September 30, 2018
Entrepreneurship and financial literacy training Citi Foundation, ASKI trains OFW returnees in Nueva Ecija
More than 70 overseas Filipino worker (OFW) returnees completed a two-day seminar on basic entrepreneurship and financial literacy conducted by Alalay Sa Kaunlaran, Inc. (ASKI) in Cabanatuan City.

Funded by Citi Foundation, the training is the second phase of the grant program, "Promoting Financial Capability and Entrepreneurship with Families of Migrant Workers," which aims to equip OFWs with financial management and entrepreneurship skills, and to encourage them to establish their own businesses in their hometowns with their families.

"One of the objectives of ASKI is to help achieve a triple bottom line of wealth creation, job generation and fast-track family reunification among the OFWs. Our partnership with Citi Foundation for many years is a clear manifestation of the organization's commitment to help in achieving financial inclusion among migrant workers and their families back home," said Rolando B. Victoria, president and CEO of ASKI Group of Companies, Inc.

The first phase of financial capability program helped increase the financial capability of 100 families of Singapore-based migrant workers, resulting in an increase in their monthly savings and use of remittance for development purposes. Some families took it a step further by availing of microloans to start or continue microenterprises.

"Citi is committed to helping microenterprises grow because we believe that these businesses stimulate the country's economy and help create more jobs. By providing capacity-building programs such as financial literacy and management, entrepreneurial skills, mentoring and technical assistance, we hope to transform individuals and families into financially-abled decision-makers and accelerate their economic progress towards sustainability and prosperity," said Lisa Coory, Citi Philippines Director of Public Affairs. "We are delighted to partner with ASKI on the betterment of migrant workers, their families and society at large."

Romulo dela Cruz: Living the dream of his own
In the late 1980s, Romulo dela Cruz went to Saudi Arabia to work as helper mechanic. Due to his hard work and determination to succeed, he became a full-fledged mechanic. After seven years, he moved to Dubai so he could earn better pay. He was determined to continue working abroad as he was not certain of his family's future if he were to stay in the country earning a low income. His experience was no different from the challenges and struggles of other OFWs, and according to him, leaving his family was the hardest part of his decision.

After 28 years abroad, Romulo finally decided to come back to the Philippines. He was hesitant about his decision because he did not have a lot of savings. However, he could not wait to be reunited with his family and live his dream of a simple life. He believed that there was no place like home.

During his years as an OFW, Romulo attended few formal lessons about financial literacy and planned to work on this but he failed due to lack of opportunities. Recently, he was able to attend the two-day seminar financial literacy and basic entrepreneurship course conducted by ASKI in Cabanatuan City.

According to Romulo, all the lessons he learned were very helpful and reminded him of the basic financial management course he took before. More so, it ignited him to push through with his desire to start a business and build something with family. Using his savings and with assistance from a microfinance loan, he was able to set up his own auto repair shop in his hometown in Talavera, Nueva Ecija. A small canteen was also put up adjacent to the shop that is being managed by his wife.

"I hope that there will be more programs (financial literacy) similar to this because I know that there are a lot of OFW returnees who would like to be empowered as well," Romulo said in Filipino.

Romulo has now been busy managing his shop for several months now and earning around P15,000 to P20,000 profit every month. He is already planning for expansion and hopes to be able to put up a car wash in the near future. He also wishes to inspire the youth to appreciate skilled works and see it as a good and decent source of income.

Claudia Salonga: 'Family is more important than anything'
Claudia Salonga spent almost 20 years working abroad. She had worked in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Hong Kong as a caregiver. The practice of leaving her small children behind and working overseas was not unusual for Claudia, until she realized how much she had missed being away from her family.

A year after working in Hong Kong, she had to undergo a gallbladder operation. After resting for months, she felt good being back home and while she still had a small desire to go back abroad, she decided to stay in the country for good.

Claudia is a known as a capable entrepreneur in her village in Jaen, Nueva Ecija. She engages in multiple sources of income generation to sustain her family needs. She now feels more satisfied earning while being around for her children. To enhance her skills and knowledge, she attended the financial literacy training organized by ASKI.

According to her, during the training she realized her failure to control her remittances during her years abroad. She admitted that giving everything towards her children's needs was her way of making up for her absence. She said: "It is very important to save while working overseas."
Currently, Claudia is into direct selling of home and beauty products where she profits up to P20,000- P30,000 every month. She is also into meat processing and also owns units of prepaid internet computers. She is also planning to set up a canteen through the help of microfinancing.

Prescila Galapon-Angala: A changed mindset to achieve family reunification
Prescila Galapon-Angala hails from Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija. Even though she is a college graduate, she worked overseas for 27 years due to lack of opportunities in the Philippines. Just like many stories of domestic helpers, she also experienced maltreatment when she was in Qatar. She also worked in Hong Kong and went back home after four years. She got married and was blessed with two children. When she saw their increasing financial needs, she decided to leave her small children to work in Hong Kong again.

One day, she was able to attend the financial literacy program of ASKI and the sessions opened her mind to possibilities of reuniting with her family and staying home for good with the idea of starting her own business. According to Priscilla, it was a tough decision not to renew her overseas contract but after being empowered and with her strong faith, she stayed in the country for good to build a new life with her family.

When Prescila attended the financial literacy seminar in Cabanatuan City last year, it renewed her hopes. Six months ago, she joined a mushroom production training and saw the potential of the enterprise. At first, she took part in the business of the cooperative but she soon set up her own mushroom venture.

Now, she is profiting up to P15,000 every month and expects sales volume to grow since she expanded her business. She is also earning from their rice farm where they produce 80 to 100 bags per harvest and says she is more confident now about their financial capacity. According to Prescila, "I gained hope from having new knowledge. That is now my strongest weapon in life."

Janeth Bibat: Realizing the most important dream
A few years ago, Janeth Bibat decided to go back to her hometown in Nueva Ecija instead of working overseas as a domestic helper. She is one of many OFWs that suffered from being overworked and underpaid because of her employers and agency. Although she did not have much savings, being reunited with her children was what mattered most, especially after all the hardships she experienced.

She was grateful to be invited to the financial literacy training as she heard different stories of other OFW returnees and could relate to their experiences. Other than the financial management skills that she learned, she felt very motivated despite the relentless challenges in her life.
Janeth is now selling different kinds of snacks, like dumplings, in her village. She says that it is a good source of income, earning around P10,000 every month. Her family also takes orders for furniture-making which gives them an additional income of P2,000 to P15,000 a month.
Asked about her realization after the training: "It feels good to be in another country but you'll never know what happens next. You need to know how to save...and family is more important."

Ariel Figuracion: A renewed hope for the future together with his family
After a failed business plan, Ariel Figuracion started to regret coming back home because he is now worried for the welfare of his five children. He worked abroad for 10 years as a storekeeper and decided to stay for good in the country to look after his family. He planned to set up a business with his friend but it did not materialize.

According to Ariel, attending the financial literacy program gave him new hope and determination to start another business that will provide sufficient income. Before the literacy program, his family would rely on the rental income of their one-unit apartment in Cavite, a small farm and a "sari-sari" store, however, the total revenue from these small businesses was not enough to cover their expenses.

Ariel has since ventured into mushroom production and currently earns up to P15,000 a month. He produces around 700 bags of mushroom every harvest or every two days. He is keen on expanding his production and market, now that he has access to microloans.
Ariel knows that he is still far from being successful but he is more than happy to ensure the welfare of his family and plans to pour all his best efforts to grow his business for their future. He is grateful to have gained financial management skills from the training and he hopes to be an inspiration to fellow OFW returnees.
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