Posted on Dec 30 2011
By Clarissa David

Undoubtedly, 2011 was a year of “challenges and hard work” for Karidat Social Services, according to its executive director, Angie V. Guerrero.

“We all tried to survive with what little we have and still continue to accept clients,” she said.

Guerrero, who has been serving in that capacity for 17 years, reveals that she is one of the founding members of the CNMI’s premier social services arm, along with then Monsignor Tomas Camacho who came up with the idea to set up an organization that will provide social services to the islands.

On May 5, 1980, Karidat Social Services was incorporated, initially launching its Family Services program, followed down the line by the Teen Center, a supervised program for the youth; the Marianas Bound program, which fosters self-awareness and personal growth; and the Guma Esperansa or House of Hope, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

Guerrero recounted that during Karidat’s early years, funding came easy as the CNMI government still had the garment industry’s revenue to rely on, allowing the community-based organization to receive monetary support through local appropriations.

Three decades later and Karidat continues to provide assistance to the underprivileged segment of the community, albeit with less fanfare as it struggles to make do and augment whatever funds they receive.

“Now that the government coffers are almost empty, the funding that we receive is very minimal compared to previous years,” said Guerrero, adding that their local appropriation is not even enough for the salaries of just one staff.

Financial constraints, without a doubt, became one of the biggest challenges for Karidat in 2011. There was even a time, Guerrero said, when their pantry was emptied out. But thanks to the generosity of businesses and individuals in the community, supplies would turn up for them to share with their clients. “Without their assistance, our service would be limited because we can only give what we have,” she added.

Despite the fiscal challenges in 2011, the year still managed to bring a bit of good cheer to Karidat, with Guerrero leading the organization in taking advantage of federal grants. “We’re constantly looking for funding,” she said. “That’s my main responsibility, to look for funding.”

Credit also goes to Guerrero, whose austerity efforts at Karidat began long before the government became fully aware that the island economy would be in a downward trajectory.

“We are very frugal with our expenditures. We’ve practiced implementing austerity measures 10 years ago. If we did not take measures at that time, Karidat would probably have been closed by now,” Guerrero disclosed, adding that the organization managed to save some $120,000 in the 10-year period.

Karidat’s ability to provide assistance to the community wouldn’t have been possible without the compassionate and dedicated men and women who comprise the organization’s 16-member staff.

“I have good staff and I really acknowledge them for being dedicated to their work, not having complaints even when they’re overloaded with cases we have at Karidat. If the staff is not dedicated, I will have a hard time. Since the staff is really good, we manage somehow to grow in our service,” she said.

Guerrero admits, though, that their commitment to their work will continue to be put to the test as she foresees an increase in the number of people they will serve in the future due to the economic recession. “Work hours are reduced, businesses are closing, people are losing their jobs. There’s a need-a great need,” she emphasized.

Still, optimism rings high for Guerrero because community members young and old weather their personal fiscal troubles and continue to share whatever they have.

“We thank them for their generosity,” said Guerrero. “May the good Lord continue blessing them a hundredfold.”

Above all, the good Lord provides, too. “I trust in Divine Providence, provided we do our work, too. But the good Lord seems to be always taking care of us. I really trust in the Lord.”

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