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Connecting with Betsy von Atzigen, ENFiD Chairperson

Roots & Wings Editor in Chief Ms. Rachel Hansen discusses the latest thrusts of the European Network of Filipino Diaspora with ENFiD Chairperson Betsy von Atzigen.

Ms. von Atzigen (far right) heads the table discussion of the 2017 ENFiD Board.

Q. Filipinos in Europe have been organizing themselves in groups since they started arriving in hordes in Europe as workers and family members way back in the 60s and 70s. Why should Filipinos living in Europe join ENFiD?

Grüezi from picturesque Switzerland! What a blessing to connect with you through this interesting and engaging magazine.

What is ENFiD?

ENFiD stands for the European Network of Filipino Diaspora, an active international networking association that seeks to cultivate a sense of shared nationhood and cooperation among Overseas Filipinos in Europe. ENFiD is presently represented by correspondent Filcom Affiliates in twenty one countries and is active in organising cultural events, relief operations, focused training workshops, online fora for the discussion of issues pertinent to Euro-Filipinos and partnering with institutions for greater access to migration issues on culture and development.

Why join ENFiD?

No man is an island, no man stands alone, di ba? Tayong mga Euro-Pinoy, we recognize that we are social beings, needing each other and are therefore attracted to organizing and belonging to a group. It happened like that back in the 60's and continues today. This question of choice comes to the fore: Why join ENFiD? I asked myself the same question when Luz Bergersen first invited me to come to Malta in summer of 2015 and these answers may be yours too.

  • Joining ENFiD is belonging to Europe's welcoming, connecting, networking and caring Euro-Filipino community away from home, whose existence dictates beyond the common social, regional, political or religious gatherings. Come to an ENFiD General Assembly, look around and discover how easy one can connect with Enfiders from Paris, London, Maastricht, Prague, Zürich, Rome or even Iceland where Euro-Pinoy communities also thrive. Happy gid ko kay damo na ko na meet nga mga Ilonggo kag kababayan.J

  • Belonging to ENFiD allows meaningful affiliation, being the widest, most embracing in Europe, going beyond European borders and Filipino divide. Discover an open, friendly and up-to-date Euro-Fil community. At ENFiD, we inspire action in our communities, learn from our European hosts and neighbours, while staying true to our pinoy roots.

  • Belonging to ENFiD fulfills numerous needs such as the right companionship and collective achievement in building a stronger, purpose-driven Euro-Fil community. We have concrete action plans to carry out in 2, 5 years and beyond, and be accounted for. We are a truly collaborative organization that aims to stimulate interest and stay abreast of relevant issues in Europe and the Philippines. We have the capability to achieve more than individuals or small groups acting alone.

  • Belonging to ENFiD is a celebration in the largest scale of our colourful Philippine fiestas, culture, languages and dialects, tradition, arts and sports. These events highlight our artistic talents in every field imaginable and almost always involve cooking and therefore eating our much loved lechon, pansit and adobo, made even more appetizing by never ending laughter and camaraderie. Sadya gid ka ayo!

ENFiD's Board takes a break over dinner.

Q. An organisation with many members is considered a successful organization. What is ENFiD’s strategy in increasing its membership?

  • Effective communication tools and approaches are in place to invite our kababayans to ENFiD. We have been building a strong member / Filcom organization engagement mainly through regular newsletter “News and Views,”, email updates with live links to new web materials, enabling two-way communication in online forum; organizing face-to-face meetings, annual general assemblies, conferences; inviting and connecting with new members and Filipino organizations through popular social networks like Facebook and strengthening online communities.

  • An effective Secretariat headed by ENFiD’s indefatigable Executive Director Rohlee de Guzman, along with very hands on PR, Communication, IT, Youth, Training and Development, Arts and Culture, and Membership Committees continue to find ways to leverage and promote fresh online content to attract new members while keeping ENFiD members actively involved. I’m very proud to acknowledge committed members of the Board and Country Representatives who make all these possible.

  • Face to face invitation. Fancy meeting a fellow Pinoy or Filcom member on the train, tram, bus, or at church services or social gatherings and inviting them to experience ENFiD? European country roadshows are in in the pipeline to meet Euro-Pinoy communities face to face.

  • Updates from the Chairperson. As a personal initiative, I publish a one-page quarterly communication for fresh updates and glad to receive feedback from our readership. For me, an effective way to build membership is to make our kababayans experience the benefits of connecting with ENFiD.

Q. Now in its 5th year as an organization, what do you think has ENFiD accomplished that has left a sustainable impact in our community in Europe?

ENFiD has countless achievements and accomplishments to its credit in almost five years of its existence, and continues to deliver tangible and intangible results that leave sustainable impact in our community in Europe.

