I recently spent a week in the Philippines with a few of the 160+ million children across the world who are involved in child labor. Much of my time was spent telling the story of children who have successfully exited work in the sugar cane fields.
The situation I found on the island of Negros was different than you might have imagined. Poverty, more so than the sugar industry, is the villain here. The children I encountered who were missing school were doing so willingly, usually with their parents’ permission, preferring the temporary gratification of a small paycheck over hitting the books. The work is grueling nonetheless, and the effects of missing out on an education are almost irreversible.
ChildFund’s LEAP (Livelihoods, Education, Advocacy, Protection) program, which I have been documenting, is responsible for the near-eradication of child labor in this area of the Philippines. My objective was to show what a child laborer’s life was like before and after ChildFund’s intervention. Most of my assignment was spent shooting video, so more to come when the post-production is completed.