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“Andy, Arman, gising na!” Monica woke her two oldest children up earlier than usual that Saturday morning. 6-year old Andy, an incoming grade 1 pupil, was excited. He and his older brother Arman, 9, had been looking forward to that day. By seven in the morning, the three of them set out to the Barangay Hall, a 30-minute habal-habal ride away from their sitio, the farthest one in the village.

With four children, Monica and her husband’s meager income, roughly P3,000 a month, as sugarcane farm workers is not enough to provide for their family’s basic needs. On weekends, Andy and Arman become extra hands in the farm, weeding and helping prepare canes for planting. But since the two boys are going to school this year, household expenses are expected to shoot up because of school expenses, something they could barely afford especially now that Monica is expecting to give birth to their fifth child soon. The educational supplies Andy and Arman received that Saturday helped ease their worries. They each got a couple of notebooks, writing pads, pencils, crayons, a scissor, eraser, and sharpener, along with a sturdy backpack and a raincoat for the coming rainy season.

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“Thank you for the school supplies,” Arman smiled shyly as he clutched his new blue backpack.

As the new school year started in June, Andy and Arman, along with other ABK3 LEAP assisted children, received a set of educational supplies. Money saved by families supposedly for the purchase of these supplies can now be used for other basic needs of the household.

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Aside from providing educational supplies, ABK3 LEAP also conducts awareness raising about children’s rights, child labor laws, and the hazards faced by children working in sugarcane farms so that children like Andy and Arman will be protected from doing hazardous tasks in the farms.

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Not able to continue her secondary education because of poverty, Monica started working in the sugarcane farms at 15 and eventually got married by the time she reached 18. She looked at her children with an uncertain hope in her eyes and remarked that she dreams for them to finish college and get jobs. Both Andy and Arman dream of becoming teachers.

By Dorothy Mae Albiento, Advocacy and Communications Specialist

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