  1. Wider membership. ENFiD was born in September 2012 when the Rome Commitment was created and agreed by all D2D Participants. 2013 saw the formation of more national affiliates and writing of its constitution and by-laws in Malta by the first Board of Directors. In 2014, ENFiD collaborated with the Commission on Filipinos Overseas in hosting the Ugnayan Project, a series of road trips in Iceland, Denmark, Italy, Norway and across Europe to network with Filipino associations and groups. In 2015, it mobilized its 2nd European Regional Overseas Filipino Conference in Malta, followed by the 2016 Assembly in Prague, witnessing the thriving of overseas Filipinos in Europe’s multicultural environment. ENFiD Country Membership now stands at 21 European countries and growing.

  2. YENFID. Aware that the best way for ENFiD to stay relevant and sustain our collective presence in Europe is to ensure the active engagement of our Euro-Filipino youth or Young ENFiD popularly coined as YENFiD. Now in motion, hear them speak and make waves in our forthcoming Annual General Assembly in Essen, Germany between September 30 - October 1, 2017. This is so cool!

  • Elements of unity and charity at home. As a people outside the home country, ENFiD visibly gathers and works voluntarily toward common aims. Considerable projects have been organized benefitting our families and communities in the Philippines including responses of Euro-Pinoys to recent natural disasters. A long term plan that is already in place is ENFiD‘s Biogas Digester Project for our home country.

  • Advocacy, training and communication. To date, we have confirmed full participation to Europe-wide subsidized Gender Development and Leadership programs on May 5-7 in Essen Germany. Early this year, Financial Literacy was organized in Norway. In 2016, ENFiD launched the overseas absentee voting campaign, engagement in Philippine elections, and disseminated information on the West Philippine Sea. It participated in IFAD Conference on Remittance Development in 2013 and 2014 in Bangkok, Migration Trends Conference by IOM and Italian Foreign Ministry in 2014 in Rome, Migration Conference in Stockholm, PinoyWise Conference in Kuwait, and the Middle East Diaspora Summit in Doha among others.

  • Continuing our unique culture, arts and sports. ENFiD has been mobilising cultural and relief projects among which are Fibre Filippine held in Rome and Milan in 2013 & 2014, Appellation of Origin: The Philippines, a UK event organised to celebrate Philippine artistry and imagination in the form of crafts unique to Philippine culture and the continued exhibition of Philippine arts by German-based award-winning art curator Ver Cuizon. Today, visit any European city with Filipino presence and immediately feel the vibrance of our arts on or off stage, print or online and compete in friendly, healthy Euro-Pinoy sports matches scheduled beginning of July 2017 in Paris, France.

Q. Amongst its many projects and goals, what do you consider ENFiDs main priority for this year 2017? Why?

I highlighted in my Acceptance Speech and First Quarter 2017 Updates the following priorities in our agenda. Why are they priorities? Because they ensure the relevance and sustainability of our communities.

  1. Bringing the Euro-Pinoy Youth Face to Face alongside our ENFiD-Europe Annual Conference to Essen, Germany

  2. Conducting Gender and Leadership Courses for ENFiD primemovers

  3. Showcasing Filipino arts, culture and sports and

  4. Initiating ENFiD‘s long-term Biogas Digester Project for the Philippines.

Q. What do you think we can do collectively as Euro-Pinoys about the present social and political situation in our motherland?

Challenges in the social and political situation in our motherland are there to stay, just as they are here to stay in our midst in Europe. ENFiD is alert and pro-active in the fields of education, communication, conflict resolution and issues in the Philippines. Financial and Social Literacy, Gender and Development, and Leadership Skills are among ENFiD’s major learning programs on offer that allow transfer of knowledge, acquisition of skills and behavior required to stay ahead. We find these relevant and applicable as we stay on in Europe and for those who are heading home to re-integrate.

As ENFiD Chair, my mandate is to focus and steer the organization towards our call to connect and network among Euro-Pinoys, sustain that link to our homeland and integrate the vibrant and empowered glocal citizens that we are. Our Constitution mandates us to stay non-partisan and non-political, that puts us on one hand at a vantage point - allowing us to accomplish our mission seriously. On the other hand, being part and parcel of Philippine society, we cannot isolate ourselves nor sit unmoved by political challenges that beset our people and nation. This is where we bring to the table and process our thoughts, experiences, concerns, recommendations and be part of a solution too. We dialogue online or face to face as necessary, communicate with groups or agencies aligned with our identity and mission and collectively work on agreed resolutions.

The strength of ENFiD as a major Euro-Pinoy organization is dependent on interrelated, complicated factors. Having been in corporate, education and civic leadership roles like the Association of Southeast Asian Women, Philippine Catholic Mission of Switzerland, San Pedro Calungsod CH and ENFiD-Switzerland, I've learned to pray more, listen actively, keep communication lines open, stay focused and get things done together with an inspired and productive Team. Mabuhay ang ENFiD!

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