How does Change lead to Empowerment?

“Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”

These are the famous words of the character Dory in the movie “Finding Nemo.” It’s a beautiful reminder especially for an organization like Tahanan Sta. Luisa, which has been going through tough times in managing changes both in its programs and the lives of its staff and beneficiaries.

The visit of auditors and friends from GlobalGiving UK is a blessing that came at a perfect time. Tahanan has wanted to do a strategic planning and review — to see how we have come so far with our programs and the things that need to be improved. Feedback from the auditors is very useful and lead to very deep realizations about what needs to be done to effectively empower street girls who are survivors of abuse. It is always good to step back and assess areas for improvement.


One such insight is that healing takes time. Recovering from trauma experienced at a young age entails a long process — one that deals with confusion, detours, and fears. It is almost always inevitable for some of the street girls to want to escape the shelter due to difficulties in adjusting. But Tahanan believes that the key to dealing with this problem is to see it as an opportunity more than a challenge. Tahanan is given a big opportunity to share love and compassion to street girls, and to not give up in believing that they will eventually regain their worth. It is a big opportunity for Tahanan to let the girls experience how it is like to be loved by a family, and help them realize that they must pursue lives away from the streets. It is a big opportunity for Tahanan to empower street girls so they can be independent and productive individuals who know their rights and can stand up for themselves.


Tahanan also realizes that it needs to draw strength and inspiration from the street girls themselves. The fact that Tahanan’s street girls are making a choice every day to deal with trauma, to forgive, and improve, is in itself a success. From street girls who had no direction in life, they are now able to plan their goals and build their self-confidence and character. They know how to respect their elders, and to speak up. Some of them have also been able to go to formal school to pursue a good education, while others are undergoing livelihood training to develop skills. The street girls’ balance of fragility and courage is what keeps Tahanan going.


Lastly, one thing that Tahanan continues to learn and improve on is that its strength lies in its people. The Board of Trustees and the staff are dedicated and are working hard to ensure that the street girls are being well taken care of. They appreciate the work done by each individual for it contributes to the effectiveness of the program as a whole. Both put the welfare of the beneficiaries first, and value the street girls’ inputs in changing and fine tuning programs. But while an utmost priority is the wellbeing of the street girls, it is also equally important to invest on efforts to ensure staff are emotionally and mentally well while they are dealing with difficult work.  The staff carry a huge emotional burden because of the challenging behavior of the girls and the upsetting information disclosed to them. It is high time that Tahanan also focuses on empowering the staff, social workers, and house parents — so that they are more effectively able to empower the street girls in their journey of healing and recovery. Tahanan is all the more hopeful that meaningful changes lie ahead, and that these are all part of a wonderful plan that intertwines the lives of staff and beneficiaries to contribute a great impact to the goal of ending poverty and abuse.


Also published on:
GlobalGiving Project Reports