Turning Challenges Into Opportunities: Julia's Story

In 2010, cancer was the last thing on Julia Anday’s mind. One day, she was healthy and the next, she wasn’t. The mother of three, who lives in the province of Laguna, Philippines, went in for a normal check-up one day expecting to be treated for a stomach ache, as she had been having sharp abdominal pains. Blood tests performed by her doctor later revealed that Julia had Colorectal and Endometrial Cancer.

Her husband, a jeepney driver, had to work overtime to sustain their family’s needs. What was left of their already scanty savings went to her medical expenses. Hoping to ease her family’s financial burden, Julia started different businesses such as a direct selling business and opened a small canteen in her area. Sadly, due to the lack of experience and limited mobility brought on by chemotherapy, her business suffered terrible losses which prompted her to close the canteen.

Some years later, Julia accepted an invitation to join the R.I.S.E. programme from the local Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) federation. As it turned out, R.I.S.E. was better than she could have imagined. Business concepts that were once foreign to Julia, like the Blue Ocean Strategy and Operational Planning, helped her get motivated to continue to develop her business. Julia worked with her assigned mentor on her customer engagement skills in order to attract potential buyers whilst keeping her existing ones.

The Blue Ocean Strategy proved to be a valuable learning experience as she turned her attention to a low-cost market, Julia settled on opening a small sari-sari store (convenience store) near her home. With the knowledge gained from the R.I.S.E. programme, her sales increased and she even earned enough money to supplement her family’s meagre income, much to Julia’s delight.

Just as Julia and her family started to recover from the emotional and financial fallout, life threw another curveball— their daughter was diagnosed with Endometrial cancer, it was the same enemy she faced a decade ago. The onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent nationwide lockdowns exacerbated their distress. Luckily, Julia was not the same person she was a decade ago. Nowadays, she is much more optimistic about life’s challenging moments and remains resolute in the face of adversity.

Apart from maintaining the daily operations of her sari-sari store, Julia concentrated on improving her online sales. By tapping into the power of social media and building her business presence on several online platforms, she was able to widen her customer base. Following the advice of her R.I.S.E. mentors, Julia leverage on taxis and jeepneys as delivery service providers for her orders. Through sheer determination, Julia now maintains a monthly income of PHP 10,000 (RM 826.99) despite the pandemic.

Wanting others in similar situations to succeed, Julia stresses that, although her journey has been arduous, it is important to ask for help and not give up. When asked about the support she received from the R.I.S.E. programme, Julia recalls, “If it were not for the training, we would have starved during the pandemic, because we did not know what to do with our business or even where to start.” After everything she has been through, Julia is certain that she is now more prepared to face life’s challenges because she has found strength, determination, and an unbreakable desire to provide the best for her family.