About the River of Life Initiatives (ROLi) Programme

The River of Life Initiatives (ROLi) program is a long-running hallmark program of the Kabataang Gabay sa Positibong Pamumuhay among boys and men who are made vulnerable by drug abuse, crime, and exploitation. The ROLi promotes a victim-centered approach for crises intervention, client-initiated model for HIV continuum of prevention, treatment, care and retention services, and a survivor-driven framework for behavior change and moral recovery among clientele groups that are afflicted with drugs, crime, violence and exploitation. The program seeks to empower victims, survivors and at-risk youth groups toward “self-agency” which enables them to act in their own best interest relative to the circumstance of their victimization, their health status and psycho-social condition.

Through the ROLi toolkit, individuals and the peer groups are enabled to initiate self assessments of their risks allowing them to improve health and help-seeking behaviors. The periodic workshops help build mutual trust with duty-bearers that establish a sense of security and safety in their bid to access health services, crises intervention and peer support in pursuing justice. The ROLi was selected as a case study of good practice in 2014 by the World Health Organization for prevention of HIV and is set to be presented at the 20th AIDS Conference in Melbourne on July 2014.

ROLi, provide a creative way of addressing risk behaviors. Like a river, it illustrates the two sides of life, one the danger and the other the safer. The toolkit enable communities to drive their own behavior change activities as well as a tool that helps them measure own progress and celebrate own change as individuals and as peer groups with the support of peers who already achieved positive change and the service providers whom they establish trust with.

The concept is the substitution of factual data into positive metaphors through symbolic representation of life experiences of the individual participant. Victims, survivors and at-risk youth groups led by their  respective peer leaders embark in periodic workshops with their duty-bearers that help them journey toward the safer side of their lives.

There are three tools, a self assessment checklist, an individual river of life and a group river of life. The individual checklist consists of several risk behaviors and a behavior change objective for each behavior. Each behavior are assigned a level of risk based on frequency of risk practice with 5 = extreme, 4 = very high, 3 = high, 2 low, 1 = very low and 0 = zero risk levels. Each levels are represented with degree of emotions from sad and happy emoticons starting from the danger side and toward the safer side. Risk scores are color coded red, areas above the scores are color coded green representing the areas requiring intervention and areas below the scores are color coded blue representing the areas achieved.

The individual river of life is aimed at helping the victim develop a (river-like) visual that illustrates his own risk status. The peer group river of life is aimed at helping the group where the victim belongs develop visuals that illustrates the risk status of the group after incorporating all their individual risk scores in the template. The output shows, who among the members are located at the safer side (members who have something to share) and who among them located at the danger side (members who have something to learn). From there on, peer helping activities are stimulated by tasking those members in the safer side to reach out those in the danger side until such a time that all members arrive in the safe side of the river of life.

To measure behavior change, the tools are administered at least twice a year or at most four times a year and for most-at-risk groups, at least every month. Outputs are compared and outcomes are interpreted into stepping stones assigned for current risk scores, capstones are for the planned objectives, touchstones are for the achieved objectives, milestones for the progression from the danger side to the safer side and millstones when the risk level is maintained or relapsed toward the danger side.

A poster size river of life output is developed for  ROLi dialogues that seeks to establish mutual trust between community groups with their duty bearers based on the sharing of the results of the ROLi. This help health authorities adjust their services, policies and programs to address the unique and evolving needs being shared. River of life case studies of inspiring stories of change are also developed and exhibited during knowledge fairs and ROLi merchandises sold and auctioned for a price during ROLi showcase and marketplace


The program took it roots in Iloilo, Estancia and Bacolod in the period 2005-2009 and was conceived by a group of male sex workers in Iloilo in the year 2007 after being beneficiary of a UNICEF and UNODC-funded HIV and drug abuse prevention program for prostituted youth. The tools were developed out of frustrations of beneficiairies (out of school youth, drug addicts and sex workers) of behavior change interventions that are cost-driven and are sustained by rigorously sourced-out donor funds. It was observed that once project ends, behavior change also ceases to happen; knowledge and skills acquired through years are left to become wasted as it remains among beneficiaries who are incapable of rolling them out to others.

With a simple idea in mind to drive behavior change even without donor funds, the first tool was termed as  the  "Self-measurement of Change Tools” developed with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank through the Constellation for Life Competence (formerly AIDS Competence) based in Thailand. 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 for the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) held in Washington DC at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. from July 22 – 27, 2012.

Through the Starbucks Youth Action Grants, the ROLi program has crystallized as a new methodology for a rights-based, victim-centered and survivor-driven framework of action in combating trafficking among youth in the Philippines. The program was scaled up in Zamboanga, Davao, Cebu, Bacolod, and Manila in 2012 and reached 77 grassroots groups of most unheard communities of people who use drugs, male and female sex workers, street youth, gays and transgender, and youth across the country through the Community Engagement Strengthening  for the Philippine HIV Response (CES4PHR )project of the Philippine National AIDS Council and the Philippine NGO Support Program, a linking organization of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

Currently, through a grant from the American Embassy in Manila, the River of Life Initiatives is being rolled-out in key cities in the Philippines through the ROLi Caravan in Olongapo, Davao, Cebu and Manila.




johnpiermont | Thu 28 Aug 2014 09:26:29 PM EDT

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