Program Assistance Helped Save Filipina Mom from Traffickers

By: Charmaine Santos

Edited by: Sharon E. Chin


filipino momo

Joy, whose real name is withheld to protect identity, and her husband made coconut wine and sold two barrels a week to support their family in the hills of Ormoc City in the central Philippine islands. Nearly half the population in the region lives in poverty. When Super Typhoon Haiyan came in November 2013, it destroyed most of the infrastructure that laid in its path and the winds damaged up to 90% of the coconut trees in some areas. Those who depended on these coconut trees to make a living were then left with no source of income and faced even more hardships.

Having no house or food, Joy desperately sought work and found a job as a domestic helper for $50/month. After Joy moved to work in a nearby province for $70/month, Joy’s employers kept her without pay for 7 months and physically abused her. Joy could not escape and shared, “I didn’t think I would make it out alive. I thank God every day that I am still breathing.”
USAID partnered with World Vision to start the “Prevention of Trafficking in Persons through Sustainable Livelihood Recovery for Typhoon-Affected People Program” in April 2014. This program aims to reduce people’s exposure to trafficking in 10 Ormoc villages and restore farming there; Ormoc and the surrounding areas are a historical hot spot where traffickers recruit women, men and children. The yearlong project hopes to reach 14,000 people through public assemblies and campaign materials. USAID and World Vision taught the Ormoc City community how to identify and report suspicious behavior, which lead to Joy’s husband realizing that Joy was being trafficked. Her husband reported the case and Joy was rescued.

The program provided Joy’s family 2 piglets so that they can sell and invest the income into a home-based farm. Joy says, “These piglets have made it possible for us to earn income without needing to leave our village.” The assistance also helps to ensure that vulnerable families like Joy’s don’t have to consider jobs from recruiters. Joy is now confident about her future and hopes that their family can return to the coconut wine business. 

Charmaine Santos is a sophomore at the University of San Francisco pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Biology as well as minors in Chemistry and Health Studies. She volunteers alongside UCSF medical students at a student-run homeless clinic in San Francisco and is also an active volunteer with Operation Access. Charmaine is also a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.


Surviving a Super Typhoon and Escaping Traffickers in the Philippines. (2015). USAID. Retrieved May 20, 2015 from

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