As much as life has changed this year, some things remain the same. This is one of the many stories of hope for survivors of sexual abuse. Karine (her name had been changed to protect her identify) is a 15-year-old girl survivor of incest rape. She is in a shelter for sexually and physically abused girls in Baguio City. With the support of a shelter for victims of abuse – and her own strength and determination – she is now safe, and hopeful for a better future.

The Child and Family Service Philippines, Inc. (CFSPI) is a 24 hour residential facility which provides shelter, care and protection for girls and women who are in crisis. They are usually victims of sexual and physical abuse and are experiencing crisis situation and in need of professional help.

According to CFSPI social workers or house parents popularly known to the “housemates” as their “ate”, “manang” or “tita”, when Karine was newly admitted, she preferred to be alone. She also has suicidal thoughts. She even expressed that she’s not willing to complete the program and withdraw the case filed. However, as the days, weeks and months went by, she gradually appreciated the program and improved a lot with her coping and interpersonal skills. She realized that she has skills in arts and writing poems.

Karine is the face of hundreds of girls and adolescents who are scared to ask for – help – out of fear. The reason behind is the case is settled by tradition. Some believe that it is better to settle the abuse case than to embarrass the whole family or clan.

Last week, CFSPI Executive Director Carmen Gomez-Moyaen invited the members of the Regional Sub-Committee for the Welfare of Children (RSCWC) to the opening of the Healing Camp at Manzanillo Subdivision.

The RSCWC and the Regional Child Protection Working Group (RCPWG) institutionalizes Republic Act 10821 or the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act which mandates the institutionalization of a Comprehensive Emergency Program for Children with the following components: Establishment of Evacuation Centers; Establishment of Transitional Shelters for Orphaned, Separated, and Unaccompanied Children; Assurance for Immediate Delivery of Basic Necessities and Services; Stronger Measures to Ensure the Safety and Security of Affected Children; Delivery of Health, Medical, and Nutrition Services; a Plan of Action for Prompt Resumption of Educational Services for Children; and Establishment of Child-friendly Spaces.

The RSCWC member agencies are DOLE, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Education, Philippine Information Agency, Commission on Human Rights, Philippine National Police, Population Commission, Department of Justice, National Bureau of Investigation, National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Agriculture, Department of Health, Philippine Statistics Authority, National Nutrition Council, Council for the Welfare of Children, Sunflower Children’s Center and CFSPI.

The RSCWC-CAR members were able to interact with the staff and say “hello” to the young and innocent housemates and were touched with their stories. DOLE- CAR Regional Director Exequiel Ronie Guzman handed over various items for the children like story books, back packs, crayons, writing pads, toys and other school supplies and requested Regional Directors and Agency Heads to adopt a child and share their blessing by giving their “wish list” this Christmas. RD Guzman also discussed with Executive Director Moyaen on how to improve the collaboration between the Labor Department and CFSPI to ensure access of services and interventions for children in need of special protection; provide various trainings and activities on Child Abuse Prevention, Child Labor Awareness and other related topics among children and youth and the sharing of resources to in ensure the needed skills and knowledge in addressing cases of children who are victims of the worst forms of child labor and exploitation.

The worst forms of child labor are all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale of a child; trafficking of children, meaning the recruitment of children to do work far away from home and from the care of their families, in circumstances within which they are exploited; debt bondage or any other form of bonded labor or serfdom; forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), including the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, or the production of pornography or for pornographic performances; use, procuring or offering of a child by others for illegal activities, also known as children used by adults in the commission of crime (CUBAC), including the trafficking or production of drugs and work by its nature that is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

The Child and Family Service Philippines, Inc. was founded in 1987 by Daniel Urquico, Patti Lyons and Consuelo Alger. It was their dream to provide care and assistance to abused and disadvantaged children, women and families.

It began its programs and services by offering drop-in and residential services to the street children of Baguio and Benguet, beginning first quarter of 1988. It eventually shifted to abused children and women, when DSWD opened its own services in Trinidad. It also focuses on children and youth in conflict with the law, and early childhood development and care. For over 25 years, more than a thousand disadvantaged children and countless families have availed of the programs and services of CFSPI. They received professional care and assistance in overcoming the trauma of child abuse, manage problems brought about by juvenile delinquency, learn how to effectively care for their new born babies, deal with dysfunctional family relationships and effectively reintegrate back into family and/or community.

DOLE-CAR and DOLE Baguio Benguet Field Office would like to extend huge thanks to the Brethren of the Rotary Club of Baguio Summer Capital, their Rotary Ann’s headed by Dra. Brenda Villanueva, Saint Louis University (SLU) Rotaract School of Accountancy, Management, Computing and Information Studies; Pines City Colleges School of Medicine headed by Janjan Dacawi, University of Baguio Science High School Rotaract and Interact, the kids, the anonymous donors and the DOLE Family Welfare Federation member companies who came together to donate story books, back packs, crayons, writing pads, toys and other school supplies. Thank you for stepping up to make a difference in the lives of the smallest survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation.

END/Patrick T Rillorta