Lorelyn Arejola is a Project Officer and a Social Worker at Terre des Hommes Netherlands in Cebu, Philippines. Being in the field of child protection, she thought that being part of the organization was a great fit and she has not turned back ever since.
“I hope and pray that more and more children, families, and communities will be aware of the evils of online sexual exploitation and that many will be encouraged to become a part in the fight against it”.
Lorelyn is involved with the implementation of the Prevention and Response of Online Commercial Exploitation of Children (OCSE) project, which started in March 2019. In the Philippines, poverty is a contributing factor to families seeking alternative means for livelihood such as forcing and/or grooming children to perform sexual acts online in exchange of money.
To combat these issues, networking and collaboration must be a key part of Lorelyn’s work.
“I am part of a multi-disciplinary core team and I am in charge of coordinating with other social workers and local government units. The people involved in these networks act as a support system for vulnerable children. They become child protection champions and help others raise awareness in their own communities”, she said.
The support system that Lorelyn mentioned expands from protection. She and her team also help facilitate opportunities for children.
“We also have a scholarship program where youth scholars will be able to attain a degree either in senior high school, associate program, or college. These scholars will automatically become a part of the multi-disciplinary core team and will serve as one of our youth champions in the field”.
At the early stages of the project, Lorelyn and her team experienced many struggles. ]
“Since I was part of the team from the beginning, we had to make a lot of adjustments. I remembered countless times that we need to revise our plans because they are not according to what was the original concept of the project. There were numerous changes in terms of policies and guidelines, which we also need to communicate with partners. Thankfully, I think we have surpassed those times already and we're moving forward to a clearer direction on how to help children”.
However, Lorelyn’s hope for the project’s achievements over the past year has been positive and there are many avenues for progress.
“Our partnership with local governments has been fruitful. They are often for partnerships but it is not often easy to gain their trust, especially as we are new in Cebu province and we are also dealing with very sensitive issues such as sexual exploitation children”.
Lorelyn never stopped fighting against child exploitation. Despite the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the community quarantines that followed, she utilized her resources to continue providing support.
“With the organization's flexible working arrangement, I was able to work from home and continue with the coordination tasks especially for the implementation of our activities in the field, through online means. Our project has realigned some of our funds for our emergency response. At the moment, we are already on to our distribution of food packs and awareness materials. We also incorporated a survey to further understand the risks and vulnerabilities of children and their families to OCSE”, she said.