Not 'just' a maid: How this center trains Hong Kong OFWs
MANILA, Philippines – When we hear about domestic work, many of us think of thankless, unglamorous, or menial work.
The Fair Training Center (FTC) in Parañaque City believes this shouldn't be the case.
For FTC, it starts with teaching the workers they can be professionals, too.
FTC is an accredited training and assessment center that aims to reinvent pre-departure training for migrant domestic workers.
Launched in 2016, FTC began as an offshoot of the Fair Employment Foundation's Fair Employment Agency. Despite the agency's rigorous vetting process, the foundation found that up to 4 out of 10 first-time overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong got terminated because they weren't ready to work and migrate.
This was where FTC came in, with a curriculum that prepares workers holistically for life overseas.
"When they get here, they say, 'I'm just a maid.' We tell them to remove the 'just,'" said FTC Executive Director Aimee Gloria. "We tell them, 'Just like you, your employers have dreams. If you're not there, they wouldn’t be able to chase after theirs.'"
Learning the ropes
The training at FTC covers all the basics, and more than these.
One of a worker's first struggles in Hong Kong, for example, is adjusting to new homes and learning to use unfamiliar tools and appliances.
That is why FTC's facility in Parañaque was especially designed to let their students simulate life in a Hong Kong residence. There, they learn how to use common equipment like washing machines and food processors.
They are also taught basic skills like cooking local recipes, buying ingredients from Hong Kong markets, using public transportation, and even filling up forms at the immigration.
The workers also learn to respond to difficult scenarios, like for example when they are accused of stealing. The center not only teaches them safe and professional ways to deal with these situations, but also how they can prevent these from happening in the first place.
More importantly, FTC helps workers understand the service contracts they're signing, for them to not only know their rights, but also what's expected of them. "It goes both ways. The employer also has to be satisfied with their (performance), as in other jobs," Gloria explained.
To be treated as professionals, students of FTC are taught to think, talk, look, and act as such. They don't call them helpers, but workers.
With this, FTC wants workers to realize their importance – that they're doing more than just grunt work.
Their students are also taught to really project themselves as professionals. They learn how to dress and behave as any professionals would, as well as how they can communicate themselves better and maintain a good relationship with their employers.
What makes their training special is that the workers are not just trying to "professionalize" to please their employers. At its core is making them appreciate their job better – for them to realize it's a dignified work that they can be proud of, and that it can also be fun.
Being emotionally, financially prepared
Another important aspect of FTC's training is emotionally preparing their workers for life away from their families.
They are not only given tips on how they can communicate with their families in the Philippines, but also how they can maintain a healthy relationship.
They learn, for example, to set a regular schedule for them to call their children, and use this time to ask about school and talk about their daily lives, instead of just getting angry over the phone.
This would lessen frustrations for both the worker and their children, making them feel that things are still the same despite the distance.
Both the workers and their families are also made to realize how important it is for them to set financial goals before leaving.
Workers are encouraged to talk with their families about their dreams, and quantify them into goals that they will all work together for. They also taught financial literacy, and how they can make the most out of their earnings.
This way, the workers would know when it's time to come back and they can make sure that their sacrifices won't be all for naught.
But what really makes FTC's training special is what allows them to resonate with their students better: their trainers are former OFWs themselves. They are not just outsiders sharing tips about the unknown. Instead, they are giving students a part of themselves: experience and passion they’ve earned through years of service.
"Our trainers really pour their heart and soul into teaching what they've learned," Gloria said.
The center is relatively new, and they face many challenges, like convincing aspiring domestic workers to invest in training.
But with passion in their hearts and genuine concern in their mind, the future is looking bright for Gloria, her team, and the 157 workers they've already helped. – Rappler.com
To learn more about the Fair Training Center, you may visit their website or send an email to Aimee Gloria at firstname.lastname@example.org.