The functional literacy program is focused on the indigenous communities of B’laans and Manobos (composed of 98 households).
Among the major problems that hamper development in the indigenous communities are low income, low literacy, isolation from the social mainstream, and internal squabbles (leadership struggle that leads to factionalism and disunity).
The program started in August 2001 among the 59 B’laan households in Purok 6, Barangay Pag-asa, then expanded to the 20 B’laan households in Purok 7, Barangay Palma-Perez and to the relocated 19 Manobo families in Purok 3, Barangay New Esperanza.
Part of the program are projects like livelihood (corn and root-crop production, bread-making, goat raising, provision of work animals and farm tools), housing and resettlement (from makeshift to permanent structures), health (all 99 family heads are now Philhealth cardholders), early childhood care, and social enhancement activities.
The strategies used included: (i) community organizing, to build and strengthen the sectoral groups (women, youth, and farmers) and barangay structures; (ii) networking, for convergence of resources with Notre Dame foundation and other NGOs, and departments of education and culture and interior and local government; (iii) institutionalization, by giving it priority in the executive agenda of the municipality for fund allocation; (iv) regular consultations, and (v) monitoring and evaluation.
There have been improvements in literacy and standard of living. Academic skills gained by beneficiaries helped them in managing livelihood projects. Feelings of inferiority have diminished. There is now active involvement in community affairs and participation in electoral activities. The B’laans and Manobos have organized themselves into the M’lang Indigenous Tribal Association (MINTA). They have chosen a respected leader with whom they can consult.
This program is recognized as a Trailblazing Program, a finalist for the 2004 Galing Pook Awards.