Arnajer J. Hassim is a 9 year-old playful boy and the fourth child among the brood of 7 kids of Mr and Mrs Malik Hassim of the Island Barangay Panigayan in Isabela City. He is a grade 3 elementary pupil at Panigayan Elementary School but has discontinued attending school during the 1st quarter of this school year.

His father works as an operator of a rented motorized-boat whose income depends only in the number of passengers he transports daily which is not enough to support their basic needs since he sets an amount for the boat rental.

At dawn, his father, Malik, joins other locals in the neighbourhood to go fishing for extra income. Since Arnajer quit schooling, he began to help his father by providing assistance during transport of passengers, going to fish and sell the day’s catch.

The Department of Labor and Employment IX (DOLE 9) Isabela City Field Office (ICFO) learned about Arnajer’s story back in September 2019 when the team met his family during Child Labor Profiling and found out that the child has cleft-lip, and was being bullied by it, one of the main reasons why he quit school.

Last October 18, 2019, the office through its CLP team referred the child to Dr. Arlyn Jumao-as of Save the Children of War-Basilan regarding the free cleft-lip correction surgery. Of the same day, Arnajer underwent a screening process and was provided with supplementary medicines in preparation for the upcoming operation set in the following month.

In November 11, 2019, Arnajer together with his father were accompanied by CLP-ICFO team for pre-admission at Emergency Hospital in Lamitan, Basilan Province for preliminary tests as requirement to determine his eligibility for the surgery.

The next day, Arnajer was successfully operated on by surgeons from Manila. He was discharged from the hospital last November 14, 2019 with all-expense shouldered by various sponsors through the Brotherhood Operation Sweet Smile (BOSS) Project.

Arnjar’s father expressed his gratitude for the life-changing transformation that was brought to the life of his son. He goes on to say that he can never give the same opprtunity to his child due to poverty but with the DOLE’s Child Labor Program, it unlocked an opportunity which brought their child a smile.

“I’ll be forever grateful of this program because you were able to give a chance to my child which in my whole life I can never give to him” Mr. Malik said after the successful operation. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hassim relates, as Arnajer arrives home, he is fond of going back and forth to the mirror to see his face – a face that is now full of joy.

The DOLE-ICFO continues to extend its assistance to the family of Mr. Malik under the Child Labor Program by providing fishing supplies and equipment through DOLE’s Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP). On the other hand, Mr. Malik is also referred to the Isabela City Agriculture Office for the provision of motorized-boat that he could probably be his own.

To support Arnajer’s back-to-school plan, he will be provided with school supplies sponsored by Manila-based charity organizations; The Feed- Hungry-Minds Foundation and Pitstop Motors, while a city-based youth organization that supports youth development, I Connect Youth Networks (ICYN) pledged to give him a new basketball as soon as he is totally healed. END/Alex M. Molas, CF, ICFO