Ateneo OF-LIFE Program: Empowering Overseas Filipino Workers
The Truth about OFWs
When one talks about the Overseas Filipino Workers, they are often described as “mga bagong bayani” or the modern-day Filipino heroes. They are called that way because of how they are contributing to the Philippine economy through their remittances.
More than their financial contribution, though, they are also called “mga bagong bayani” because of their bravery to go outside the country, away from their families and loved ones, to work. As they work and find the money for their families, they also carry with them Filipino values and traditions such as resilience, hard work, hospitality, and “pakikipagkapwa”.
They act as ambassadors of the country, showcasing how fun and friendly Filipinos are to other nationalities. Despite these positive values, one glaring negative trait that most OFWs have is their bad spending habits.
OFWs act as one-day millionaires when going home: buying “pasalubongs” for their entire clan, traveling to beautiful tourist spots, organizing lavish homecoming celebrations, and treating friends and relatives with gifts, sometimes cash. After their vacation, they go back abroad again to work and save. And the cycle goes on, and on.
Once they hit their 60s, they do not have enough savings to live the life they used to have. The sad truth is that OFWs lack foresight and business mindset to secure their financial freedom. They need help and education.
One of the ways to address the needs of these modern-day heroes is through the Ateneo Overseas Filipinos’ Leadership, Innovation, Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship program (Ateneo OF-LIFE). The Ateneo School of Government, Overseas Filipinos’ Society for the Promotion of Economic Security (OFSPES), UGAT Foundation Inc. and Social Enterprise Development Partnerships, Inc. (SEDPI) implement the program.
Ateneo OF-LIFE aims for Filipino migrants and their families to be united towards supporting each other in becoming empowered and highly respected members of the society, with the conscious mindset to contribute to nation-building.
Ateneo OF-LIFE boasts 90 batches in 23 key cities across the world since its inception in 2008 — Rome, Naples, Milan, Florence, Turin, Hong Kong, Dubai, Paris, Brussels, the Hague, Macau, Barcelona, Singapore, Madrid, Cuneo, Amsterdam, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Tokyo, Bangkok, Cairo, Seoul and Geneva.
The program offers 12 formal sessions at each city. These sessions are divided into three main themes: Leadership, Financial Literacy, and Social Entrepreneurship. The three themes are designed to educate the OFWs and their families.
By equipping them with practical knowledge of leadership, participants are encouraged to become servant leaders by highlighting the importance of serving and respecting other people. Further, OFWs also learned the values of active listening, perseverance amidst trials, and the empowerment of others.
Meanwhile, sessions on financial literacy provided the foundations of financial skills such as setting goals, saving, budgeting and investing. Lastly, the social entrepreneurship modules introduced the concept of social entrepreneurship and the potential role of OFWs as future entrepreneurs.
During these sessions, participants learned the necessary skills and knowledge to develop their own social enterprise idea or plan and on how to effectively present this to the public. All of these modules were presented through various training methodologies such as lectures, discussions, mentoring, and workshops.
The program is a testament to the potential of the OFWs to become great contributors to nation-building. By having the knowledge to become servant leaders, by knowing how to achieve financial security, and by creating social enterprises anchored on their personal advocacies, they will amplify the very definition of what modern-day Filipino heroes are.
The impact of the program is seen through how the participants act after the program. Most became community leaders in their host countries, extending assistance to fellow Filipinos overseas.
Many were able to provide focus on their financial goals and began getting themselves out of bad debt, addressed bad spending, accumulated emergency savings and created passive income through investments. Some were able to successfully reintegrate back to the Philippines and implemented their social enterprise plans.
One of the notable participants of the program is Wilma Padura, who was one of the participants of the program in in Hong Kong in 2012. She was one of the awardees of the Bayaning Pilipino Awards in 2016.
In one of her interviews, she posited the importance of giving time for the self, saving for the future, and giving back to the community. These values are reflective of the three modules of the Ateneo OF-LIFE program- signifying how impactful the program is to the participants.