The River of Life Initiatives or ROLi is a fun-filled learning package implemented through periodic self-assessments, creative workshops, group brainstorming and games using a metaphor called the "River of Life". The tool likens lives of victims, survivors and vulnerable youth into a river that has two opposite sides, one the danger and the other the safer side and downstream is the ocean that represents dreams and aspirations and opportunities. Facilitated through a collaborative work among claim-holders (victims and at-risk sectors) and duty-bearers (government service providers), it inspires the driving and pursuing of behavior change aiming at getting risk behaviors to "zero" by crossing the safer side of life and clear the way from the many barriers toward the individual dreams and aspirations.
The innovative tools proved to be effective as it helps survivors and victims’ co-create their solutions by transforming risk behaviors into “stepping stones” where the individual step up their paces toward crossing the safer side of life. The toolkit is designed to complement the already available government services on health and for the law enforcement agencies to look into the circumstances of drug use and abuse..
“ROLi works on a very realistic premise—that the success of behaviour change could not be separated from the development of the peer group where the at-risk individual belongs” according to the President of the organization who is the co-author of the methodology. In a creative and innovative manner, ROLi was created to fill the gap experienced by individuals who haven’t access the education provided by formal learning institutions and match the types of competencies and capacities required to create learning opportunities, safe spaces and meaningful changes in extremely high risk environments that requires them. In this sense, ROLi has a vision of nurturing leaders from the victim community and through them build their successors by combining a balance of holistic knowledge, shared values and realistic transferable skills that look into “protective factors” and strengths inwardly and use these to address risk factors. This comes from a conviction that knowledge alone does not suffice positive behavior change and empowerment that leaves victims and at risk populations ill-equipped to address their own vulnerabilities, their risks and their exposure to abuse, exploitation and violence in their daily lives.
The core of the ROLi activities is about self-help initiatives and positive peer group reinforcements. It includes self-assessments that allow individuals and their peers to assess their own risk behaviors and benchmark their own change objectives along with a visual map of the individual and group’s risk status. Brainstorming is then ensued through periodic workshops allowing peer helping activities and risk reduction interventions to address specific risk behaviors and improve protective behaviors - thus reinforcing accountability toward own and peer group’s behavior change. Dream building sessions is then facilitated allowing the rebuilding of dreams which reminds participants to pursue their life aspirations they have longed for culminating in a collaborative group dream “what we want to become”.
Outputs are secured in a confidential "I" journal workbook shared only with trusted counsellors as basis for risk reduction counseling on HIV and STI, drug use and abuse and other risk behaviors and crises interventions on violence, exploitation and trafficking. Dialogues with duty-bearers are then scheduled using the results of the ROLi, the series of “River of Life” outputs are connected next to each other to demonstrate the change journey and progress and presented by a peer leader. Results are presented during the knowledge fairs and get to zero and be hero marketplace that showcases inspiring stories of change and ROLi merchandises for sale
Since the organization aspires to make their own behaviour change framework an evidenced based tool, the ROLi is anchored on the organization's SELF strategic framework formulated in 2012 during the 2013-2015 strategic planning that promote a victim-centered and community-driven approach for crises intervention, behavior change and empowerment. Blending four interconnected foundations; Survivorship, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Fellowship has been framed in the belief that empowerment starts from the self and can only happen, sustained, and rolled-out through these four areas for the victim and the peer group where s/he belongs and with the help of available social assets in the community
- Survivorship: I Take Responsibility - aimed at developing competent change communicators who inculcates a sense of accountability toward own and peers' behavior through the maintenance of the change they have developed through the years and through meaningful enggement in activities that restore self worth and dignity.
- Entrepreneurship: I’m Back on My Feet - aimed at developing innovative social entrepreneurs who secure a sense of self-sufficiency in maintaining each above poverty threshold through meaningful engagement in gainful and dignified sources of industry, livelihood and mission-driven social business promoting positive social change.
- Leadership: I Take the Lead - aimed at developing empowering leaders among the most marginalized, ostracised and neglected who establishes a sense of belonging to self and peer group who can bring out and represent voices through meaningful engagement in all aspects of decision-making in their spheres of influence.
- Fellowship: I Pay It Forward - aimed at developing inspiring fellows who achieved the change they long aspired and value a sense of paying forward by reaching to others in the place where they once have been and meaningfully engaged in the development of successor generation of change makers.
Since 2007, ROLi’s proponent authors attempted to anchor its methods on four main theories of learning, namely: (1) Participatory Education by Paulo Freire which asserts that empowerment in the truest sense can result only from full participation of individuals affected by a problem or health condition and that continuous dialogue is the most effective means for them to plan and implement solutions to address vicarious problems. (2) Social Learning Theory and the Reciprocal Determinism by Albert Bandura that posits that individuals or groups can model behavior and influence the values and behaviors of the larger group. (3) the Theory of Reasoned Action , also states that an important element of behavior change is people’s perception of social norms and beliefs about behaviors and (4) the Diffusion of Innovation Theory , which describes how opinion leaders act as behavior change agents by disseminating information and influencing group opinion and norms within their respective circles of influence.
The ROLi was selected as a case study of good practice in 2014 by the World Health Organization for prevention of HIV and was an Official Global Village Activity at the 20th AIDS Conference in Melbourne in July 2014 through a Get to Zero and Be a Hero Marketplace Booth.
ROLi took it roots during the drug use and abuse prevention for prostituted youth in Iloilo, Estancia, Bacolod and Boracay in the period 2005-2009 supported by the UNICEF 6th Country Program for Children and UNODC's Global Youth Network Asia-Pacific Program. Conceived by former survivors of male prostituion in Iloilo in the year 2007, the tools were pioneered by the Iloilo Chapter of KGPP which was developed out of their frustrations that once project ends, behavior change also ceases to happen or negative behaviors relapses; the knowledge and skills acquired through years are left to become wasted as it remains among themselves without the capacity in rolling them out to others.
With a simple idea in mind to drive behavior change even after every project's term, the first tool was dedicated to street youth and was termed the "Self-measurement of Change Tools”. The tools later was developed with the assistance of ADB through the Constellation for Life Competence (formerly AIDS Competence) based in Thailand and was renamed the River of Life Tools. It was presented at the 5th Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Conference in Beijing China in 2009 and was selected as one of the Official Global Village Activity during the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington DC at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. from July 22 – 27, 2012.
Through the Starbucks Shared Planet Youth Action Grants under the YouthActionNet Program of the Intyernational Youth Foundation, through the organization's Behavior Change Entrepreneurship Strategic Planning, ROLi has crystallized as a new methodology towards as a rights-based, victim-centered and survivor-driven framework of action in combating trafficking among youth and in addressing core health and psycho-social issues on HIV, drugs and clandestine behaviors. The program was selected good practice of the Philippine NGO Support Program or PHANSuP - a linking organization of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and was piloted in Zamboanga, Davao, Cebu, Bacolod, and Manila in 2012 that reached 77 grassroots groups of people who use drugs, male and female sex workers, street youth, gays and transgender across the country through the Community Engagement Strengthening for the Philippine HIV Response (CES4PHR) project of the Philippine National AIDS Council and PHANSuP.