Family Evicted from the Sidewalk

While ER helps hundreds of vulnerable women annually, we focus our blogs on just a few so readers can follow their journeys. The following story updates Gina’s journey, which we introduced in fall 2017. 

By Anne Benavidez, ER Asia

(Oct. 19, 2018)

Gina Tublag was one of the Golden Hands third class of graduates last April. Gina is a person with disability living on the streets with her family. She was a victim of a hit-and-run accident during a typhoon and flood in Manila nine years ago. Two years ago we found her on the street, sitting in an old wheelchair, which became her feet and a home. To help her have a livelihood, we taught her how to weave doormats, which later became her small business on the street under a mango tree. In time she was able to established many customers who buy her doormats. This has provided income for her family.

Last year we recruited Gina to join a Golden Hands sewing class. Gina finished it with pride and dignity because she was the only one of the 10 graduates who finished the course with perfect attendance despite of her disability. As a reward, we gave her an additional livelihood – a rolling store.

But last July, Gina’s family and other families were forcibly evicted by the local police and the government from the sidewalk where they were staying. It was night and raining heavily when the police and the barangay officials forced them to leave. Gina’s 11-year-old son had a fever and they were hungry, sick and soaked in rain. Gina and her kids had nowhere to go. Everywhere they went, the police followed them to make sure they would not stay on any streets or sidewalks.

In the middle of the night, my assistant Victoria phoned me and told me what was happening to Gina and her kids. After we talked, I prayed immediately for wisdom on what to do. I felt helpless to help. I did not know what to do. If only we owned the house where we are staying, then I would have let them stay with us.

The following day, with the groceries I bought, I went out to look for Gina and her family to find out what happened to them. I found her on the street in her wheelchair sleepless and tired. She told me they hid from the police while looking for a place to stay. The following night Gina and her kids came to our house to tell me they found a small room where they could stay. In faith, I immediately told them to tell the owner to reserve the room and assured them I would provide a down payment the following day. So that day I went to the owner and asked for her favor if she could allow Gina and her kids to use the room already even if I provided a down payment. Fortunately her heart was touched and she allowed Gina’s family in that very day!

Now Gina and her family have a new home – a small room. Despite the room’s size, they have a place to stay, a place to rest and and a place to be secure. No more fear of being evicted from the sidewalks, no more officials or police following them and forcing them to vacate. They will no longer be soaked from the rain and no longer look for higher ground when it’s flooding. Now, they are safe and sleep peacefully in that small room they call home!

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Empowering Women: ER Helps Gina Triumph Over Jeepney Accident

(Nov. 16, 2017)

The following story is one of ER’s Empowering Women blogs that highlight the journeys of women overcoming extreme circumstances to become successful leaders in their families and communities.

Early in 2017, an ER outreach team found 46-year-old Gina Tublog selling candies and cigarettes on the sidewalk from her wheelchair. Anne Benevidez, director of ER’s Golden Hands Livelihood Educational program, had met Gina many years prior to her accident, before she was disabled. Now, years later, Anne encountered Gina during one of ER Asia’s community outreaches.

Gina had been hit by a jeepney during a storm and flood in Manila. The large bus-like vehicles transport passengers through the crowded streets of Manila and can be dangerous for those working in the streets.

The accident left Gina unable to walk. Since then her life has been an incredible struggle. Married and a mother of four children, the family is homeless and works on the streets to survive. Her husband drives a pedicab, their main source of lincome, but it is not enough to afford a home. Her kids are ages 13, 11, 9 and 4.

“Physical disabilities are not a hindrance for someone to learn a new skill,” Anne said. “I have seen this in the life of Gina, a mother who lives on the street with her family. I previously met Gina before she became disabled, a long time in the past. But when I saw her again, she was sitting on an old wheelchair.

“Gina’s accident damaged the bone of her left foot.  Because of her, poverty she doesn’t have the means to undergo a therapy that injured her left foot. Without the therapy, she limped and her leg became shorter after several years.”

“Following our community outreach in January of 2017, Gina joined us as we were teaching some women living on the street how to make round rags and how to weave rags. She became interested in learning to weave, so we gave her some materials and fabrics.

“After some time, Gina was making colorful rags. We were so encouraged by her diligence and determination as she weaved rags under a mango tree.

“To reward her determination, we gave her a brand new wheelchair and a walker so she could stand and walk using her right foot. She was teary eyed when our Golden Hands group surprised her with the gifts. The gifts made her even more encouraged to weave the colorful rags.

“Gina did not just learned how to weave rags, but is able to sell them. Because she was weaving on the street many people saw what she was making and they started to order rags from her. She now has established regular customers and a lot of people are still ordering from her. The demand is high that she can’t even supply all of them anymore!

“We encouraged Gina not just to learn how to weave rags, we challenge her to learn the skill of sewing too. In June she enrolled in our third Golden Hands training group. We were already on our fifth week of training. But we quickly saw Gina’s dedication as she caught up and surpassed many of the nine other ladies in her sewing class. There are times when she finishes her projects first before the other women. She can even sew better than many who have no disability!”

Next March, Gina will join the other program participants as they graduate. They will make their own dresses for graduation ceremony and receive a certificate of completion and a new sewing machine. This will allow her to generate income for her family.

Until then, Gina also is hoping family can save enough to rent a small home. Currently, the family is squatting on  a privately owned space without a roof and they can be evicted at any time.

“Gina has proven to herself and us that with a dedicated and determined heart, physical disability is not a hindrance to learn new skills. She is gaining a livelihood that can help her earn extra income for herself and her family.”

Gina dreams she will be able to send all her kids to school and have a safe place to stay for her family. ER welcomes volunteers and donors who want to volunteer with us or provide scholarships for women like Gina. Learn more about Golden Hands here.

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