IN 2009, Couples for Christ, seeing the trend of migration and realizing the vulnerability of the migrants and their families to forces that tend to destroy it, embarked on a program to support the needs of migrant workers.
Conducted through TEKTON, a CFC ministry, modules for Moral Values Reorientation, designed to strengthen moral fiber and family relationships, were developed. This response is in line with the call of the late Pope John Paul II in Erga migrantes caritas Christi #86: “In both the Church and society, the lay faithful, lay associations and ecclesial movements, with all the diversity of their charisms and ministries, are called to bear Christian witness and to be in the service of migrants.”
In the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II), #108, it is likewise stressed that “A growing awareness of the missionary potential of Filipino migrant workers abroad has also dawned upon us…. We also need to provide the pastoral and social care for them and their families.
In that way, their spiritual and material welfare is served, their rights protected and their faith strengthened.
The program was first initiated through the efforts of Nolet Ladrido who was able to formalize a partnership with the Department of Labor and Employment for the conduct of moral values orientation for departing workers.
In 2009, the program began to take off with the first seminars conducted for Filipino workers in Hongkong under the leadership of Shok and Carel Ariola. The CFC Migrant Workers Program blossomed with programs and trainings given to sector and area Leaders for implementation in their parishes and barangays.
Partnerships and linkages with the Catholic Church through the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant Workers (ECMI) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) as well as manpower agencies and NGOs were formalized.
The program has continued with greater participation from other volunteer facilitators all over Metro Manila. In 2011, when Shok and Carel were appointed as International Coordinators for Singles For Christ (SFC), the responsibility as National Coordinators for the CFC Migrant Workers Program was given to me and my wife Mercy. At that time, we were cluster leaders in MM Sector South B and Country Coordinator for Guam, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.
Being a former OFW myself, and owner of an overseas recruitment and placement agency, I knew firsthand the problems that OFWs face and the challenges that they daily go through as a result of being separated from their families.
I have tried to alleviate some of their worries by not collecting placement fees from applicants so that they do not have the added burden of paying off debts. As a direct offshoot of being CFC, I was also giving Values Formation (and if time permits the Christian Life Program) to all our departing workers and their families.
Joining the CFC community in 1997 has entirely changed my perspective in life and in business. If you take care of God’s business, He will take care of yours. He will never be outdone in generosity.
Mercy and I rarely go on overseas marketing missions to promote our services but we are still blessed with several solid, reputable clients because of our overseas evangelization missions! The Lord uses our recruits to do the marketing for us! The members of our Migrant Workers Program team are all CFC members from Paranaque, Las Pinas, Muntinlupa and Taguig, (South A, South B and Central C) and majority are former OFWs or who have family members overseas. We conduct the Moral Values Reorientation Program (MVRP) at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), for Household Service Workers (HSWs) at the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) in Intramuros and at the Philippine Association of Service Exporters Inc. (PASEI), an association of about 700 private Recruitment Agencies where the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) is conducted for about 200 departing workers daily as service to its member agencies.
To date, at OWWA, around 20,800 OFWs have undergone the MVRP since 2010 while about 60,000 have gone through the program in PASEI since Feb. of 2011. Equally important in the program are the families or dependents of OFWs that are left behind, which we call Family Circles. Through partnership with OWWA and various parishes, the MVRP for Family Circles is starting to gain ground. The CFC MVRP-FC modules have available programs for each member of the family. The program was first piloted with dependents of OFWs organized by OWWA from Taguig; it will soon to be done in strategic major cities around the country. We are also doing the MVRP-FC in several parishes, among them the Mary Help of Christians Parish in Better Living Subd. Paranaque, where two batches have already finished the modules; at Golden City, Sta.Rosa, Laguna, and at the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish where on going Family Circles MVRP has close to 40 participants. Other parishes that are already in the pipeline are St. Joseph in Upper Bicutan; Mother of Perpetual Help in Perpetual Village Taguig; Mary Queen of the Apostles SAV 5 Paranaque and other parishes in Las Pinas and Muntinlupa.
Apart from the OWWA, PASEI and Parish Engagements, the team likewise saw the immediate need to minister to other departing OFWs not covered by OWWA and PASEI. Thus, arrangements were done directly with several recruitment agencies to conduct the MVRP to their departing workers and dependents. For instance, in two agencies, we have already conducted MVRP-FC and follow-up seminars for more than 700 families since 2010.
God gave us an even bigger bonus. Five owners and officers of big recruitment agencies were invited to attend the strategic Christian Life Program last March 30 and 31 and they all attended and graduated! All are now active members of CFC Handmaids of the Lord. With God’s grace they will in turn be the light to others in the overseas recruitment industry.
The work with migrants is indeed so vast. With about 10 million Filipinos working overseas, assuming that each person has an average of five family members, we can see that about half of the population is affected by this migration phenomenon. Despite the OFWs positive contributions to the economy, the social cost is unquantifiable. Sadly, we hear of so many tragic stories of OFW families breaking up, with the children leaving home and school because of lack of guidance. The result of this breakdown is growing substance abuse, teen pregnancies, distorted values, broken lives and even suicide.
Mercy and I consider ourselves blessed that we have been given the opportunity to contribute to this great work. We are also blessed because we belong to a community whose vision and mission are geared for family renewal, a gigantic work indeed but doable work because God remains to be our focus in everything that we do. By Jess Ferrer