Famed for sailing the seas of Southeast Asia in wooden vessels known as perahu, the Bajaus are an indigenous ethnic group that lives a life deeply connected with water.
However, the Bajaus have been displaced from their traditional homeland due to a number of factors including poverty, commercialized fishing and civil strife. Currently, over 10,000 Bajau migrants live in various places in Central Luzon, in the Philippines.
Canada is helping indigenous Bajaus settle in a new community by providing food and school supplies for children and livelihood skills for women.
The Embassy of Canada through its Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) has partnered with the non-governmental organization God’s Love for Indigents Ministry (GLIM) to support migrant Bajaus living in Pampanga, having been displaced from their original homes in Western Mindanao.
With the funding from the embassy, more than one hundred Bajaus now have access to child and youth development activities to improve their literacy, while adults have opportunities for livelihood training on rug-making, jewelry-design, and gardening.
In a recent visit to their community in San Simon, Pampanga, Canada’s Ambassador to the Philippines Christopher Thornley witnessed how Bajaus have been improving their living conditions.
“It is wonderful to see the shared commitment of GLIM, its volunteers, and the local government in supporting the Bajau people. I am delighted that Canada is a partner in this effort to empower these marginalized and vulnerable members of the community,” Ambassador Thornley said.
Perla Villanueva, GLIM director said her organization has been supporting and organizing the Bajau community in the neighboring town of Apalit since 2004.
“GLIM has been encouraging Bajau children to study in the formal public school system. A few of these children have received academic recognition, reinforcing GLIM’s resolve to work more for their social and economic development,” Ms. Villanueva explained.
GLIM’s strategy is similar to the Philippine government’s Conditional Cash Transfer program. Bajaus participating in the various training sessions receive food provisions.
“The program is motivating the Bajaus to fully participate in the training, and proving a real option to peddling on the streets. In giving parents a means of livelihood, we have seen that the children who were often used in the past to solicit money are now being protected from the dangers of the street,” Ms. Villanueva added.