Spotlight on Share a Child Movement:
A community wakes up to a brighter future for working children
Five years ago, two young boys in a remote mango plantation in Cebu City were spraying the leaves of a huge mango tree with pesticides when it started to rain hard. Wearing no protective gear and unaware of the danger of unsafe use of insect repellent, they took shelter under the same tree only, to get soaked with the mixture of rain water and substance from the spray. The two boys, in no time, developed skin rashes and soon died from the harmful effects of the chemicals they ingested heavily under the mango tree.

The tragic incident would have been a wake-up call for the residents of Barangay Adlaon to stop children from working. But because of poor income, a hard life, and perhaps due to a lack of information, parents allowed their children to work in the mango industry, to stop going to school, and to limit their playing time in order to contribute to family income.

The poor families of Adlaon began to realize the dangers their working children face on the plantation only when CIRCLE began its operation in the community in 2006. The project is managed by Share a Child Movement (SCM) a-child-focused NGO in Cebu City. SCM believes that education empowers people by opening a world of learning and opportunities even to the poorest of the poor.

Together with the members of the Barangay Development Council (a village-based political unit), the SCM field staff met with several groups of residents to alert them of the risks their children face when they engage in hard work. They were also informed of the rights of children to be in school and the parent’s obligation to protect their children from abuse, neglect and exploitation. Volunteer leaders were trained to identify where the working children were, how to bring them back to school through the formal or informal system and how to ensure that they regularly attended school.

To date, the community has been able to send 126 working children back to school. Family watch groups were formed to look after children’s education and their working conditions. The school has offered to assign a government paid teacher to handle alternative learning classes mainly for child laborers and those at risk of working at an early age. The Barangay Development Council has included child labor in the village development plan. The community has awakened with a new light.

In a recent meeting with the community residents, a volunteer leader recalled the time when two boys died from spraying pesticides on a mango tree. She said, “We have now realized that our children need to be in school and not working as we have asked them to do in the past. We vow never to allow that sad incident to happen again.”