In Cotabato City, as in all other cities of the Philippines, the urban poor live in sub-standard housing, often nothing more than closely built shanties of scrap wood and tin. The people are largely unemployed, subsisting hand to mouth. Many of the poor, in Cotabato and elsewhere, are often forced to borrow money from unscrupulous lenders at usurious rates iPoor Childrenn order to provide basic necessities for their families. 

In most cases, the borrowers are unable to pay off more than the monthly interest due on such loans and are thereby forced into taking even more loans. Thus, many poor families become essentially indentured for a lifetime trying to pay off their incurred debt.

In 1993, a private,non-profit organization, Alternative Continuing Education, Inc. (ACE), responded to this situation inCotabato City by initiating a system of non-traditional learning activities to develop job skills and income-generating activities among the unschooled poor. Typical learniGirld Making Broomsng programs include livelihood skills training for unemployed mothers and out-of-school youth, and basic education for pre-schoolers. Others include microenterprise, resource-building initiatives for adults and children to produce novelty items for sale and profit.

The Filipino Children's Fund joined with ACE in 1999 by providing funds to support a large, year-long program of livelihood training focused on microenterprise development. Through the support of the FCF, approximately 330 needy parents and youngsters were earmarked over the next year for training in starting and operating a microenterprise business from their homes in order to support their families.
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Among the skills and enterprises initiated were sewing, dressmaking, broom weaving, stainless steel chain making, artwork, creating greeting cards, and food processing and preservation. The finished products are often sold by the children themselves, who participate wherever possible in the development process.

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