While the tourism industry has brought in job opportunities and created pockets of financial wealth in the municipality of Puerto Galera, a large number of the population still live in abject poverty. As we have experienced over the years, out of school youth (OSY) coming from very poor families are much more likely to fall prey to the tourist related sex industry that more than welcome new recruitments from even very young children.
For more than a decade, Stairway has offered educational assistance to increasing numbers of very poor families in our local community. We believe that to ensure a child’s right to an education is a first and most significant step to help them break out of a perpetual vicious cycle of poverty.
Each year during the school summer break, candidates are screened through a process of home visits, personal interviews, and a family income assessment. The applicants that show a high level of financial need and an interest in continuing their education are selected for the program. The scholarships are categorized into two levels: scholars that receive basic school supplies and daily transportation, and scholars that require extra assistance, which includes a daily stipend and tuition fees.
In addition to providing financial assistance, we offer our scholars valuable life skills. Students attend workshops in Adolescent Reproductive Health, Online Safety, Environmental Awareness and Children’s Rights. Parents and family members also attend a session on Child Sex Trafficking and Child Protection, with the goal of raising the community’s awareness about child exploitation, thereby preventing future child abuse and sex trafficking incidents in the local area.
The number of families who benefit from Stairway’s educational assistance has been on a steady increase over the past years, as we see more and more children at risk, as a result of their families’ socio-economic situation. In 2015, Stairway supported more than 260 scholars, majority of them in high school, but also a significant number in their tertiary level of education.