A Life of Service in the Time of COVID

To many, living in the islands is synonymous to a slow-paced and simple lifestyle. For locals who live in the island for generations however, living in the islands can also be synonymous to poor access to social services. This becomes evident specifically in times of crisis such as a public health emergency caused by a deadly virus such as the SARS-CoV-2. For some people however, this serves as a motivation to dedicate their lives to be humans for others. One of them is Josephine ‘Josie’ Prudente, 54, a resident of Panukulan, Quezon, and a Local Community Organizer (LCO) of the Institute of Social Order (ISO) in Panukulan, Quezon. Josie, as we know her, originally hailed from the Bicol Region. She decided to move and settle in Panukulan when she got married to a local resident in 1984.

Josie initially got involved in ISO projects in 1997 as a member of the Local Research Team (LRT) which conducted a series of socio-economic studies and ecological resource assessments in the area. Currently, as an LCO, Josie helps in organizing fisherfolk associations in the municipality and helping them implement community-based coastal resource management, participatory research, and networking with other local stakeholders.

Josie is also a barangay health worker (BHW) assigned to monitor and evaluate children’s health in their barangay. She visits house-to-house to administer proper medication for children and provide information for mothers to help them in taking care of their children.

When the province of Quezon was put under the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all inter-island public transportation, especially those going to and from the Polillio Group of Islands, were suspended. Movement of persons and products was limited, thereby affecting the livelihood of many fishers and farmers in particular. It was doubly challenging to live and work in a far-flung area like Panukulan where there is no hospital nor sufficiently-equipped medical institutions to treat the patients, especially for health workers like Josie.

As a barangay health worker, Josie became a member of the emergency team in Barangay Balungay, an entry point to the northern communities of Panukulan. During the early part of the COVID quarantine, she was among those who monitor the entry of people and check the health of fishermen. Despite the lack of protective gears, Josie and the other rural health workers continue to give their full support to prevent the further spread of the virus. It is heartening to know that there are no recorded and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their area to date.

Despite her responsibilities as an emergency worker however, Josie continues to educate the locals about valuing the environment to achieve a healthy life away from various diseases, as she was trained by the ISO to do.

Josie will be the lead local community organizer who will be working with the ISO in the project funded by the Philippine Jesuit Foundation (PJF) in Panukulan, Quezon. Josie will not only be involved in the improvement of the health of children in her community, but will also educate the members of the community about disaster risk reduction and management. Children are vital resources of the community. However, they are also among the most vulnerable when disaster happens. Part of Josie’s work under the project will be the dissemination of new knowledge to parents in the community particularly on how to cope with risks and hazards and to ensure the welfare of children in times of natural disaster such as typhoons and epidemics.

Through the years and at the time of dire need, Josie has proved to be a dependable and competent community worker, apart from being a great wife and mother. In the spirit of mentorship and cooperation which the ISO aims to inculcate among its local partners, there is no doubt that Josie will be ISO’s asset in promoting sustainable development in the municipality of Panukulan.

Written by Asher Earl John Gianan, ISO Project Assistant for Quezon

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