ZAMBOANGA CITY, November 28, 2022 – Fourteen year old Jhonpaul is one of the many beneficiaries of the Labor Department’s Project Angel Tree, an initiative related to child labor prevention and elimination. For two years, he worked as a jeepney conductor for his grandfather who owned the public utility vehicle during the onset of the pandemic.

His parents said that they were aware that young children like Jhonpaul are not allowed to work but instead must be found in school to pursue their studies. However, the child insisted he wanted to work and earn money for himself and so they gave in.

When asked what his dream was, Jhonpaul said he wanted to join the Marine Corp in the future.

Michelle is thirteen years old. For four years, she worked as a vegetable vendor to help her parents with basic needs and send her younger brother to school.

“I sometimes get late for school because of my work. But I still attend my classes so I can be a policewoman someday,” she said.

Her parents despite being aware of the pitfalls of child labor were forced to accept Michelle’s situation due to poverty.

Jhonpaul and Michelle’s story is not at all rare. It has a common denominator with 28 other children who spent a day with angels or benefactors during the conduct of Project Angel Tree on November 11, 2022 at the East Wing Activity Center of a local mall in Zamboanga City.

Atty. Roy L. Buenafe, DOLE 9 regional director, shared that the project is part of the DOLE Child Labor Prevention and Elimination Program which aims to provides social services ranging from food, clothing, educational assistance or school supplies, employment opportunities and training to child laborers and their families.

“More than that, with the concept of Getting Through a Day with a Child, profiled child laborers get to spend a day with benefactors and ultimately have fun. We prepared various activities that the children enjoyed at the same time educating their parents or guardians about child labor,” he continued.

According to Buenafe, 30 parents and guardians participated in the learning session on family planning with representatives from the Commision on Population.

“It was really nice. They made us understand the importance of family planning and its benefits,” Jhonpaul’s mom said.

Michelle and Johnpaul’s parents also took part in the skills demonstration where TESDA representatives taught them how to bake cupcakes and pastries. All the baked goods were then distributed to the kids. Aside from the skills demo, TESDA also offered free beauty and nail care services such as massage, nail care to beneficiaries.

To complete the roster of activities, the Zamboanga City Health Office distributed medicines and vitamins to CLs and their parents.

Meanwhile, benefactors from various government agencies donated school supplies, toys, sacks of rice, food packs, blankets and used clothes for those beneficiaries affected by the recent flooding in Zamboanga City.

Buenafe said that the activity is being done annually all throughout the country as DOLE and its partners in the National Council Against Child Labor (NCACL) come together and implement activities to push for the advocacy.

As the lead agency of the NCACL, DOLE along with other member agencies are tasked to amplify government efforts for the protection of the rights of vulnerable sectors, especially the children, strengthen related institutional mechanisms, and establish further measures to contribute to the prevention, reduction, and elimination of any form of child labor.

In Region 9 alone, DOLE 9 was able to profile 7,342 child laborers for identification of needs and referral. As of November 29, 2022, a total of 1,898 were provided with assistance through member agencies.

“I am very happy because I was able to experience receiving gifts especially because I wished for a cellphone and won one in the raffle,” Michelle claimed excitedly.

“I feel fortunate to be selected as part of the activity and be able to play basketball with DOLE employees,” Jhonpaul shared.

“As soon as school started, my son also stopped working so he could focus on his studies. I just want my son to be able to finish his studies. It is my wish to be uplifted from poverty,” said JhonPaul’s mother.

At present, Jhonpaul and Michelle’s parents have been referred to the DWSD for enrolment to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). The District 1 Congressional Office also offered school supplies and allowance to help with Jhon Paul’s education. Michelle, on the other hand, will be provided with school allowance courtesy of the Congressional Office District 2. They will also undergo counseling at the Barangay Boalan and Ayala BCPC.

The council is dedicated to ensure that children like Jhonpaul and Michelle are able to finish their studies and are protected from worst forms of child labor. END