Meet four people in Asia who do extreme jobs to feed their families. Though their occupations are harsh, they can teach us the dignity of work and the beauty of sacrificing to care for your loved ones.

Pa-aling Compressor Diving, One of the Most Dangerous Fishing Methods

Elmer risks his life every night as a pa-aling fisherman, an extreme method of deep-sea fishing in the Philippines. Equipped only with a regular plastic hose attached to a compressor for breathing underwater, he can stay submerged for an hour or two at a depth of up to 30 metres. Elmer uses a self-made harpoon, homemade flippers and a flashlight attached to his head.

The risk of decompression sickness is high, which can lead to permanent paralysis, injury or even death. Elmer’s work has no guarantees. There is no rescue team, no reserve oxygen tank and definitely no regulation diving equipment. Elmer hopes to find another way to earn a living someday.

When the team goes out, they can haul in up to 10kgs of fish, which earns enough to purchase food for a family for only a day or two. Unfortunately for Elmer, his buddies don’t fish every day because they don’t want to take the risk. When alone, he earns less and has no one to help if something goes wrong. He wishes his daughter will never have to do what he has to provide for her.

Thanks to Tearfund’s partner, Compassion, Elmer’s daughter won’t have to. She receives opportunities for a better future. One day Elmera hopes to be an accountant.

Rice Scavenging From Rats’ Holes

This extreme job is a reminder of how far the love of a father will go in feeding his children.

Budrai is up before dawn. He wants to beat the other farmworkers to the fields. Armed with a hoe, crowbar and sack, Budrai sets out on his search for holes created in the fields overnight by rats. He collects whatever stashes he can find throughout the long day and takes his small collection of rice and any rats he catches home to feed his two teenage children, Salina and Subhas.

The average income of a labourer during the farming season is NZ$5.30 per day. But this work is seasonal, leaving labourers with no income in the off-season.


Salina and Subhas receive educational and nutritional assistance from Compassion’s centre. Although many children join their parents in the rice fields, spending hours searching for rat holes, the centre staff work hard to encourage families to keep their children in school.

Though Budrai would do anything to provide for his children, he is so glad they will not have to follow in his footsteps.


Coconut Harvester, a 100-Foot Free Climb

Can you imagine climbing a nine-story building with no safety equipment — and no shoes? Each morning, Ronal hooks a machete onto his belt, leaves home barefoot and risks his life climbing 30 metre coconut trees. The 30-year-old from Indonesia walks about four kilometres to the coconut farm where he’s working for the day.

Ronal stands at the base of the first tree and looks up, calculating his ascent. Then, without any climbing equipment, he places his bare hands and feet on opposite sides of the trunk and slowly makes his way up, one cautious step at a time. At the top, he uses his machete to cut the coconuts, sending them with a loud thud to the ground below.

In a day, Ronal can climb 20 to 30 trees, spending about 25 minutes per tree. On a good day, he will be hired by two different coconut farm owners. But on many days, there is no demand for coconut tree climbers. On those days, he earns nothing for his family. 

Ever since his father left, Ronal has been the provider for his mum and younger brother, Amigel. Amigel is sponsored through Compassion, which lifts a big burden from Ronal, who never attended school and cannot read or write.

“I have big hopes for my little brother. I want him to have a successful life in the future and a better job than mine.”

Rock Breaking

Many people living in extreme poverty resort to rock breaking as a way to earn a living. Yulius crouches in the heat under a plastic tent, alongside his wife, Hartini, pounding stones gathered from the beach near their home in Indonesia. The couple’s goal over this 11-hour work day is to crush the stones into small pebbles, producing enough pebbles to fill one sack weighing 50kgs.

They do this each day until they have 25 sacks of pebbles. A truck picks up the sacks to be used in construction, and they are paid NZ$27 for the month’s work. The work is tedious, but it is also dangerous. The couple’s gnarled hands and deformed fingernails attest to this. Accidents are common, and fingers, instead of stones, receive the force of the hammer.

And without protective eyewear, the couple frequently suffer from airborne stone particles landing in their eyes. Because of years of damage to his eyes, Yulius cannot see well.

Yulius and Hartini never attended school and cannot read or write. But the couple’s granddaughter, Kasi, for whom they are the primary caregivers, is in Compassion’s program.

Kasi and her friends sometimes help her grandparents collect rocks on the beach, but because she is sponsored, she will get an education rather than becoming a rock breaker.

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