Education Program for Pinoy Migrants: Empowering Overseas Filipinos as Agents of Change and Transfor
Roots and Wings RAW Editor Betsy von Atzigen chats with Tina Liamzon:
When I think of Tina Liamzon, I think of one who has been tremendously impacting overseas Filipinos - their business and life skills, their families and communities outside the country. What is it that you do?
Tina: I actually co-coordinate (together with my husband) an empowerment program for overseas Filipinos and their families. The program is called Overseas Filipinos’ Leadership, Innovation, Financial Literacy and Social Entrepreneurship Program (also known as Ateneo Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Program) and this started in 2008 in Rome. As the name says, the program is meant to empower our Filipino migrants and their families in the areas of personal financial management, social entrepreneurship and of course leadership. The program is premised on the belief that migrant Filipinos can become positive agents of change not only for themselves and their families, but also for their communities in the Philippines and in their host countries as well as towards nation building.
Which programs do you make available for Filipino migrants? Where? How does it work? What benefits do participants derive from the programs?
Tina: The OF-LIFE ALSE Program is a 12-session, 6-month program focusing on the three subjects of Leadership, Financial Literacy and SE. Since 2008, the program has been conducted in 15 countries, including the Philippines and 24 cities outside. In Asia, we have conducted programs in HK, Macau, Singapore, Tokyo, Bangkok and Seoul; in the Middle East and North Africa, in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Cairo; Europe: Rome, Naples, Florence, Milan, Turin and Cuneo, Paris, Brussels, Madrid, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague. As of end 2019, we have over 3,500 graduates from 83 batches. There are seven batches that are ongoing and new batches to begin in April. We run an average of 14-18 batches each year.
The program is basically implemented by volunteers, from those running the local secretariats in each city, to most of the resource persons, to the members of the Consortium on Migration and Development consisting of 4 organizations: the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) which is the academic lead institution that also issues the executive education certificate for those who complete the course; the Overseas Filipinos’ Society for the Promotion of Economic Security (OFSPES) which is the migrants’ association which my husband and I represent in the consortium; the Social Enterprises Development Partnerships Inc (SEDPI) which is the organization responsible for our financial literacy module and the UGAT Foundation which is a Jesuit apostolate for migrants and their families.
People interested in bringing the program to a particular city volunteer to organize the program locally, including liaising with the Philippine embassy/consulate and labor office (if present), arranging for the logistics including venue, recruiting and mobilizing the students and actually helping to run the 6 month program by guiding the students and mentoring them through the social enterprise planning etc. A socialized fee is charged to the students depending on occupation and incomes, i.e. those in the household service sector pay euro 150 for the course and non-HH workers’ pay double. All the fees go to pay for the program costs as the program must pay for all the expenses involved such as the travel of resource persons etc. Aside from relying mostly on volunteers, the programs are implemented on a no-profit, no-loss arrangement which is how they are run very reasonably compared to other training programs done overseas.
At the end of the 6 months, students are expected to:
Acquire more leadership skills that can enable them to become agents of change and transformation wherever they may be;
Gain more knowledge and skills on personal financial management to improve their economic security particularly for their retirement and/or reintegration into the Philippines, if ever;
Understand the concept of social entrepreneurship and learn how to plan and make a (social) enterprise so that OFs can explore their potentials for changing their livelihood options, either in the host country or back in the Philippines, instead of relying solely on paid employment.
How have the programs influenced those who successfully completed them? Any testimonies?
Tina: Numerous testimonies from graduates who have been able to transform their mindsets and their lives. These are shared through the essays that each student is required to write describing their ALSE journey and even after the training program as many continue to engage with the program through the formal and informal alumni associations, several of which have been formalized in certain cities. Each student is required to give forward or pay back in whatever form what they have learned from the program. Many volunteer in helping to run the next batch of students in the city involved. Attached are two samples of such testimonies…pls look at the ALSE FB pages as there are many write-ups of what some of the graduates are now doing after returning to the Philippines…
Which site or links can readers visit or connect with your team for more information?
