Our OFW heroes in Hong KongBy Randell Tiongson on October 5th, 2009
Appears in Business Mirror, 10.05.2009
I am on my third day in Hong Kong as I write this column. I was tasked by the Ople Center to go with them to speak with our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on financial literacy through the OWWA-Microsoft-Ople Center Tulay program.
A few months ago, I met Susan Ople of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a nongovernment organization for OFWs. Along with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), it is the lead administrator of a program called Tulay which is being funded by Microsoft. The Tulay program is one that empowers our OFWs and their dependents through real-world education starting with computer literacy.
When she was an undersecretary of Labor, Ms. Ople was able to secure a grant from Microsoft because one of its American senior executives had a helper who became computer-literate, enabling her to efficiently manage their household. The American executive and Ms. Ople thought about a program that will enable many Filipinos to be computer-literate, which will usher their empowerment and upgrade their skills.
Five years after, the Tulay program has graduated over 15,000 OFWs and their dependents now literate in Windows, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, uploading of digital photos, Skype and even Facebook. These new skills help in better (and cost-effective) communication between OFWs and their loved ones through the able use of technology, being connected to their homeland virtually, and, at the same time, a skill upgrade that can be useful for career advancement and future endeavors.
A domestic helper in Hong Kong who took the Tulay program and was able to master the use of the PC can consider being employed by business-process outsourcing (BPO) in the Philippines when she returns.
I met a fantastic lady named Myrna in Davao who was a domestic helper in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. She became computer-literate and was very good at the use of computers. Today, Myrna owns a BPO company in Davao. Amazing!
How am I involved in this? When I met Susan Ople, she had been searching for someone to take care of the next phase of the Tulay program—financial literacy.
Ms. Ople envisioned the Tulay program to empower OFWs and their dependents beyond computer literacy, so that the OFWs and their dependents will have a better quality of life and an earlier reintegration.
This is a daunting task, but it is worth every effort and every peso. With the increasing incomes of our OFWs, it is critical that they become very able in money management, guaranteeing that they become sustainable.
Just a recap of things I’ve done in just two days: I met the DOLE secretary, the OWWA administrator, the HK Consul General, Philippine Consulate staff, OFW leaders and hundreds of OFWs; gave a minilecture on basic financial planning at the Bayanihan Center; gave an interview for ANC’s Crossing Borders show (with Mike Templo); went to areas frequently visited by OFWs in HK; and guested in a highly popular radio show for OFWs in HK anchored by Pinoy radio superstars Michael Vincent and Tita Kerry. Whew, tiring but fulfilling!
In just two days with our dear OFWs in HK, I was able to amass a lot of real-world knowledge which will enable me to better understand them and hopefully better equip them. After I write this column, I will be heading to the World Wide Building (along with Susan Ople and Fort Jose of the Ople Center) to visit the relief operations of the OFW community for the victims of Typhoon Ondoy. The community here, though away from the country, are very much involved in helping our brothers and sisters. Truly inspiring!
After the visit to World Wide, we are heading to the Bayanihan Center, once more to speak to a group of OFWs who are taking a review for the midwife and nursing exams. Our OFWs pooled money to fly in reviewers so that OFWs can be prepared to take the midwife and nursing exams. Talk about industriousness!
Not too long ago, the Lord called me to leave the comforts of the corporate world and focus on being a teacher (in personal finance) to as many Pinoys who are sorely lacking in proper financial literacy. I believe the Lord wanted to reach out to our brothers and sisters for them to fix their financial lives, as well. In less than a year, I have validated that I heard the Lord’s instruction clearly. I’m very excited for more doors to open to bring forward the herculean task of educating Pinoys on financial literacy. With the Lord’s grace, this is possible! The hardship of our modern-day heroes are beyond words. The sacrifices they endure on a daily basis will definitely break one’s spirit. Yet, I sense a lot of hope from them that one day, they can return home to fulfill dreams and be reunited with their loved ones.
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:3-5, NIV).
I wish to thank the Ople Center, Microsoft and Insular Life for making my Hong Kong trip possible.