My name is Jo-an F. Miralles. I am 23 years old and a member of the youth group under the Fairtrade sugar producer- Dama Farm Worker Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association (DAFWARBA) in the Philippines. I am currently working as a Youth Monitor in the organization.
I have 06 siblings (5 brothers and 1 sister) and my father is one of the farmer members of DAFWARBA. Our life changed when my mother, died in 2017, at the age of 46, from chronic kidney disease. Every day since then, we used to find our father crying in her remembrance. Despite the agony, he continued to work on the farm to fend for the family, but life isn’t easy when you have a farm to till and 07 children to look after. Like every parents’ dream, my father too wanted us to have a good education and find a suitable job.
I grew up believing that farming was not the career option for me. My siblings and I were always told by our parents to focus on our studies, and get degrees so that we do not land up working in the fields and become farmers because according to them being a farmer was being poor forever. Over the years that belief gradually changed when I got exposed to several opportunities for young people in the Fairtrade system. Today I am proud to have a degree in Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (BSIT) which would not have been possible without the support from DAFWARBA’s Fairtrade Premium Fund. The Premium Project provides interest-free educational loans to farmer members to support their children’s schooling.
I always wanted to learn about computer and information system and get a job in a company in Manila or in some cities. Education in today’s era has become extremely expensive but with the support of the educational loan from the Fairtrade Premium Fund, I was able to complete my IT course in 2018. Now I have decided to give Agriculture a try through the knowledge gained.
The outbreak of the coronavirus has changed the lives of everyone, especially for the vulnerable ones: elderly and pregnant women who lack access to proper healthcare support, children who suffer due to schools being shut down, and the majority of youth who have lost all the job opportunities. Additionally, families continue to lose their regular means of income. It has made us anxious and uncertain of what lies ahead for the fear of getting infected without any money to pay for the treatment. During the first stage of the pandemic, I along with other youth in our community supported our parents by taking their place to work on the farm. We worked for 2-3 days a week. Some of us even sold food in the streets to earn some money to support our families’ daily needs.
Being a Youth monitor, my work in the organization was not highly affected. I appreciate the support of Fairtrade NAPP and DAFWARBA in our activities. During the crisis, we have conducted youth-specific activities to keep the children and young people in the community occupied and create awareness of COVID 19. We have worked with the Barangay Health unit to tap their knowledge and expertise on health-related protocols and measures to keep our community free from the spread of the coronavirus. We have maximized the use of Facebook to disseminate essential communications to the members and also advocated the use of hotline numbers for reporting any infringement of human rights such as gender-based violence, sexual harassment, domestic violence, cybercrime, etc. to ensure everyone in the community remains safe and well protected.
Apart from the challenges looking at the positive side the quarantine has provided me with some quality time to spend with my father and my siblings.
NOTE: The above contents do not reflect the views or opinions (expressed or implied) of Network of Asia and Pacific Producers (NAPP). Any views or opinions represented in the content solely belong to the youth.