OF-LIFE ALSE PROGRAM PROFILE
The Ateneo Overseas Filipinos’ Leadership, Innovation, Financial Literacy and Social Entrepreneurship (OF-LIFE) Program (formerly known as the Ateneo Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship (ALSE) Program is a certificate course of the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) Executive Education Program and is run by the OF-LIFE Consortium on Migration and Development consisting of ASoG, a migrants’ association-OFSPES Inc., SEDPI Inc. and UGAT Foundation.
The program was first started in 2008 in Rome, Italy and has since been offered in other cities in Italy, also, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland in Europe; in the Middle East/North Africa: Doha, Qatar, the UAE and Egypt; in Asia: Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan and Korea as well as in the Philippines. As of end of 2019, over 3,500 Overseas Filipinos have graduated from the program in its 11 years of operations.
Its vision is: Filipino migrants and their families united towards supporting each other in becoming empowered and highly respected members of society, contributing to nation- building.
The OF-LIFE ALSE Program consists of 12 whole day sessions of six (6) hours (10 face-to face and two online sessions) conducted over six months focusing on three (3) modules: Leadership, Financial Literacy and Social Entrepreneurship. It is open to all overseas Filipinos, particularly those working in the household service sector regardless of gender, age or educational level. At the end of the 6-month program, graduates are expected to ‘give back’ or ‘pay forward’ to their families and communities what they may have learned or taken from the program as part of the commitment to contributing to the program’s vision. This could take the form of volunteering to assist with the next batch of students, to collaborate with activities of the Philippine embassies/consulates/labor offices for the migrants, with church and other civic groups etc.
Session 1: Overview of the Program, Migration and Development, Personhood
Session 2: Relating With Others: Appreciative Inquiry
Session 3: Living in Community: Communication and Conflict Management
Session 4: Servant Leadership and Good Governance
Session 1: Introduction to Personal Financial Management
Session 2 (Online): Self-Assessment and Financial Goals
Session 3 (Online): Budgeting, Savings, Debt Management
Session 4: Impact Investments esp. Social Investments; Sustaining One’s Personal Financial Gains
Session 1: Introduction to Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship
Session 2: Ten Elements of a Social Enterprise Business Plan
Session 3: Elaboration on the Nine Elements of the Business Model Canvas
Session 4: Financial Planning and Integration
OF-LIFE ALSE GRADUATE TESTIMONIES
Cecille Evangelista, LSE 2016 Dubai, nanny for 8 years with Greek and Australian families
“Before I participated in LSE, my Friday routines were going out with friends, shopping, partying, no definite plan for my future, no savings at all, rather bad debts to many people. I borrow money to buy things I don’t need. In other words, I was not financially educated. Then I changed my behavior knowing that I will go back home soon.
LSE changed my perspective in life. My 6 months’ journey Financial literacy helped me understand the importance of savings, insurance, emergency funds, and investments. I'm now free from bad debts, with a life insurance, savings account and in the process of completing my emergency funds (kasi wala na akong pinapautang ngayon).
In the leadership sessions, I rediscovered myself, increased social awareness to understand and respond to the needs of others, self-assured that the business I start is something I am passionate about. I go back home for good to pursue my dream of helping my mother in her dress shop business using the tools I learned. (mga natutunan sa business plan meetings). Because of LSE, I met people who inspired and helped me become a better person -na maging Tao-Para-Sa-Kapwa – to be a “Person-For-Others”.
Rosana Luib Salay, A-LSE 2017 Singapore, domestic help for a British Scottish couple
“I am a spender, living paycheck to paycheck, not owning anything back home, sending money for their everyday expenses, no retirement plans at all. Then I realized I needed to do thorough planning. From zero savings last year, I was able to save enough money, invested on stocks and standalone business, and got my insurance policy One important thing I learned from FinLit is to give your family TOUGH LOVE. Yes, it hurts to see them suffer but they have to learn.
In social ENTREPRENEURSHIP we learned to see the problem first and use the markets as a way to solve it; that business operations are carried out with the intention to improve lives - not only of customers but employees, communities and stakeholders. That’s why I made my BP on ABACA BAGS to empower farmers and homebased women in my town to have a sustainable livelihood. The LSE program helped me on my reintegration planning. Mas lumiliwanag ang pag babalikbayan.”