She thought she could no longer come back to her family. But she gathered all the strength she could muster and ran way. She walked for several kilometers, unaware where she was, but one thing prodded her to press on, and that was to survive.
Mechellene P. Zafra of Barangay Calajo-an, Minglanilla, Cebu, a household service worker in Kuwait, had so much to thank for after she got immediate help from the Philippine Embassy and from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) through its Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), in coordination with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO).
Although Mechellene’s return was very untimely since she still has so many things to accomplish, and her dreams for the family were left unfulfilled, she said she is already grateful for the government’s timely response and assistance.
“I left for Kuwait in February this year because I wanted to help augment the income and sustain the needs of the family,” she said, adding that she tried to cope with the 18 hours of work that her employers required of her to render every day, and without the benefit of a day-off.
This, and other unfair policies imposed on her by her employers, she said further, did not include the fact that she was restricted from communicating with her family more often. It was when her employer brought her along with them to France for a vacation in July this year, when the abuse happened. According to her sworn statement, she was molested by her male employer while on vacation in Gex, France.
She ran away and even walked for several kilometers until unknowingly she reached nearby Switzerland where she reported the incident to the Philippine Mission to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva.
On 27 July, POLO-Geneva coordinated with POLO-Kuwait. Arrangements were made requesting for the repatriation funds for Mechellene. Three days after, the OWWA coordinated with her agency, the Keys Placement Agency based in Cebu City, to shoulder the cost of her repatriation.
She departed from Geneva via London on 16 August where she was given appropriate assistance to ensure smooth connecting flights until she arrived in Manila the following day. She was also afforded with pocket money for her travel. Apart from the orientation given to her during the exit conference, Mechellene was informed of the possible livelihood assistance from the DOLE and its attached agencies which she might want to avail.
“I am so thankful to the Department of Labor and Employment, to OWWA, and to NRCO for extending me their kind assistance. This means so much to me and to my family. Thank you for helping me start anew with my dreams left unfulfilled as an OFW,” said Mechellene during the official turn-over of the P10,000.00 worth of starter kit afforded to her by the DOLE through the NRCO. Having acquired of TESDA’s NC II Certification on caregiving, Mechellene opted to go for a business related to this vocational course.
DOLE 7-OIC Regional Director Exequiel R. Sarcauga personally handed the kit to Mechellene at the DOLE Regional Office yesterday.
Under the NRCO’s Balik Pinay Balik Hanapbuhay Project, distressed women OFWs are given financial livelihood assistance in the form of starter kits which will help facilitate their self-employment in the community.
NRCO-7 Regional Coordinator Dexter Paro said that under the program, beneficiaries are given opportunities to acquire skills on entrepreneurship through the conduct of trainings. They are also given tools, jigs, and equipment which they will use for their start-up business, he added. Inputs for production and services as well as knowledge on acquisition and sharing are also given to beneficiaries.
The priority of the Balik Pinay Balik Hanapbuhay Project is the returning women OFWs who are distressed workers sheltered by POLO at the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Resource Center (MWOFRC), and the distressed and displaced women household service workers (HSWs).
Mechellene is one of the 10 distressed women OFWs, all of whom are household service workers in the Middle East countries, referred to the DOLE-NRCO by the DOLE’s POLOs.
These OFWs, according to Paro, already attended and completed trainings on bread and pastry production; cosmetology; caregiving; basic sewing-tailoring; and beads and accessories making. Each one, he added, will receive P10,000.00 in livelihood assistance for a total of P100,000.00.
Apart from this, he said further, another 45 distressed women OFWs from the Middle East are scheduled to attend a livelihood skills training on 28-29 November 2015. Said OFWs will also avail the same assistance that Mechellene received.
“As of this month, the amount of almost P500,000.00 is in the pipeline ready for distribution to the beneficiaries of the Balik Pinay Balik Hanapbuhay Project,” said Paro, adding that said assistance will be released before the year ends when all documents are ready, validated, and completed.
For more information on this report, you may contact Luchel Senarlo-Taniza, Regional Labor Communication Officer at telefax number (032) 266-2792 or you may send an email at [email protected]