“Our family is important because they are our lives, they guide us every day and every time. When we fail, when we face trials, when we have disappointments, they give us strength, courage, and comfort us when we hurt inside.”
These were the words that came straight from the heart of Jenny Samarinta, SUGPAT-ALSPA fellow, after experiencing the three-day family strengthening program with her mother, Elisa Samarinta.
Things were quite different then.
Coming into the program with a detached daughter, Elisa only hoped for one thing: to have time to reconcile things with Jenny who already lived under a different roof, together with her two other siblings.
Elisa was in search of a platform to help her reach out to her daughter and fix their relationship. And the SUGPAT Family Program became that platform.
The family strengthening program
The SUGPAT Adolescent Development and Participation Program of the Ateneo Center for Culture and the Arts has long believed in the importance of creating better experiences and opportunities for out-of-school youth during their crucial “second decade of life.”
One of the emerging needs identified is a program that caters to the parents of the SUGPAT fellows which will consequently improve their support to their children and strengthen them as a family.
Born then was the SUGPAT Family Program, an eight-session, protocol-based, and resilience-focused Family Psychoeducation intervention with the main goal of fostering positive family outcomes held at the CT Boulevard from December 7-9, 2018.
The modules were adapted from the Resilience-focused Family Psychoeducation Program (rfFP) of Nephtaly Botor, Program Coordinator of the Pintig Adolescent Development and Psychosocial Support Program, who flew in to Zamboanga City for a training of trainers.
Prior to the Family Strengthening Sessions (FAST), Professor Botor together with Abigail del Puerto, Program Director of Balik Kalipay Center for Psychosocial Response Inc., trained 14 family facilitators who are faculty and staff of Ateneo de Zamboanga University coming from different family, ethnic, educational, and professional backgrounds.
The family facilitators conducted the family strengthening sessions during the program proper.
“I hope this to be a progressive and a very successful program and we hope to make a model out of this for a typical Filipino family. Who knows, this may be the catalyst for a transition or change in the Filipino family, to bring back the values, to reconnect each member of the family,” family facilitator Rommel Vargas said.
Strengthening resilience in the family
Putting a focus on resilience was seen as a meaningful entry point in working with families of adolescents.
The adapted module was first used for Filipino families and survivors affected by typhoon Yolanda (2013) in Tacloban and then among survivors of typhoon Reming (2006) in a resettlement community in Legazpi City. The program was found to enhance family resilience and family cohesion among participants.
“We are actually privileged enough to have been given access to Professor Botor’s program that has truly helped better the relationships between the fellows and their families. We only hope that more institutions and adolescent programmers use this effective intervention developed,” Family Program project officer Danalyn Echem explained.
The rfFP sessions were implemented using a combination of information-giving and creative pedagogy, where families created outputs, engaged in simulations and role plays, and were able to reflect and contemplate about their life experiences.
Sessions in the family program revolved around the following topic areas: family dynamics, adversity and resilience, emotional management, family communication, collaborative problem solving, family conflict management, and commitments and aspirations.
As the sessions went by, both fellows and their parents started opening up about realities within their family.
“As a mother, I am the role model of the family. My job is to unite and bring together my children and my husband. Whatever tragedy we encounter, I try to unite our family like a glue that makes things stick together,” exclaimed Nerissa Manalo, mother of SUGPAT-ASLAP Fellow Victor Manalo.
Because of the program, Elisa was also reminded of her role as a supportive parent.
“Ever since Jenny made it to SUGPAT, I can see that her life has changed so much and now I see that it is my responsibility to support her in all her undertakings. That’s why I am here in the first place,” she said.
Nerissa and Elisa are only two of 28 families that participated in the family strengthening sessions.
Following this program with the fellows and their parents, SUGPAT is planning to bring FAST to 4 barangays and will conduct one to two 3-hour sessions per week with the 14 trained family facilitators.