Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Helping OFWs - Villar Foundation advocacy

I remember back in early days when relatives would advise us not to take chances of leaving the family just to work abroad. Otherwise, face the possibility where kids won't know you or partners-in-life become unattached to each other. But of course, most Filipinos planning to go abroad will say, "that won't happen to us".

Have seem some couples whose relationship fell apart but still end up being together when the OFW partner has already retired. Their children also followed the same path. Sometimes I can't help but wonder if they will eventually move overseas and just settle there.

There were also documentaries shown on television lately where OFWs are being helped to be brought back to the country as a growing number escape their employers for one reason or another. Watching their plight makes you pity the situation, feel helpless, and wonder why took such great risk. This includes having 3rd party relationships that resulted to having an offspring, non-payment of salaries, maltreatment, non-compliance to contract obligations especially at the conclusion part.

I had the chance to meet three OFWs who were able to escape the hard life overseas through the help of the Villar Foundation. Jacquelyln Costuna narrated her experiences to us. She escaped her employer because she was being physically and verbally abused. "Madapa lang yung anak nya babatukan na nya ako". To add insult to injury, she even had to pay her employer because she refused to finish her contract.

The same fate was also experienced by Joanalin Pascua, who was underpaid and was even sexually abused.

Another OFW Romilyn Daguplo had to escape her employer because she got scared of the punishment that the Arab government gives to unmarried pregnant women. While she was still processing her papers, she was not yet pregnant. When her application was finally approved, she was already pregnant.

The families of these women asked the help of the Villar Foundation so they could come back home. The Villar Foundation shouldered the OFWs employers exit fees, as well as the plane ticket back home.

Due to poverty, most Filipinos go abroad seeking new opportunities and new jobs in order for them to support their family. Around 11% out of the total population of the Philippines are OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers). Some OFW, like the professionals, find working aborad to be safe and easy. Others however, especially the domestic helpers, find themselves suffering the harsh treatments of their employers.

Villar Foundation have been helping OFWs to get home since 1992. According to former Las Pinas Representative Cynthia Villar, they are helping at the minimum of 50 OFWs a year.

Aside from assisting the OFWs, the Villar Foundation also have environment protection programs, livelihood projects, medical assistance or social services. This year, one of their major activity would be their inauguration of the Sendong Memorial, where they are donating a memorial to the Sendong Victim of Cagayan de Oro. Another major activity would be the Sipag Center in Las Pinas which is a resource center for poverty reduction. "Kasi we feel na talagang poverty naman ang problema ng ating bansa. In fact, kaya naman nagaalisan ang mga OFW, dahil din sa kahirapan. Wala silang hanap buhay dito, and they thought they can have better lives abroad, pero it turns out hindi din," said former Las Pinas Representative Cynthia Villar.

It is really sad to see what some of our countrymen have to endure so that they can support their families, thinking that they would have a better life abroad. Sometimes it turned out to be the exact opposite, as with the experiences of the 3 OFWs who all agreed that Dubai is a nice place. It turned out that they would fall to abusive employers or be subjected to a different culture and law. Thanks to the government and NGOs like the Villar Foundation, the OFWs can find comfort, help, and support amidst their crisis. The best part of it is that they do not only focus on the welfare of the OFWs, but also on the whole Filipino people, thereby giving them a chance to live a better life in the country.

(written by Heidi Kleiber)