Opportunity 2.0

Events & Stories

Finding Hope in Second Chances

A young mother in Davao City, Philippines gains back her confidence and is now carving her way to success.
Inah standing next to a digital point of sale register at the restaurant.

Ina Bhlaire Almondia, a 20-year-old mother, can often be found cheerfully serving customers at the Calinan branch of Penong’s, a popular barbecue and seafood restaurant in Davao City. When not at work, she dedicates her free time to caring for her child and spending quality time with her family. Sometimes, she volunteers as a resource person for youth-oriented activities in her community. 

Although Ina has achieved balance in her responsibilities as a mother and worker, the pathway she traversed to achieve this harmony was a difficult one.  “I became pregnant at 17,” she shares. “I was in Grade 8 and quit formal school because I felt that many didn’t welcome the news.”

Because of the pregnancy, Ina struggled with self-blame and experienced depression. Many people in her community made hurtful comments about her status as an out-of-school youth (OSY) and young mother.

With support from her family, Ina faced her challenges and aspired to change the course of her life. Her son Simone, now three years old, became her source of strength and inspiration. She enrolled in the Alternative Learning System (ALS) of the Department of Education (DepEd) and successfully completed her high school education.

Additionally, her ALS teacher introduced her to the O2 training program “Be Your Own Boss (BYOB),” which teaches participants how to start their own business and equips young people with innovative work-based learning and job-readiness skills that are in demand by employers. Youth also gain firsthand experience through work immersion at local establishments.

Inah smiling and looking to her son who is also smiling.

During the BYOB training, Ina started to come out of her shell and gained confidence in herself. She learned how to make a business plan and impressed her trainers with her remarkable ability to absorb her lessons and apply them in an actual work setting. “I also gained skills on how to effectively communicate with others,” she says. 

After completing her BYOB course, she moved on to the work immersion component of the program and started working for Penong’s. The restaurant is an O2 private sector partner and provides work-immersion opportunities to selected BYOB completers.

Ina impressed Penong’s management with her work ethic, positive attitude, and friendly demeanor. After a month of work immersion, she was hired as a cashier and all-around staff at the restaurant’s branch in Calinan District. Not only has the job allowed her to earn an income to support her family, it has also boosted her self-confidence as she’s gained a sense of achievement. She’s been with the restaurant for nearly two years now. 

Since 2020, the USAID Opportunity 2.0 (O2) program has provided similar learning and earning opportunities for more than 11,000 OSY in Davao City, and for almost 68,500 OSY across 15 O2 cities in the Philippines. O2 has also strengthened the capacities of local stakeholders to provide post-training support and services for marginalized youth. Through the O2 program, USAID supports the Philippine Department of Education and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to enhance existing education and training programs with life skills, work-readiness, and entrepreneurship content. This addition to DepEd’s ALS program and TESDA’s TVET training courses provides young Filipino learners like Ina with essential skills for the workplace and significantly improves their chances of post-training success.

Ina’s life experience has become an inspiration for other OSY like her, and she has been invited to speak at youth gatherings in her community. Her advice to other OSY and young mothers is simple: “To believe in yourself. Do not listen to the naysayers and show them that you can do it.”

Ina plans to continue working to provide for her son and family but also aims to go back to school to complete a degree in education and become a teacher.  “I am happy that I can provide for my family, but I also dream of building a house for them. I want to secure Simone’s future by encouraging him to finish his schooling,” she states.

Watching Ina joyfully serve her customers at Penong’s today, it would not be at all surprising to see her transition into a successful teacher in the future.