By ABIGAIL B. ANONGOS
There is a group of young Belgians visiting the Cordillera this month, hosted by the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC). The visit is framed in the partnership of the CDPC with the Province of East Flanders, Belgium, Solidagro, Odisee University College and Dwagulu Dekkente. Solidagro is a non-government organisation based in Belgium and a long time solidarity partner of CDPC. Odisee is one of the biggest educational institutions in Belgium, while Dwagulu Dekkente is a partner of Solidagro in promoting intercultural solidarity.
The learning exposure is designed to extend support to farming communities in the Cordillera through the exchange of knowledge, skills and expertise in agriculture and health. Major academic institutions such as the Ifugao State University , Benguet State University , Saint Louis University and Kalinga State University have accepted to be part of the learning exposure.
I had the chance to meet the delegation last week in an input to impart the Cordillera Situation and urgent issues we face as indigenous peoples herein: Fabio Caluwé (1st year Nursing student), Joke Roelandts (1st year Midwifery student), Laura Van Caneghem (2nd year Elementary School teacher ), Eva Poppe (2nd year Orthopedagogy), Nele Van Leuven (2nd year biochemistry and biotechnology student), Febe Heirbut (2nd year Psychology student), Iris Maes (architect), Stéphanie Vael (biomedical laboratory studies) and Nele Van Vaerenbergh (1st year Social Work).
In the last few days, the group has visited communities in Bokod and Itogon to understand better the impact of large dams; Mankayan to understand better the issues on large scale mining and how these impact on indigenous peoples’ rights, Kapangan for community immersion, visit to SLU and I thik they are en route to Kalinga as of this writing to learn more about the programs of the Community Health, Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE) in the communities they work with. I anticipate that they will take many stops along the way, to get enough material for a video the delegation intends to create at the end of their learning visit.
At a time of intensifying global economic crisis and the challenge it poses to young people, I appreciate that such programs exist with intended outcomes to raise awareness of youth from various professional/academic, and contribute in uplifting the situation of farming communities in the region. I hope that in the communities they will visit, they will inspire each other towards a vocation in community service and development work framed at community empowerment.
I am not aware if there are other similar initiatives locally, but there is a Balik-Ili learning exposure program that the Dap-ayan ti Kultura Iti Kordilyera (DKK) has been organising. I feel that such programs should be supported more to ignite the interest of our youth to local issues, and further draw their interest to respond to such in their own ways.
The Belgian delegation will have some time later to interact with the Cordillera Youth Center (CYC). I take it that the CYC will share its experiences and lessons learned in youth empowerment and strengthening their role and voice in issues that affect them. A learning session among youth is always important.
So I wish the best to the delegation for the duration of their learning visit. I will have a chat with you all after two weeks to listen to your thoughts and insights—and I have not forgotten the interview that still needs to be done with Nele and Fabio. Hoping that upon your return to Belgium, you will inspire more youth therein to commit their time and expertise in support of our Cordillera farmers. #nordis.net