The COVID-19 pandemic led to a dramatic loss of human life globally coupled with economic and social disruption causing people to fall into poverty. Businesses were forced to downsize and even close down to cut further losses. Filipino families were not spared from the immediate effects – livelihoods lost and providing for the family has become an insurmountable challenge.

For parents whose incomes were lessened or who lost their jobs, sending kids to school proved to be difficult. Although school was suspended during the first few months, schools shifted to alternative means to continue children’s’ education through online classes and provision of modules. These means that parents still need to shell out money for their children’s education.

In Zamboanga del Sur, students and out-of-school youth had the chance to earn without necessarily disrupting their education. With the help of DOLE’s Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES). This is DOLE’s youth employment-bridging program which aims to provide temporary employment to poor but deserving students, out-of-school youth, and dependents of displaced or would-be displaced workers during summer and/or Christmas vacation or any time of the year to augment the family’s income to help ensure that beneficiaries can pursue their education.

Mark Benedict J. Berondo, a 24-year-old entrepreneur, is lucky enough to be part of the SPES in Zamboanga del Sur. He is a resident of Barangay Bliss, Molave Municipality who graduated Cum Laude in June 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in General Education.

“I learned about SPES through the DOLE ZDSFO Facebook Page. I saw a post stating that LGU Molave is implementing SPES which already benefitted thousands of students like me.
Prior to joining the program, I admit that I wasted so much time being idle. This has led to financial difficulties in supporting my small flower shop business,” Mark shared.

Without second thoughts, Mark immediately applied as a beneficiary in September 2020.

“I remember attending the SPES orientation and the pre-employment seminar conducted by Molave’s PESO Manager. From that seminar, I learned that the program helps students whose families are financially challenged. We were told that 40% of our stipend will be paid by DOLE and 60% will be shouldered by the LGU,” he added.

Through the SPES, Mark was able to establish professional working relationships with other beneficiaries and maximize his time doing community work such as clean and green activities in his locality.

“Not only did I learn a lot about enhancing my work ethics, but I also experienced personal growth. I developed better communication skills and I became more empathetic especially in working with my superiors. SPES helped me become a more reliable and independent person at a very young age,” says Mark.

With the stipend he received, Mark was able to provide for his needs.

” I am proud to say that I was not relying on my parents to provide me with my needs but instead I help my parents in providing for the needs of our family without compromising my studies.”

Mark strongly recommends the program, SPES, to other students for a myriad of reasons:

“SPES will not only help them with their financial struggles but also develop their skills necessary for survival in these trying times. They will also learn from the people they work with which is a great advantage,” he said.

The implementation of SPES in Zamboanga Peninsula has helped 10, 027 students and OSYs pursue their education for a brighter future. ###