Rolando Sase: Finding light for a brighter future

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During his younger years, Rolando Sase felt a mass growing in his left thigh. His parents did not have the financial resources to send him to the hospital; hence, he did not have his leg checked by a doctor early enough. Rolando ignored the mass and went on with his normal day-to-day activities. He was 21 when he was rushed to the hospital because the mass that he thought was harmless ruptured. He needed to have his left leg amputated to avoid the mass from infecting other parts of his body.

Fifteen years after his amputation, Rolando is now 36 and has a family of his own. But until now, he still feels uneasy when he talks about his leg and how it was amputated. He mentioned that he lost self-confidence after the amputation of his leg as he could no longer do physical activities like he used to.

“I used to work as a crew on a fishing boat before my leg was amputated,” shared Rolando while he was explaining how hard it is to find other jobs to improve and diversify their livelihood. “I used to be able to do physically strenuous jobs before but now I just can’t”.

An aunt helped him to get prosthesis but it eventually deteriorated. He then made his own prosthesis out of wood and attached it to his lower limb using the screws from his previous prosthesis. In 2014, Rolando’s family received shelter support as their house was badly damaged by Typhoon Haiyan. He also received on that occasion crutches. However, he does not feel comfortable using them and opted to continue using his wooden prosthesis.

Rolando is a bamboo furniture maker, a common livelihood activity in barangay Mangoso in Sigma municipality where he lives. His wife, Lyn, is a full-time housewife and mom to their five children (the eldest is 14, the youngest is only 8 months old). Two of his kids are studying in a public community school while the three others are staying at home with Lyn.

He earns 700 pesos (around 15 US dollars) for every set of furniture that he finishes. A set takes a minimum of one month to complete so Rolando and Lyn try to make ends meet until the next bamboo furniture set is completed and sold. They sometimes receive remittances from relatives that help them sustain their needs, but this is very irregular.

Earlier this year, Rolando was chosen as one of the beneficiaries of the Restoring Livelihoods and Building the Resilience of Most Vulnerable People Affected by Typhoon Haiyan (iRESTORE) Project. During the assessments, he expressed his interest to learn electronics to diversify his livelihood. He planned to welcome his clients at home to have their radios and televisions fixed. However, due to the upgrade in the electronics training curriculum, there were no technical schools offering the course at the time of enrollment in trainings.

He was then offered the opportunity to enroll at Dumalag Vocational-Technical School (DVTS) and take the electrical installation and maintenance (EIM) course. Finishing this 51-day course will eventually lead Rolando to wage employment opportunities because it is Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) accredited, meaning his gained technical skills pass the national standards.

Rolando started the course on August 8 and signed a commitment stating his willingness to allot time and cooperate with the project team to finish the course. However, 10 days after he started training, Rolando wanted to drop out of the course. Rolando thought that he might not get a job even if he completes the course because of his physical impairment. Despite of this, Rolando regained his self-confidence through coaching and support of Handicap International (HI) project facilitators, livelihood team leader and his teacher.

According to Robert Frio, Rolando’s instructor: “He is one of my best students. He learns the concepts fast and is good in hands-on application of lessons.” As of writing, Rolando has completed his 29th day in the course and is actually excelling with his studies.

During the course duration, Rolando receives from the project allowance covering his food expenses during training days, as well as his boarding room accommodation. Aside from this, he will receive life skills training and job readiness training that will further build his capacities and confidence to apply for a job on October12-13.

He will graduate on October 17. If he passes the final assessment successfully, he will receive the National Certificate from TESDA which holds nationwide recognition. The team will facilitate linkages with employers through the Public Employment Service Office (PESO). Before applying for jobs, Rolando will have the opportunity to prepare for he will receive advices from HI team and resource persons during a half-day simulation on job application and interviews with his co-graduates.

Moreover, the project team will conduct an awareness raising with representatives of the Provincial Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), PESO and representatives of the business sector on the importance of a diverse and inclusive workforce on October 20. HI will also partner with DOLE on upcoming job fairs and invite graduates, including Rolando, to participate. The team is confident that through these steps and the support on the job search, Rolando will be able to access a regular job that will provide him and his family a more secured livelihood.