Former Overseas Domestic Helper Finds New Hopes in LearnHub App, Reintegrates with Success 

Eden Obias, a 37-year-old mother from Camarines Sur, Bicol, worked as a Domestic Helper in Hong Kong for two years. Sharing with us, she talked about her time as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) and the tough realities of being away from home among other challenges. 

Helper in Hong Kong 

Full of emotion, Obias recalls her time in Hong Kong, cleaning, doing laundry, and looking after a lively 2-year-old. Despite the hard work which is commonplace to the job, what really weighed on her heart was missing her children back in the Philippines.

A universal sentiment felt by many OFWs, she related the ache of missing loved ones, especially her children, was incredibly hard to bear. Despite the distance, Obias remained dedicated to her work, laboring tirelessly to support her family back home.

After two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, she eventually made the courageous decision to return home in January 2020, marking the end of her stint as an OFW. 

On being homesick and navigating culture shock 

Obias decided to work abroad to give her family a better future. However, it’s never all roses as she faced a big challenge: culture shock. It was tough for her to adjust to her employer’s vegetarian lifestyle and the strict rules of Chinese household chores. At first, she felt lost and unsure. But she didn’t give up. With determination, she learned how to cook vegetarian meals and handle household tasks the Chinese way. It wasn’t easy, but she kept going. Eventually, she became really good at it, showing how adaptable and strong she is. 

While she managed to adjust, she had never lost sight of her family. She however turned her longing into drive, working harder each day. She knew every sacrifice was for her family’s sake. As her contract end neared, she eagerly awaited the day she could finally go home and be reunited with her children. She found strength in her children’s smiles, using them as motivation to keep going.

During her time as an OFW, she realizes how much technology means to OFWs like herself. She’s grateful for video calls that let her see her family, especially her kids, on weekends. These calls help her feel less lonely and closer to her loved ones. 

Overall, Eden’s story shows how technology has changed life for OFWs. It’s not just about staying connected; it’s about learning, growing, and feeling empowered, even when far from home.

Returning home

As Eden’s contract neared its end, her employer offered her an extension. This brought mixed feelings since it meant more financial stability but also being away from her children for another two years. After a heartfelt conversation, Eden expressed her wish to return home after her contract ended. Thankfully, her employer understood, and they reached an agreement.

Luckily, she arrived in the Philippines before strict lockdown measures were enforced, avoiding mandatory quarantine. This fortunate timing allowed her to reunite with her family promptly, cherishing their togetherness amidst uncertain times.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she felt slightly devastated because choosing her family meant giving up her income from abroad. Her husband had part-time jobs in construction and in their small farm, but they still often worried about money, especially the needs of their children.

When the lockdown eased, Obias took advantage of a free two-month training program to become a physical therapist. The government offered this to help OFWs like her who lost their jobs. It came with a daily allowance of 200 pesos (about $4). After finishing the training, she stressed the importance of grabbing opportunities for work or training. She knew that improving her skills was key to giving her family a better life.

Discovering the LearnHub app 

Another learning opportunity came when Eden’s neighbor mentioned a focus group discussion (FGD) about an app for OFWs to which she eagerly volunteered to join. She saw it as a great opportunity to learn and grow and knew that being open to opportunities like this was important for her own development. By getting involved in activities to help OFWs, she not only gave back to the community but also kept improving herself.

After joining the FGD led by The Return Project Philippines, Obias eagerly started taking courses on the LearnHub app. She saw it as a chance to learn new skills and get certificates. Finishing the three-part “Confidence in Action” course made her feel more empowered and confident, ready to start a business.

“The course was practical and it gave me useful advice. It showed me how to take action,” she said. Inspired by what she learned, Obias decided to finally open a sari-sari (variety) store in her neighborhood. Since there were only a few similar stores nearby and she had some savings, she saw it as a good way to earn extra money for her family. 

High hopes for the future 

Talking about reintegration, Obias has chosen not to go back abroad to work. She has enough income to support their daily needs with her small sari-sari store and part-time job as a physical therapist in their town. Having different sources of income makes her feel secure and independent, giving her the ability to focus on being part of her local community and taking care of her family.

Obias, with high hopes for the future, shares how she loves telling her friends and massage clients about how the app helped her decide to open a sari-sari store. She’s excited to share the lessons she learned and how they gave her the confidence to take control of her finances. By sharing her story, she hopes to inspire others to explore their own opportunities and shows how technology can make a big difference in our lives.

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