Bryan Alegado was born in Parang, a coastal town in the southern region of the Philippines called Mindanao, where poverty and violence limit his opportunities to pursue a career.
Alegado nevertheless is forging a path for himself. In 2016, after hearing about a U.S.-backed job-training program for out-of-school young people, he learned welding. Today, he makes metal road signs, school gates, window grills and fencing — projects that make the community safer while offering him a livelihood.
The training Alegado received was part of the Mindanao Youth for Development project, which, in partnership with the Philippine government, has helped 16,000 young people in the region.
A family torn by conflict
When Alegado was younger, his father was gunned down in a neighboring town due to “rido,” a feud between families or clans that often involves retaliatory violence. In Mindanao, rido causes numerous casualties, cripples the economy and displaces families.
For Alegado, it meant dropping out of school to take jobs that would earn money to support his family … and making a vow to avenge his father’s murder.
In some of the most poverty-stricken areas of Mindanao, 1 in 6 youths are out of school. They often are recruited to fight for an extremist Islamic ideology, lured by cash and a promise of steady pay.
Finding a better way
But Alegado enrolled in the Mindanao Youth for Development project and chose a course in welding. After four months of perfect attendance, he graduated and received his national competency certificate from the Philippine Technical Education and Skills Authority.
“Completing this course gave me the best feeling,” Alegado says. He has abandoned his boyhood plan for retribution. “I have only one memory of my father,” he says. “He was driving a service truck, and he smiled at me. This memory gives me hope as I reach for my dream. Wherever he is, I know that he’s smiling at me, and I want to make him proud.”
Since 2013, the youth development project, administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, has reached one-third of areas affected by conflict, where school dropout rates are highest.
A longer version of this article appears on USAID/Exposure. Leoncio M. Rodaje wrote the article.