They visit sick Filipino patients in hospitals in Kuwait and provide them with necessary help, including monetary assistance. They talk to families and comfort them. Meet Kuwait Filipino Mothers Organization (KFMO), a volunteer group whose members are mostly from the Philippines but married to Kuwaitis and other foreign nationals. Violeta Maulana Yousef is one of them and currently heads the four-year-old Pinoy organization that is growing and gaining momentum.
The group’s members have also adopted several schools and less fortunate individuals back in their home provinces in the Philippines. They also help build houses for people who need shelter and water pumping stations for local communities. “We are a group of about 80 volunteers married to foreigners who contribute time and money to uplift the lives and conditions of many vulnerable workers from our country,” Violeta told Kuwait Times, detailing the programs and activities of the organization. “In our little way, we help our needy ‘kababayans’ (compatriots),” she added.
Some of the group’s members have adult children who are very vocal and active in KFMO. “My kids are grownups and can see things around them and are becoming active in sharing whatever they can. They volunteer and help us in many ways,” she said. Violeta said her group has witnessed many dramatic situations and sacrifices of Filipinos in Kuwait. “I have seen several sick Pinoys in hospitals here who are fighting for their lives. Some of them are very young but many had also been working in Kuwait for years, but had to leave Kuwait for good and go back to their families empty-handed. What a painful situation to bear!” Violeta said.
She said since the government of the Philippines considers OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) as modern-day heroes, she hope, it should create a law that protects them. “I am a Filipino and at the same time Kuwaiti, but I can see the hardships of my ‘kababayans’. The Philippine government should really do something for them. We are very proud of our OFWs because they are helping the economy stay afloat, especially in times of economic troubles, but what are they getting in return? Nothing! So I hope the Manila government will solve the problem of OFWs when they can no longer work. The government should take over and support them, help them recover and recuperate and give them a stipend if they can no longer work. The problem is when they are sick, they are cast aside or thrown out, so they become an additional burden for their families,” Violeta stated.
Coordination with the Embassy
While her group continues to help in whatever way possible, KFMO has always coordinated with the Philippine embassy in Kuwait. “If there are problems of Filipinos in hospitals, we seek the attention of the Philippine embassy, especially if they are not being attended to at the hospital. We also seek the help of other Filipino organizations. KFMO is active in community services through various programs of the Philippine Embassy,” she noted. KFMO also holds workshops and provides training to runaway housemaids at the embassy shelter. “We hold cooking and baking classes at the embassy shelter. We feed and give gifts to these housemaids.
We do this to make this world a better place to live and give them hope,” she added. At the shelter, various programs to train Filipino runaway housemaids and distressed workers have been introduced by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), which help domestic helpers prepare for their next move after their bad experiences with their previous sponsors. KFMO offers classes in hairstyling and nail polishing. Recently, KFMO also introduced bread making and baking workshops at the shelter. The program of KFMO is part of the on-going reintegration program by the OWWA and POLO. The reintegration program has been intensified to help OFWs when they return home and start afresh. There are hundreds of runaway housemaids at the embassy with varying cases, and while waiting for their repatriation, various livelihood programs are being conducted at the embassy.
Philippine Welfare Officer to Kuwait Nestor Burayag said the onsite programs and services of POLO-OWWA seek to provide distressed workers with livelihood and skills training to prepare them for their eventual reintegration back in the mainstream Philippine society and economy. “Another objective is to make them more productive while waiting for the resolution of their cases. Some of the skills and livelihood trainings we have conducted in cooperation with various Filipino groups include handicraft making and cosmetology among others. By acquiring these skills, they will have other options when they return to the Philippines other than overseas employment.
Some groups provide the materials themselves, otherwise POLO-OWWA will provide the materials needed,” he mentioned. If they plan to engage in small businesses in the Philippines with the skills they have acquired, OWWA can assist them through livelihood loans to start up. “Interested Pinoys are more than welcome to volunteer their services for our distressed HSWs, just like the KFMO. Please coordinate with Elizabeth Sison at POLO-OWWA,” he added.
In addition, the reintegration programs for OFWs being conducted include financial literacy and entrepreneurship training programs for various groups. “This program however has been temporarily stopped and is now under review by our central office with the aim of improving the program to address the increasing needs of our OFWs. The financial literacy and entrepreneurship training program teaches our OFWs the value of savings and likewise provide them with the basic knowledge on how to start a business,” Burayag said. “As a welfare officer, I am the overall in-charge of case management and handling of cases of all HSW wards in our custody. We also coordinate with various host government authorities (police, immigration authorities, ODWA among others) who are involved in the resolution of cases and repatriation of OFWs.
We also conduct reconciliation and mediation between employers and workers or FRAs and workers and also conduct hospital and company visits, airport assistance for repatriated workers, networking with various Pinoy community organizations and regular dialogues with our wards and FRA representatives,” he explained. “As part of our continuing efforts to promote welfare and protect the interest of our workers, we conduct regular post-arrival orientation seminars for newly arrived HSWs and likewise implement onsite labor education program for OFWs (holding visa 20 and 18). We educate them on the various provisions of the Kuwait labor law which affect them and procedures of POLO-OWWA’s case management among others,” Baruyag concluded.
By Ben Garcia