effective way to support families living in the depths of poverty by providing them with hands-on support while they improve their skills and build solid foundations to live healthier and more financially secure livelihoods. 

She and her fellow participants live in ultra-poverty—meaning they survive on less than $1.25 a day. Marites' household is one of more than 600 ultra-poor Filipino households in four provinces (Aurora, Bulacan, Pampanga, and Nueva Ecija) currently participating in the two-year LIFE program, which began in June 2017 and will conclude in June 2019. 

Marites struggles just to feed her children. As with many others in her community, access to clean drinking water is not an option. On occasion, she has been able to send her kids to school, but they have fallen several grades behind. In addition to her daily plights, she has also endured personal tragedies, including losing a child to violent crime.

A few months into the program, Marites acquired two goats and several bags of rice to sell at the local market. With these resources, along with in-depth training, Marites now has established two reliable sources of income that she can use to provide for her family and send her children to school. With visits every two weeks from her program officer, she never feels alone. She continues to learn and asks for help when needed.

Beyond material gains, Marites is also filled with new confidence and hope for her children’s futures. Her three daughters dream of becoming teachers, and her son wants to bring justice to victims of violence by becoming a police officer.

When new participants join the LIFE program, they receive a provision of livestock or equipment to kick-start a small business and generate income, training in life skills and community-building, and advocacy for expanding and improving graduation programs. As a pilot effort, LIFE implements best practices learned from other successful graduation programs while also testing a new digital monitoring application that accelerates participants’ journeys out of poverty. This digital monitoring application, called Impact Atlas, allows organizations like ours to see real-time insights into the program’s performance, client progress, and the effectiveness of individual components.

Families in the program are already enjoying deeper relationships, healthier lifestyles, and greater productivity. In a short time, participants have seen substantial increases in income, improvements in family hygiene and grooming, reductions in preventable illnesses, and improvements in family nutrition.

As we continue the second year of LIFE and beyond, we will continue to improve our model. Our goal is to produce a findings analysis and, if appropriate, adapt and roll out this work across the Philippines. Ultimately, we hope to share learnings from our model with other partner institutions so we can collectively accelerate our impact on families living in poverty. 

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