Financial technology startup BeamAndGo, in partnership with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Villar SIPAG Foundation staged a interactive workshop dubbed LearnAndGo: My Ticket to an Empowered Life on April 23, 2016. The seminar focused on the needs and challenges of one of the most vulnerable groups in society – Overseas Filipino Workers and their children.
Senator Cynthia Villar stressed the extreme irony of the OFW situation: A person leaves the country in a move to better financially establish the family but this act often results in tearing that same family apart due to the distance between members.
“The main problem is that the OFWs leave their children and the family has a hard time coping. It’s so ironic that they earn money for their children yet their families can end up broken. May pera pero wala yung guidance ng magulang.”
It is for this reason that the CBCP through the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI), Villar SIPAG Foundation, and BeamAndGo crafted the program for the children as they are most affected by such separations. There are numerous stories of how such children end up dropping out of school or getting involved in not very productive activities because at least one parent is missing and cannot provide correct guidance.
Fr. Resty Ogsimer, Scalabrini Missionary from the ECMI explained that there is a high probability that children can be led astray when a parent is not around. He added that this is even more so when it is the mother who is not around, working in a different country. This is easily explained as fathers will continue to work away from the home even if their wives are already employed abroad.
As a result, there can actually be no parent left at home except for aging grandparents who may not have the strength or patience to discipline a new batch of young people. However, the problem becomes even more pronounced when both parents work outside the Philippines. Such a situation is not even unusual nor uncommon anymore and Fr. Ogsimer underscored the fact that the OFW sector is now considered a vulnerable sector.
This is the reason why the Villar SIPAG Foundation has chosen to work with partners like BeamAndGo and the CBCP. They realize the complexity and immensity of the problem and admit that such partnerships are necessary since these partners have their own lines of expertise.
Senator Villar added: “The foundation does not know everything and that’s why we’re happy with this partnership with BeamAndGo and CBCP. This is a worthy effort so that all the hard work of the OFWs will amount to something because their children were given a good life.”
Jonathan E. Chua, BeamAndGo CEO, revealed that research the company has done through its 80,000 members has shown that the challenges go even beyond mere absence and they are, as mentioned previously, quite complex.
He said: “Money sent home by OFWs wasn’t really helping a lot because the families did not know have a good understanding of how to handle their money. BeamAndGo was organized to empower OFWs to have control over the money they were sending to their families by directly purchasing the family’s basic needs through our digital gift certificates and also our LearnAndGo advocacy workshops.”
BeamAndGo offers OFWs from different countries the freedom to budget funds sent to the Philippines by purchasing gift certificates from various vendors like supermarkets, drug stores, or department stores or paying for insurance, electronics, and health packages instantly. Family members in the Philippines will then receive digital gift certificates sent to a mobile device like a cellular phone. The family member can go to the chosen merchant, get the items, and then complete the purchase by showing the digital gift certificate code to the customer service personnel. Next step? Go home and enjoy what was sent. Quick and easy! No more danger of misappropriated funds.
“What we're doing today is talking to the OFW families to make them understand how to manage the money and how hard the OFW is working for the family. It’s education. It’s empowerment. The more knowledgeable they are, the better they can make their lives. This is what the whole idea of LearnAndGo is,” stressed Chua.
“The tragedy of the OFW experience for many years has been that things are good while there is money being earned but once the OFW comes home and since no financial education or no attempt has been made to rear the children of OFWs in how to appreciate the hard work of their parents and to work hard also for themselves, it’s just a case of back to where they began – very little money to go around and another Filipino has to leave the country again so that the family can survive. Alongside this, there are children who have grown up hurt not believing that their parents actually cared for them.”
Ariana, a 20-year old participant whose father works in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, pointed out that her mother’s less-authoritative parenting style is very different especially as compared to how her father used to discipline her and her siblings. After her father went overseas, she observed that her younger siblings seem to think that they can just keep on asking for more and more without appreciating the difficulty and sacrifice already being done by their father.
Chua went on to explain that LearnAndGo workshop encourages OFW children to grow up knowing how their parents actually care for them and that the parting of ways was a necessary but important step in the lives of their families.
“What we’re trying to do in this event is we want to impart the skills and tools to the youth to understand how hard their parents abroad are working and it’s important to be wise with money. We’re also instilling a sense of appreciation, a sense of pride to see why OFWs are the true heroes of the family because they are role models for us. The hard work, the ability to overcome obstacles, their sacrifice and love for their families -- those are the basic values, the basic ingredients to make a better person, a better family, and a better society.”
As for the youth, Chua had this to say: “Work hard. That is the key. There are no shortcuts to becoming a better person, a better contributor, and having a better family. Never give up. Persevere. There are many obstacles in your life and you can either quit or go through them. My recommendation is to go through them. You won’t only help yourself but you’ll help society. Lastly, love your family.”