For most people living in poverty, education is viewed as a privilege; and the chance of getting an education is a significant step towards success.

As the eldest of eight siblings, twelve-year-old Rowen Revillas had to sacrifice her education to help her parents earn a living. After graduating from sixth grade in 2018, she decided to work by selling fish, vegetables and kakanin (local delicacies) in their area in Brgy. Tagburos, Puerto Princesa City, Province of Palawan. Oftentimes, she would only earn more than a hundred pesos.

Ramon, Rowen’s father, is a fisherman. Emelinda, her step-mother, does laundry for their neighbors for a living. As her parents do not have enough money to support their family, Rowen’s income helps her family survive on a daily basis.

“We didn’t force her to work. She just told us, ‘Ma, let me work so I can help our family. She was willing to sacrifice for us,” said Emelinda.

Rowen was one of the identified child laborers in the profiling activity conducted under the Child Labor Prevention and Elimination Program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in 2019.

DOLE MIMAROPA Regional Director Atty. Joffrey M. Suyao said, “The purpose of this project is to identify the specific needs of the child laborers and their families as basis of appropriate government agencies and developmental partners in the provision of necessary services or intervention to withdraw children from child labor.”

As part of government intervention, Rowen’s family received from DOLE a livelihood kit assistance of two washing machines with dryers, flat iron, hangers, detergent powder and fabric conditioner for the purpose of establishing a mini laundry business worth Php20,000.00 under the DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP).

Emelinda’s mini laundry shop was set up in their house in Brgy. Tagburos. Neighbors and acquaintances in the barangay were Emelinda’s customers. Despite the lockdown implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic just a month after the mini laundry shop started its operation, the start-up business was not affected and its average daily income of three hundred pesos remained stable.

“The mini laundry that was awarded to us by DOLE is really a big help to our family. We are now able to sustain our daily needs. We will work hard so that our small business would flourish,” said Emelinda.

Consequently, Rowen immediately stopped from working since the livelihood package was turned over to her family. She would only help with light tasks in their mini laundry during her free time. Rowen resumed her schooling after two years of being out of school and working. She is now in the seventh grade under modular education system.

“Now that I am back in school, I will dedicate my time and effort to study hard so that in the future, I can help my family,” said Rowen.

End/Kristan A. Sabando