A Story of Hope for Exploited Children
Hope exists in the Philippines, despite the country’s No. 1 world ranking for online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) and a 280% rise in OSEC cases reported in 2022 by UNICEF. Three siblings — we’ll call them Jay, Kat and Lea — show the power of hope. That hope can be kindled across this country, and around the world so that survivors in Cambodia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, in addition to the Philippines, receive the holistic care they need to heal. People in all these countries also receive important prevention messaging, so they are more aware how to keep themselves and their children safe from exploitation, and communities know where to refer survivors for support.
Jay, Kat and Lea experienced online abuse and exploitation, but in December 2022 they found refuge in one of World Hope International’s (WHI) partner shelters. After eight months of social worker intervention and a positive Parenting Capability Assessment Report (PCAR) from a government social worker, the children reintegrated into their non-perpetrating family in September 2023. All three were joyful.
A welcome banner at their house symbolized the importance of their homecoming. The children’s parents and siblings had prepared a heartfelt welcome program and snacks as they embraced the return of their family.
“We were waiting for this moment to be finally together again,” the children’s parents said.
This photo reminds us how our work redirects children’s lives: They know they are supported and guided on their journeys to healing and recovery from abuse and exploitation. Their family reunion inspires us to continue our mission because we know every effort contributes to restoring the broken pieces and the joy of togetherness.
Jay, Kat and Lea’s story is not the only sign of hope. A policy research study by University of Santo Tomas (UST) found that even if a child being with family members might trigger adverse reactions and emotions during reintegration, OSEC survivors find calm reassurance and reform, especially from remorseful parents.
One goal of reintegration is to regain survivors’ psychological bearings, to boost their morale and to increase their confidence so they can resume school and realize their aspirations (Opiniano, et. al, 2019). As these children take courageous steps toward healing and rebuilding, we see their resilience and strength.
Their stories remind us that even in the darkest corners, the light of hope can be reignited. Jay, Kat, Lea and others are testaments to the transformative power of support, compassion and the unwavering belief that every child deserves a chance at a brighter future.
Mariel Aira Mateo
World Hope International – Phillipines