Project Angel Tree: a time-tested program to eliminate child labor

The Department of Labor and Employment continues working with the private sector to end child labor under the time-tested Project Angel Tree.

The program, which has been running since early 2000, provides an array of social services that range from food, clothing, educational assistance, or school supplies, including work and training opportunities made available by sponsors or benefactors (referred to as angels) to child laborers and their families, the DOLE said in its website.

It aims to improve child laborers’ and their families’ economic and social conditions and increase the number of allies and advocates of child labor prevention and elimination.                                     

DOLE said more than 2,500 child laborers in Laguna were profiled to be engaged in work in the agriculture, services, and construction sectors. 

“This number is relatively high among the other provinces in the CALABARZON region. It is also high because the government hopes that no child will have to work due to poverty,” Guido Recio, DOLE-Laguna Director, said.

The annual Angel Tree project, held in time for the World Day Against Child Labor on June 12, brought together private companies with their livelihood packages and other assistance.

On Wednesday, June 28, 2023, some 100 children and 61 parents in Laguna were identified as beneficiaries of packages that could help them improve their lives.

Joey, 11, a former child laborer, said he and his siblings worked as food vendors because his family was always short on cash.

Joey’s father works in a construction firm while his mother does a sideline job for small-town lottery operations. Joey earns up to P300 if he manages to sell all their items, which helps his family to eat more than once a day. 

“If we have money, we can have chicken for a meal, otherwise, we just have salt and water,” Joey, who dreams to be a chef, said.

He said that the assistance he received such as food packs, school supplies, and hygiene kits will go a long way for him and his family. He intends to continue studying until his dream comes true.

Project Angel Tree aims to improve the economic and social conditions of child laborers and their families and increase the number of allies and advocates of child labor prevention and elimination. Photo by Mark Bryan Lito, PIA-4A

Jenalyn Villanueva, a mother of seven from Pangil, Laguna, said that even though they are poor, quality education is the only thing she can pass on to her children.

She works as a part-time barangay health worker, accepts laundry, and plants and harvests flowers in their town while her husband works part-time selling pork rinds. She’s also the guardian of her four nieces and nephews and takes care of her mother. 

Even with side jobs, Jenalyn only earns from P200-P500 daily, which does not suffice for their basic needs. She shared that there are times when they only eat once a day due to their limited income.

Jenalyn is one of the recipients of DOLE’s livelihood package for a sari-sari store.

“Yung matatanggap ko po ngayon na sari sari store ay makakatulong sa akin sa araw-araw na pambili ng pagkain ng bata, pambaon ng estudyante. Hindi na po ako maiistress sa pambaon at pambili ng pagkain at palalaguin ko po ang negosyo ng ibibigay ng DOLE,” she said. 

She assured that the business she received would grow and flourish. 

“Pangangalagaan ko po at ipagpapasalamat ko po sa Panginoon dahil alam ko po na ang lahat naman ng biyaya na natanggap ko ngayon ay galing sa Panginoon at gumamit siya ng staff ng DOLE para kami’y matustusan ang pangangailangan dahil sa hirap ng buhay.”

Recio recognizes the plight of many poor families and their kids who were forced to help with the daily expenses. He said that the government and the industries continue to do their part to assure that occurrences like this would be eliminated or reduced.

“‘Yung child labor ay ipinagbabawal ng batas. Ngayon, hindi pwedeng basta ipatigil. Kailangan tulungan ang mga bata, pamilya ng mga bata at ipakita sa mga magulang na bigyan ng oras ang mga bata na maglaro at mag-aral. Kung maaari ay wag silang pagtrabahuhin dahil ang pagtatrabaho sa Pilipinas, 18 years old ang legal age.”

Smiles radiate as some 100 children and 61 parents in Laguna were identified as beneficiaries of packages that could help them improve their lives. Photo by Mark Bryan Lito, PIA-4A

Vergel Rapin, of the Laguna Industrial Peace Council Inc. and chairperson for the 2023 Project Angel Tree, believes that the project leaves a huge impact to provide better lives for its beneficiaries.

“Ito’y malaking tulong para sa mga child laborers. Gusto nating ipamulat sa bata na ang gobyerno, kasama ang private sector ay handang tumulong upang maibsan ang child labor o matulungan ang mga child workers dito sa Laguna. Umpisa pa lamang ito,” Rapin said.

Rapin added the private sector will continue to partner with DOLE in holding more Angel Tree projects for the rest of the year namely a medical and dental mission, another in November for National Children’s Month, and gift-giving for children and their families in December.

His message for the children and their families: “Hindi nila kasalanan na masadlak sila sa maagang pagtatrabaho. Pero nandito ang LIPCI, nandito ang gobyerno, nandito ang private sector para gabayan at tulungan kayo na makamit ang inyong pangarap. So sabi nga kanina sa programa, huwag tumigil sa pangangarap. Huwag tumigil sa pagsisikap para sa mas magandang bukas ng mga batang ito.” 

DOLE Laguna, along with the Provincial Government of Laguna, laid out other government programs for families of child laborers namely the Special Program for the Employment of Students, the Government Internship Program, and the provincial government’s scholarship program. (CH/PIA-Laguna)

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