ASoG’s training program inspires OFWs to be more

April 17, 2015

February 24, 2013 was a Sunday. For the majority of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) working as domestic helpers in Hong Kong, Sundays are sacred, a respite from the grueling six-day work week. But for Ma. Wilma A. Padura, it was the Sunday that changed her life. Padura enrolled at Ateneo School of Government’s (ASoG) Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship (LSE) training program. That Sunday was their first session.

Padura, who has been living in Hong Kong since 1998, heard of LSE from a friend.

“The name of the training program—Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship had caught my attention,” she says. When she learned that it was ASoG that would conduct the program, she became more convinced.

Wilma Padura works as a domestic helper in Hong Kong. (Photo from Wilma Padura)

First implemented in 2008 in Rome, ASoG’s LSE program aims to empower migrant Filipinos engaged in so-called 3D types of jobs—dirty, demeaning and dangerous. A collaborative effort of ASoG, the government, private sector and civil society groups, the program aims to broaden the views, dreams and vision of OFWs. Its modules, spread over a period of six months, cover three subject areas: financial literacy, leadership and social entrepreneurship. The program has since expanded to other cities in Italy—Naples, Milan, Florence and Turin. In 2012, it was offered to OFWs in Hong Kong and Dubai.

Padura says that her LSE training has helped her realize that there is more to being a Filipino working in a foreign land.

“LSE makes us become respected migrant Filipinos,” she says. Before I was just a passive participant but with LSE, I learned how to become a servant leader.” Padura adds that the training taught her the importance of team building, conflict management and various aspects of financial literacy.  Budgeting, investing and achieving financial security may be daunting to some OFWs (and non-OFWs, too). LSE addresses these concerns, incorporating financial education in its modules.

“I learned how to set my goal and budget, save and identify my needs and wants. I learned how to invest and how to reach financial security,” she says. Today, Padura saves regularly and is debt-free. She also has an emergency fund equivalent to six months’ worth of salary and a life insurance plan. Padura has likewise started to invest through a small cacao farm in Iloilo.

Padura at an LSE session (Photo from Wilma Padura)

But more than securing her financial future, Padura is “paying it forward.”  LSE graduates are encouraged to help other OFWs. Mentoring and coaching are important facets of the program, with LSE graduates cascading their learnings to other OFWs.

With her LSE training, Padura formed a non-government organization (NGO). Passi City Balik sa Bayan, Inc. is an NGO composed of former OFWs, expatriates and their families. It started as a business proposal that Padura presented as part of her LSE social entrepreneurship business plan. The NGO conducts training similar to ASoG’s LSE but focuses more on the families left behind.   

“We had 28 graduates last December 2014 and my family participated. Now we learn to simply live below our income. They are no longer dependent on my remittances,” she says.

Padura also leads the LSE core team volunteers in Hong Kong.

Last Sunday, April 12, 2015, Padura attended an event. She was recognized as one of the 10 Outstanding Filipino Community Leaders in Hong Kong by the One Journey International Magazine. The publication applauded the awardees for their efforts in initiating projects that help fellow Filipinos become contributors to nation building.

Padura at the awarding ceremony of One Journey International Magazine's 10 Outstanding Filipino Community Leaders in Hong Kong.  (Photo from Wilma Padura's Facebook page)