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 is dedicated to help survivors and victim groups 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 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 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.
ROLi activities include but not limited to self-assessments of risk and protective behaviors, mapping of individual and group’s risk status, brainstorming, periodic dream building workshops and journal writing and peer-based education, counselling, mentoring, coaching and referrals.
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 was developed and 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.