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Preparing to go home for good

09 January 2018

Nothing is permanent for Filipinos who opt to work abroad, particularly in Hong Kong.  As acquiring residency is a privilege not extended to them, all will evetually return to the Philippines. It's just a matter of when and how, as there is no forever for them in Hong Kong.

Like most OFWs I was one of those who aspired for greener pasture, and thought that the only way to achieve my dreams was to work abroad. I came from a poor family in Bicol and my father's income was not enough to send me and my siblings to college.

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I was 23 years old, single,  when I left my sales job to start working in the Middle East. I took care of a 50-year-old  woman whose family owns a big company in Kuwait .She taught me how to stand on my own and to be independent. I was the only maid allowed to attend to her needs. I must know everything that she liked and didn't like. She was such a perfectionist that she wanted everything to be in order, from her clothes to the dining table. I needed to be smart so I wouldn't make mistakes. I must have done something right because she took me along to her trips to Europe and Middle East.

She let me go to the church on Sundays so I became a member of Singles for Christ in Lebanon. I managed to finish three contracts there before I moved to Hong Kong.

My experience in the Middle East gave me an advantage in finding a good employer in Hong Kong. My initial plan when I arrived was to finish just one contract then go home. I wanted to find a job back home that was in line with my course. I hold a degree in management, so I wanted to work  in an office.

Unfortunately my father got sick so I had to extend my stay in Hong Kong to help in buying his medicines But God had other plans. My father died in November 2016 and I didnt get the chance to say a final goodbye because I had just returned from a vacation in the Philipines, and my employer didn’t allow me to go home again.

It was painful  but I didn't have a choice. But because of that experience l decided I that I should go home after my contract has ended to be with my mother, and to serve my own people.

As an OFW who has worked 10 years abroad  and plan to go home for good, I believe that preparation is the key to success in coming home for good. I spent  my days off wisely by learning various skills. I attended various financial literacy seminars conducted by  Card HK and another NGO. I joined the various skills training offered by the Balikatan sa Kaunlaran such as ribbon folding,  jewelry making, basket weaving, and the processing of foodstuff like tinapa, embotido, siomai and puto/kakanin.

I knew I also had to keep abreast with what's happening in tne community by following the Facebook posts of the Consulate and its attached agencies like Polo and Owwa, where I also get to read about the different livelihood seminars open to OFWs, such as mushroom farming and skills training like massage therapy. I decided to join the massage therapy class and recently passed the  national certification exam administered by Tesda. I now hope there will be another civil service examination here so I can take it.

Apart from taking part in skills training I am also an active member of my Filipino Reflexology Association. I also joined the Domestic Workers Empowerment Program run by HKU to acquire the voice I needed to speak up and leave my comfort zone.

Through the financial education seminars I attended, I learned how to invest money and save for my future. I learned how to budget my salary and apply tough love on my family. I make sure that I provide enough for their important needs, and also buy the things that I need for myself

From one of my LSE mentors I learned that there are 4Ks needed to succeed in life, and these are kaalaman, kakayahan, kakilala at kapalaran.

All of these valuable lessons helped me realize to take every opportunity that comes my way.There are lot of free financial literacy and livelihood trainings offered by various community organizations to help OFWs to plan for their future and all it takes is a genuine effort to take the lessons to heart..

I took up the leadership and social entrepreneurship course to learn how to make a business plan.I want to be an entrepreneur, I want to set up my own agricultural business and be the boss.

Saving is another lesson I learned, I have to save to have enough to start a life when I go back, and to set aside capital to start my own business. I learned that saving at least six  months of salary for  emergency funds is important. Saving takes a lot of commitment and so one has to do it like a habit.

Another thing I learned was closer to home. I attended physical  fitness activities such as yoga, hiking and zumba.. I join the AYC 10 yoga every Sunday to be healthy and to release stress after a week of work. I also join charity hikes as they allow me to go sightseing and enjoy the beautiful places in Hong Kong while helping the needy

Another source of relaxation is a museum near our place. It allows me to marvel at beautiful artworks while learning more about the history  of Hong Kong

Working in Hong Kong has taught me  a lot about life.I learned to be compasionate, friendly, thankful and humble. I became a woman  ready to face the battle alone. I have readied my heart, mind and  body for the next chapter of my life when I go home.

As an OFW, planning for the future ahead is a must. You must have a plan to create a strategy that will guide you so you can achieve your goals.

I have heard of a lot of stories about  ex-OFWs who have gone home for good and and are now running their own businesses  I hope I can be like them someday

As an OFW  we should set  our priorities, limit our expenses and set goals for a given period of time. Coming home for good will turn from dream to reality when we take action, or by applying what we learned.
Our featured columnist this issue is Ellen Asis, who has taken just about any training seminar offered in Hong Kong, in preparation for her impending return to the Philippines. These include joining the news writing seminar of The SUN, where she is now a regular contributor. Ellen started life as an overseas Filipino worker in Kuwait, where she worked for six years, before deciding to move to Hong Kong. She would have quit after finishing her first contract, but fate intervened, so she ended up staying for another two years. But not one to waste time, she took the chance to enrol in a fnancial literary training course, an empowerment group, as well as a leadership and social entrepreneurship  seminar. On the side she also took a massage therapy course, and did well enough to pass the qualfying exam to become a licensed practitioner. If this is not what preparing well for reintegration, we don't know what is - ED.

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