In 2014 after the UNITAR CIFAL-supported workshop entitled "Enhancing a victim-centered approach, the River of Life Initiatives was adopted to address gender-based violence and its health and psycho-social consequences among boys and men and their sexual partners especially among victims and survivors of drugs, HIV, and human trafficking in the Philippines.

The ROLi methodology was developed in 2012 by John Piermont Montilla, founder of Kabataang Gabay sa Positibong Pamumuhay that employs the "Meaningful Engagement of People At-risk" or MEPA process for its behavior change communications work. Inspired by the GIPA/MIPA and Denver Principles, MEPA aims in putting collective personal experiences of “victimization and survivorship” into a unique methodology in engaging peers in helping each rise up their dark past and address their vulnerabilities.

Using the ROLi Young Key Population Scorecard Tool, it offers strategies and tactics integrated with elements of game playing in the context of risk reduction (e.g., risk scoring, competition, collaborative work, and completion of tasks and quests) that help drive behavior change and interaction with service providers.

In 2014, ROLi was selected by the World Health Organization as a good practice example of service delivery to key populations in the consolidated guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations.

The River of Life Initiatives or ROLi  methodology seeks to address gender-based violence and its health and psychosocial consequences among high risk youth. It offers  fun-filled activities integrated with elements of game playing in the context of  risk reduction (e.g., risk scoring, competition and collaboration with others, and completion of tasks and quests) in actual and virtual spaces of youth.

It uses a tool known as the Young Key Population (YKPop) Scorecard for self-assessments, group workshops, and referrals for interventions.

The objectives of the ROLi are to: 

  1. Promote awareness of risks and vulnerabilities associated with violence, illicit drugs, crime, exploitation, and slavery
  2. Identify victims and facilitate referrals for health and psychosocial case management and interventions,
  3. Facilitate victim empowerment and survivor engagement to combat violence,  address ill health and promote behavior change
  4. Develop policies and interventions for health and psycho-social services from various service providers.

ROLi processes combines various methods of learning to influence behavior change and delivery of services from partners and law enforcement personnel. Metaphor and symbols are used to spur conversations of life encounters, games to encourage engagement , appreciative and group collaborative work to cultivate shared goals and decision-making.

“ROLi works on a very realistic premise—that the success of individual behaviour change is reciprocal with the success of behaviour change of the peer group where the individual belongs” according to the President of the organization who is the co-author of the methodology. In a creative manner, ROLi seeks to fill the gap experienced by individuals who have difficulty accessing formal education by creating peer-based learning system right in their respective risk environments that provides avenues for guided peer learning interactions, safe spaces for open discussion, dialogue and peer helping activities.

In this sense, ROLi has a vision of nurturing and modeling leaders from the at-risk community and through them cascade the values, competencies and life skills they have acquired to their peers and successors. The learning and social process adapted by ROLi comes with the conviction that knowledge alone does not suffice behavior change but in combining a balance of competencies and realistic transferable skills that equip disadvantaged and marginalized populations to create solutions that immidiately address their own vulnerabilities and risks in their daily lives.

Brief History

ROLi traces its roots to the HIV/AIDS Youth Advocacy Package (HAYAP ) on Tour, the first project of KGPP in the year 2000 during its formative years under the Pag-asa Youth Association of the Philippines (PYAP). HAYAP was selected as a winning project entry by the National Youth Commission when the organization was selected as one of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations in the Philippines in 2003 and a Best Practice by the International Youth Foundation’s YouthActionNet Program in 2005. HAYAP evolved into the Skills for Life Project funded under UNICEF 6th Country Program for Children and UNODC's Global Youth Network Asia-Pacific Program in the year 2005-2009.

In 2007, pioneered by the Iloilo Chapter of organization, a tool was developed dubbed as “Self Measurement of Change” with a simple idea in mind aimed at driving behavior change even after every project's term and the first tool was dedicated to street youth afflicted with prostitution and drugs. 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. The River of Life Tools 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.

With support from Starbucks Shared Planet Youth Action Grants under the YouthActionNet Program of the International Youth Foundation, a new tools incorporating social entrepreneurship through the Get to Zero and Be a Hero Marketplace showcasing inspiring stories of positive change offering solutions exchange session to facilitate learning and sharing among youth, fund raising, sale of advocacy merchandizes and in-booth games and quiz bees to promote AIDS awareness to the general public. ROLi  crystallized into key population-driven methodology to promote behavior change of the PEERS Network. In 2012, the program was selected as a learning case by 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. and 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.

Through a mini grant from the American Embassy in Manila through the International Exchange Alumni, ROLi was rolled-out in the cities of Olongapo, Davao, Cebu and Manila in the Philippines through the all-year-round Get to Zero and Be a Hero Campaign: Zero HIV, Zero Drugs and Zero Crime.