Carlo is one of more than 2,000 young people who have been helped by Plan International to start up their own small businesses. Before beneficiaries are provided with start-up capital, Plan International provides them with life skills training on enterprise and business development to ensure that their businesses are successful. This project is funded by Accenture, a global professional services company.
I have a disability. I cannot walk properly. I also feel numbness in my right hand. It's been like this since I was a child.
My mother left me with my grandmother after my parents separated. I have been with her since I was a toddler. When I was a child, I felt normal. But growing up, I realised that there was something different about me. I was not like any other teenagers.
But I did not want my disability to dictate my life. I needed to find the means to stand up for myself and help my grandmother especially now that she is getting old. I was 17 years old when I first started cutting hair. From then on, my neighbours would ask me to cut their hair. I started earning money. It was not much, but it covered my needs.
Then my mother came home and asked me if I want to come and live with her. I said yes. I moved to Tacloban City and left behind my dream of becoming a barber.
They thought that I couldn't do what a normal teenager can do.
I wanted to experience what it feels like to be taken care of by a mother. But life was not easy. I tried working in a store but not everyone was nice to me. I quit. I looked for another job, but I failed. I guess it was because I have disability. They thought that I couldn't do what a normal teenager can do.
After a few months, I decided to come home to my grandmother and returned to being a barber. I cut my neighbour's hair under a banana tree outside my grandmother's house. I used to do a home service as well to our neighbouring villages. I only had my pair of scissors back then. When it rained, we either ran to my grandmother's house or found a shed or were soaked by the rain while I continued cutting hair.
Despite this, I never thought of quitting. I have friends and neighbours who have been supporting me. They trust me with their hair. It gives me confidence.
There were times when my friends brought their friends who needed a haircut. But when they saw my condition, they became hesitant. It felt like I needed to convince them that I could do it. I admit, it was quite offensive but I do not think of it anymore. My concern was to earn a living. But my income was not enough. I had to work many hours.
Help for young people
It was like that for 7 years. But things changed when Plan International came to our village. They offered help to the local young people. I inquired with hesitation because I thought that they would not help people like me who have a disability.
I was overjoyed when they considered me. I become one of their youth beneficiaries. Plan International gave me training on how to start and build a business. They then provided me with a start-up capital of Php 15,000 (USD 357). I was so happy to receive it.
With the money, I immediately bought a razor and all the other equipment that a barber needs. I also built my own barbershop. Now, my customers have increased 3 fold. I feel I am more professional with the barbershop. With my income, I am now helping my grandmother pay the electric bill and provide for her other needs at home.
I want my business to grow. It is rare for young people like me who have disability to be given the opportunity. This gives me the belief that I can survive and help my grandmother. As I look back, I am happy that I did not allow my disability to dictate my life. Now, I have my own business, and I have named my shop Carlo's Barbershop.
Learn more about Plan International's work in the Philippines.
Written by Mai Zamora, Plan International Philippines