The Return Project, an initiative spearheaded by Seefar and funded by the Macquarie Group Foundation officially soft-launched the Seefar Academy app last August 14 and made it available for mobile Android devices. Targeting returned Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), the app aims to boost self-confidence among its users and provide upskilling opportunities by giving free access to online courses that can be completed at their own convenience and pace.
According to International Labor Organization, about 10 million Filipinos live abroad as migrant workers and about one million Filipinos leave the country each year on average to work abroad. Remittance from migrants is a major national thrust for economic growth in the Philippines. However, the global health crisis significantly impacted OFWs. Many lost their jobs or were forced to return home early. “As of June 13, 2022, about 2.24 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) had been repatriated due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Of these, 1.4 million were land-based workers while roughly 808 thousand were sea-based,” Statista Research Department reported.
More specifically, OFWs face a myriad of challenges upon returning to their home country:
· Finding a job. Returning OFWs may find it difficult to secure a job comparable to the one they had abroad. They may also have to accept lower-paying jobs or jobs that are not in their field of expertise.
· Adjusting to life back home. Returning OFWs may have to re-adjust to the Filipino culture after years of working overseas, climate, and way of life. They may also have to deal with family and social problems that they initially left behind.
· Dealing with the emotional and psychological impact of their experiences abroad. Returning OFWs may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health problems as a result of their stressful experiences overseas. They may also have to deal with grief and loss if they have lost loved ones while they were away.
Sharing her personal experience, Bernadette, 38, worked in Saudi Arabia for six years as a nurse. For her, homesickness and seeing dying people due to the nature of her job were her biggest challenges and she eventually decided to return to the Philippines for her kids. However, reintegration didn’t turn out to be as smooth right away. She faced financial struggles due to her low salary and was hoping for a mandated salary increase for the nursing profession. To this day, she contemplates having a business of her own.
Former Migrant Workers Secretary, Susan Ople, shared a similar sentiment, championing the cause of the OFWs. She said, “Our OFWs contribute to our economy through their dollar remittances but at some point in their lives, they would also need to come home and create sustainable sources of income through entrepreneurship, sound investments, or by landing a better job here at home.”
The Return Project – Philippines, through the Seefar Academy app hopes to reach returned OFWs who want to work on their self-confidence and build more skills to reintegrate better into society. It’s also open to anyone who might find it beneficial for them to be more equipped to face life on a daily basis with all its challenges and recognize decent work and other opportunities they can tap into.