BEC-Based Social Action Program: The Diocese of San Carlos

HEALTH PROGRAM

The diocese of San Carlos was created on February 10, 1988. Majority of the 880,500 population are Catholics most of whom are poor and work as peasant in sugarcane plantations. The Diocesan Social Action Center was created on May 3, 1992 as the implementing arm of the Diocesan Commission on Service. To carry out its vision of becoming agents of change for the transformation of society, the Diocesan Social Action Center of San Carlos implemented the Empowerment of the Marginalized Sectors through BEC based Integral Evangelization Program in 50 BECs with a total of 3,540 members in five participating parishes, namely:

· St. Sebastian Parish, La Libertad, Negros Oriental

· Holy Child Parish, Barangay Quezon, San Carlos City, Negros Occidental

· St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Calatrava, Negros Occidental

· St. Anthony de Padua Parish, Toboso, Negros Occidental

· Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Escalante, Negros Occidental

The activities were largely, if not entirely, conceptualized by the members of the BECs themselves. The diocese first conducted training and actual survey using COPAR. In the process, the BECs indentified four main concerns: poverty, health-related problems, poor governance and environmental degradation. The first phase of the program focused on capacity building at the diocesan, parish and BECs levels while the second phase was focused on productivity enhancement and sustainability.

To date, DSAC San Carlos has made remarkable achievements in the areas of health, agriculture, livelihood through microcredit and governance. Other important programs of social action like Alay Kapwa and Peacebuilding that were integrated into the program have proven to be effective tools in evangelizing the poor and marginalized. As an institution, the DSAC was further strengthened when it acquired its legal status as Church-based foundation Incorporated. Through the program, a PMT was created in each of the five participating parishes that implement the program in 50 BECs.

San Carlos Diocesan Multipurpose Cooperative (SCDMPC) was organized legal status. A total of 377 program beneficiaries became full pledged members of the 1,620-strong cooperative with total subscribed capital share of Php331,145.55 and a total savings deposit of Php64,000. As members, they avail of various services from the cooperative such as consumers’ store, marketing support and credit extension. Through microcredit, the program has helped 2,169 members by providing financial support to various livelihood projects. The income generated enables members to send their children to school, pay electricity bill, buy food and other needs of the family.

Of the 350 farmers who are adaptors of sustainable agriculture, 50 are participating DIOFS.

DSAC established partnership with the government’s Office of the Ombudsman. A memorandum of agreement led to the active engagement of the BECs in five parishes in monitoring government projects as well as government’s delivery of basic services to the BECs.

The experience of DSAC San Carlos teaches many lessons on various aspects of community life. The program has revived the traditional bayanihan (community cooperation). Patience, dedication and hard work are the basic qualities that enable a community to succeed in every endeavor. The gains from the program have to be nurtured, sustained and all efforts should be rooted in the gospel values of our Lord. Indeed, the Basic Ecclesial Community is the hope for sustainability and transformation.

“BOTIKA SA PAROKYA AND CHEAP HERBAL MEDICINES”

San Carlos is well known for Botika sa Parokya and herbal medicines. With health as one of the concerns expressed by the people, the DSAC focused on alternative healthcare as one of the primary services being offered in the diocese. Medicines are often inaccessible to community members, mainly because of high prices and also of the urban location of the pharmacies. The program addressed these difficulties through the establishment of parish and village pharmacies that sell affordable and effective synthetic medicines as well as traditional products. Likewise, the program addressed these difficulties through the establishment of parish and village pharmacies that sell affordable and effective synthetic medicines as well as traditional products. Likewise, the program provided skills training on reflexology, acupressure, acupuncture and preparation of herbal medicines using raw materials available in their community. A Parish Health Team (PHT) was organized in each of the five parishes to facilitate seminars and training on health and nutrition including processing and production of herbal or traditional medicines. The PHT also supervises the operation of the “Botika sa Parokya” and monitors village pharmacies in the BECs.

Calatrava Parish has the distinction of being the first parish to produce herbal medicines known to be curative. At the start of the program, Individual members of BECs were taught to produce herbal medicines. Then, the herbal medicines became so popular prompting the DSAC to engage in mass production. To cope with the growing demand and with the encouragement of Bureau of Foods and Drugs officials who recognized the benefits of the herbal medicines, the DSAC established a herbal laboratory on October 2, 2006.

Over a hundred skilled members from the BECs of Calatrava and Escalante Parishes continuously provide the herbal laboratory with semi-processed materials. The work has likewise provided additional income to the community members. Aside from being affordable, the herbal medicines have been proven to be therapeutic and curative, treating common illnesses such as cough, fever, body pains, diarrhea, skin diseases and even chronic illnesses like hypertension, liver disorders, urinary and kidney problems. At present, there are 14 kinds of herbal medicines in the DSAC laboratory that were tested by the department of Science and Technology as nontoxic. Among the herbal products classified as food supplements by BFAD are Lagundi herbal capsules and syrup, Sambong capsule, Dulaw capsules, Mangagaw capsules and syrup, Kumintang Miagus capsule, Alagaw capsule, Makahiya capsule and syrup, Sibukaw syrup, Tsaang Gubat capsule, Banaba capsule.

Other herbal products include Ameloi, Ginger extract and Camphormint extract. Various kinds of tea re also produced such as Miagus, Banaba, Tsaang Gubat, Sambong, Pandan Tsina, Salabat Powder. A total of 12 parish pharmacies, ten BEC and village pharmacies and a diocesan pharmacy are operational and duly licensed bt BFAD, serving 6,457 members of various communities and parishes. DSAC San Carlos is now a destination for exposures and educational tours by the other organizations and dioceses that plan to replicate the project.

Reference: National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace Annual Report 2007, p68-70