In the eyes of an innocent child lies the light full of hopes and dreams, the dream to become whatever they want someday. It is in every child’s hope that a sure brighter and better future awaits them, but with the challenges of life, these dreams are often being set aside.

For sixteen-year-old Anna C. Alafriz, she only has survival on her mind when she started working. Being the second among the four siblings, she thought that working at an early age could help her family in their daily needs. Although difficult, she is determined to succeed no matter what.

Her father, Mang Roberto Alafriz, works as a fisherman and only depends his income based on their catch, while her mother, Nanay Mary Gin, only stays at home and is responsible for household chores. While for Anna, she works as a labandera (laundress) during weekends from 6:00 am to 3:00pm.

Minsan talagang nakakapagod, pero kailangan parin gawin para may pandagdag sa gastusin sa bahay at pambaon narin sa skwelahan. (Sometimes it’s tiring, but I need to do it to supplement our expenses at home and for my school needs)”, she says.

Anna added, “Mahirap kasi minsan nagsusugat mga kamay ko sa paglalaba, pero kailangan talaga magtrabaho para makatulong ako sa magulang ko. (Sometimes I get hurt or cut my hands when I do the laundry, but I have to work hard to help my parents)

In 2019, the Department of Labor and Employment MIMAROPA (DOLE) through the Occidental Mindoro Field Office conducted a profiling of child laborers in relation to the department’s Child Labor Prevention and Elimination Program (CLPEP) wherein Anna is one of the identified child laborers.

Her family was chosen for a Bigasan livelihood grant worth Php19,900.00 under the DOLE Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program.

Maraming salamat po sa DOLE para sa tulong na ibinigay ninyo sa aming pamilya. Nagpapasalamat kami dahil isa kami sa mapalad na napili para mabigyan ng pangkabuhayan. Sa ngayon po ay tumigil na ako sa paglalabada at dito na ako nakatuon sa aking pag-aaral at pagpapalago ng aming tindahan,” Anna said. (We are very grateful to DOLE for the assistance given to our family. I have stopped doing laundry jobs and instead I am now focused on my studies and our store).

DOLE MIMAROPA Regional Director Atty. Joffrey M. Suyao, said, “The story of Anna is just one of the untold stories of other children who keep on dreaming and hoping for a better future, thus the department keeps on developing programs and strategies to support the government’s effort in addressing the child labor issues.”

Anna’s family nurtured the DOLE’s awarded project and have expanded into food vending for dumplings, burgers, fries, and sandwiches in their area.

On life lesson she learned from her experience, Anna shared, “Sa lahat siguro nang aking pinagdaanan, lahat ng iyon ay naging parte upang mas lalo akong maging matibay at magpursige. Kailangan talaga makapagtapos ng pag-aaral upang hindi na maranasan ng aking magiging anak ang mga nangyari sa akin noon.” (I believed that those challenges in my life taught me on how to be more persevering. I have to finish my studies for me to be able to raise my children well in the future).

End/Gener L. Francisco; Mary Joy N. Gregorio