The regional office of the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM VII) in Central Visayas led by Regional Director Atty. Bruce N. Ragas and Asst. Regional Director Darlynn S. Remolino held its 1st Regional Youth Leaders Virtual Conference with sixty two (62) Peer Leaders and Peer Facilitators attending last June 18, 2020 (Thursday) from 2:30 to 4:00 in the afternoon. This is the first online conference dedicated for concerns of POPCOM Adolescent Health and Development Program (AHDP) in view of the POPCOM Helpline in the context of the pandemic, the pre-vaccine period (PVP) and ongoing quarantine in the region. Facilitated by Michael Pacios, the meeting discussed the concerns of the youth in Central Visayas (CV) considering factors of mobility, food and nutrition, relationships, family, health, social distancing and COVID 19.

      The Orientation on POPCOM VII HELPLINE as discussed by Asst. Regional Remolino is now available to clients in Central Visayas from Monday to Friday at 8 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon. Areas of concerns include: Family Planning (FP), Adolescent Health and Development (AHD) Sexuality, STI, HIV and AIDS-prevention including teenage pregnancy; and Gender-based Violence (GBV). Helpline numbers include the POPCOM VII Regional Center with landline number: 236-4963 and dedicated cellphone numbers of Responders: 0936-972-6651 (FP), 0925-877-4110 (AHD), and 0917-307-9355 (GBV).

       The online orientation for POPCOM Helpline intends to make known to the youth leaders their contribution in the creation of a Helpline Directory for referrals to several youth concerns in line with adolescent health development and sexuality. This includes the prevention of teenage pregnancy, HIV and AIDS. With teenage pregnancy, for example youth clients are assisted through referrals to appropriate and accurate service providers. Counseling, per se is referred to MSWD/DSWD counselors and Population Officers. POPCOM Helpline at the FB page is also available 24 hours. The POPCOM Helpline has an existing Manual and Guidelines/ Protocol to follow based on the memorandum from POPCOM Central Office.

                The participants to the online Orientation are trained peer educators and facilitators of POPCOM VII in Central Visayas. This means that the youth leaders have gone through the ladder-like Peer Education Training Module for adolescents composed of 4 Levels: Level 1 – Peer Volunteer (Open Space); Level 2 – Peer Facilitating (Life Skills); Level 3 – Peer Education (Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health); and Level 4 – Peer Interpersonal Communication. Many of them are also active volunteers in their respective Teen Centers. A Teen Center is a social and recreational center intended primarily for adolescents and youth and run by the youth. This is the focal point and safe space for providing factual and ageappropriate information and services on sexuality and reproductive health for young people through workshops, counseling and trainings, among others. The Center also supports opportunities for youth to develop their physical, social, emotional, and cognitive abilities and experience achievement, leadership, enjoyment, friendship, and recognition. To date, there are twenty one (21) Teen Centers in the region and five (5) high schools in Mandaue City with AHDP corners, which are school bulletins where they may post information for awareness about the H.E.A.R.T. (HIV/AIDS/STI, Early Sexual Encounters, Adolescent Sexuality, Reproductive Health, Teenage Pregnancy and Mental Health. They have also facilitated the conduct of HEART to H.E.A.R.T. Teen Talks. This is a brainchild communication program of POPCOM Region VII for adolescents (ages 10-19) developed by POPCOM Representative Carl Dave Black Ang. The campaign talks about the H.E.A.R.T. issues of adolescents and teens.

                Other than these, the youth leaders were encouraged to think of creative ways to reach out to teens in their respective localities using the needed protocols of being safe, staying home, wearing masks and physical distancing. The Quaranteen Game, for example developed by Carl Dave Ang, POPCOM VII Representative from the regional office utilizes the award winning short films of POPCOM VII available in youtube, which may be shared and popularized in the local government units (LGUs), especially those with Teen Centers. One youth participant, Jessa Altamero suggested that the different life skills, such as how to say no and how to negotiate may be translated in a creative dance and music/rap format like TikTok.

Writer:

Maria Lourdes A. Garillos

Information Officer II – IMCU