MANILA, Philippines – Every one of us knows someone who works abroad. Whether it is your mom, dad, sibling, or even extended family and friends, we can all relate to missing someone who is miles away.
Maybe your loved one is living in Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Hong Kong, Italy, Kuwait, or any one of the many countries that over 10 million Filipinos have scattered across the world to earn a living as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration over 1.8 million OFWS were again deployed in 2013.
While they are glad to be providing for their family, this, as you know, comes with a price. It can be a lonely life.
Back home, you and the rest of your family can celebrate birthdays, Christmases, and other gatherings together–while your loved one is abroad. But at least now, there is social media and free applications (apps) to help us stay in touch and help ease their loneliness!
Our photograph albums are online via Instagram and our loved ones at least get a chance to still see us, even if virtually. Here are some ways you can stay connected.
1) Get a smartphone
With the rise in affordable smartphones, affordable mobile data plans and free apps that can help you stay connected, it no longer costs so much to keep in touch.
Although Apple and Samsung capture most of the headlines, lower-cost alternatives like Lenovo, Cherry Mobile and MyPhone have similar devices and still offer a similar experience.
Applications like Viber, WhatsApp, and Line are great and free ways to send messages, sweet voice notes, photos and make free calls. Don’t forget these applications also support a variety of stickers and emoticons that keep messaging fun!
Photo and video sharing apps like Instagram and Snapchat make it easier for you to share moments from your everyday life and can help them feel a part of your daily life. All these applications are usually free to download in a smartphone!
2) Set weekly “dates”
Even though the daily messages and status updates are nice, there still isn’t anything like seeing the face of the person you are talking to. Hurray for video chat!
For quality face time, you can use Skype for one-on-one, or Google Hangout so the whole family can join in the same conversation no matter where they are. The only requirement is to set up a Skype or Gmail account and you are all set to have an intercontinental video call with your loved ones.
Although virtual, this is the closest you can get to an actual face-to-face conversation.
Life and work can get pretty hectic on both ends and because of the time difference, sometimes it’s hard to find the time to video chat. However if you set a weekly date and stick to the schedule, it becomes a routine and something fun to look forward to every week.
3) Bring back snail mail
Everyone appreciates a little nostalgia in their life and there are few things more nostalgic than receiving a lovely, unexpected hand written letter in the mail. Sure, we all appreciate the convenience and speed that comes with online forms of communication but sometimes it can start to feel a bit impersonal.
Send letters and postcards for birthdays, holidays, or for no particular reason at all! Surprise snail mail instantly brightens anyone’s day and is a much welcome break from the dreaded monthly bills that are delivered to your mailbox.
Another advantage of sending letters? It gives your loved one something tangible to hang on to. Text messages and emails can easily be buried and deleted but physical letters are something people can keep with them. The warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you stumble upon an old letter which you haven’t looked at in years, can’t be replicated through an emoticon or Facebook notification.
4) Send a care package
We all know the joy and excitement you feel every time a family member comes home for vacation with a balikbayan box full of stuff from abroad. How about returning the favor once in a while and letting them experience that same feeling?
Send small care packages from home with items that remind them of home and that are probably hard to come by in their part of the world. It can be as simple as a mix of their favorite Filipino treats such as candy, chips, instant noodles or dried mango. You can also send something special such as an item of clothing from their favorite Filipino designer/brand or a CD of their favorite OPM music.
Homemade gifts, photos, or personal items they left at home but couldn’t bring at the time also gives them a small piece of home to hold on to.
Small gifts in this reverse balikbayan box of sorts sends the message that they are missed and that all their hard work is appreciated.
5) Make social media work for you
Keep your status on social media (i.e. Facebook) up-to-date, create an album of photos, or posting on their Facebook wall also keeps you connected despite the trouble of being in different time zones. You can also create a private Facebook group for the whole family to post wacky photos, personal messages, inside jokes and share funny links of videos and articles you find online. You can even participate in certain Facebook driven contests that are also fun ways to keep the family connected such as the My WU® contest of Western Union.
Show your loved one your appreciation by entering this contest and you may get a chance to win a P25,000 cash prize. Start with a photo shoot to be the Face of My WU in the Philippines, and as an added bonus, even get to take home all the clothes worn during the shoot. The mechanics are simple, follow the instructions below:
- Visit https://www.facebook.com/westernunion.
- Choose “the Face of My WU” tab to enter the contest.
- Take a photo of yourself and upload for sharing with family members and friends.
- Ask your family members and friends to cast their votes. You can also vote for yourself once a day.
Selection of the winner is subject to validation and verification of eligibility and compliance with all terms and conditions. Visit the Western Union Facebook page for more details. If you win, you may even want to use some of the prize money to send your loved one an extra special care package from home.
While it may be hard to have a loved one so far away, just imagine how much harder and lonelier they feel. These are fun and simple things you can do to keep the bond alive.
So even if mom or dad is waking up in the middle of a cold East Coast winter morning as you tuck yourself in bed in a time zone 12 hours ahead, you still make the effort to keep them smiling.
Let them know their hard work is worthwhile. Stay hopeful and excited for the day when you can all be together again – all places around the dining table finally complete. – Rappler.com© 2014 Western Union Holdings, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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