CFC - Servants For Family And Life

A Family Ministry of Couples for Christ Foundation For Family And Life

                             Migrant Workers Program

Support Program For Families Left Behind

Background

When we talk about migrant workers in the Philippines, we refer to the Overseas Filipino Worker – single or married, male or female – who has left the Philippines in search for greener economic pastures abroad.  The Government call them our modern day heroes. They bring into the country millions of dollars in remittances which almost singly keep the Philippine economy afloat.

On the other side of the equation are the families that are left behind – husbands, wives and children – who experience tremendous sociological, emotional and psychological upheaval.  While their financial needs are being addressed, there is little effort given to assist these family members cope with the absence of father, mother, husband or wife.

There are about 10 million overseas Filipino workers, and the Government policy is to facilitate the increase in this that this number.  The higher paying jobs for skilled workers  such as seamen, engineers and skilled construction workers has been declining due to available alternatives from India, Bangladesh, and other competing labor sources. Total Overseas Filipino Workers has continued to increase at the low paying jobs.

Data indicates that 30% of migrants are single and without families. This means that 7-million families are without father or mother or both for extended periods of time.  NSO figures show that the average Filipino family is composed of 5 members.  The OFW phenomenon in the Philippines therefore directly affects close to 38 million people. This means that over 40% of the total population of the country is directly affected by migration. When reckoning with parents and siblings, it can be seen that no less than half of the population of the Philippines is affected by worker migration.

OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS                                 (RP Population 90 Million)

 

CATEGORY

%

TOTAL

UNIT

PERSONS

% RP

SINGLE

 30%

  3,000,000

1

  3,000,000

  3.33%

FAMILY

 70%

  7,000,000

5

35,000,000

38.89%

LEFT BEHIND

 

 

4

28,000,000

31.11%

TOTAL

100%

10,000,000

 

38,000,000

42.22%

             

Since the OFW statistics are fairly easy to track, focus has been in this direction. Government has not even begun to track internal migration. Unskilled workers move to the regional cities in search of job opportunities. Since the cost of relocation and cost of living is prohibitive, they leave their families in the countryside. No figures or unreliable data are available from government regarding internal migration.

In the 1970’s government entered into agreements with the middle-east oil producers for uninterrupted supplies in exchange for temporary deployment of skilled labor in construction, engineering, accountancy, hotel-management and information technology. The onset of migration (referred to as the First Wave) was mainly among men with higher education in high paying positions. Since the women were left to manage the home and nurture the children the effect on the family was not particularly disruptive. This is the women’s traditional role assigned in our societal structure.

The studies often offered by government in defense of the relaxed rules on OFW deployment refers to this first wave. Over time, the government mind-set focused on increasing the numbers of overseas workers without any programs or policies to address the growing number of population without job opportunities within the Philippine economy. Rather than establish industry or upgrade the agriculture sector, to insure the buoyancy of the economy, the concentration of effort became overseas deployment.

Without jobs available on their return, OFWs have become almost permanent workers, renewing contracts where they are located even at much lower rates. The option is return to homeland to joblessness. Even with a radical shift in government policy, migration will continue to be a dominant character in the Philippine social fabric.

Today, migration has increasingly become feminine as domestic helpers, caregivers - referred to as the Third Wave. With the women gone abroad to work, more and more men have now been assigned the tasks of home management and the nurturing roles.  Unfortunately, most men may not be suited, trained, or emotionally / psychologically / socially ready to assume this new role in the family. 

Lastly, there are families where both father and mother work abroad, leaving their children with their extended families: grandparents, uncles and aunts.  This brings about its own set of concerns.

Rationale for the Program

 CFCFFL demographics cannot be far removed from the mainstream population of the Philippines. Even in our midst, many among our brethren, the challenges of migration are faced daily.

We need to identify and to provide our own members with the tools, the skills and the opportunities to grow. In turn, they can become the Wounded Healers to the rest of our countrymen, wives, husbands and children caught in the web of migration. Our ministries have roles to play, Kids, Youth and Singles can reach out to the siblings, Couples, Handmaids and Servants address the parents.

Given that migration will be with us for a long time to come. While there are two sides to the equation, the worker who is displaced from family and country to seek better opportunities gets the full attention of NGO’s, ministries and government. On the other side are the left behind families. Government is not ready to concede that almost half the population is in dysfunctional families.

Family members left behind, suffer tremendous emotional dislocation when a spouse leaves the household to work abroad.  Guilt and shame are common emotional scenarios camouflaged by varying degrees of acting out behaviors, like drinking, gambling, excessive spending.  The list can go on.

Underlying the acting out behaviors are the feelings of loneliness, anger, hopelessness, the feelings of isolation and powerlessness.  There is the deep yearning to be understood and accepted; a mute appeal to not be judged and ridiculed for their seeming helplessness and lack of means to take charge of their life / family.  The spouse who is left behind has a deep longing to be heard and to be released from crippling guilt and shame, pain and anger. This coping mechanism is needed so that they can move on with life – embracing all that the present realities offer.

Efforts to help these families cope with this situation have been organized worldwide.  Of note is the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) in 1965.  ECMI has released a Handbook to serve as an instrument and guide to those who wish to minister to this special group.

The CFC-FFL would like to join up with the various parishes in the country in ministering to the families of the Filipino migrant workers.  In doing so, the Social Ministry leadership of CFC-FFL recognizes the importance of “being guided by the Handbook” in establishing a reciprocal working relationship with the various parishes towards this ministry.

General Objectives

 The CFC-FFL’s Ministry to the Migrant Workers and their families strongly aligns itself with the guiding principles of PCP II on building Basic Ecclesial Communities (Sec. 3, Art. 109).  At the same time it seeks to address the expressed needs of the migrants’ dependents through psycho-spiritual seminars/workshops, round table discussions, talks / lectures and other related activities / interventions designed around their needs and aimed at providing them opportunities towards:

  1. Widening their knowledge as well as appreciation about themselves and their God-given resources, thus avoiding the destructive lure of envy, fantasy, self-depreciation, jealousy, grandiosity, etc.
  2. Developing skills, both psychological and spiritual, that will enable them to make better use of their God-given resources and thus improve their relationship with God, self, and others / family.
  3. Developing a Christian attitude towards life and living defined by a belief system anchored on faith in God’s unceasing provident and love.

In short, the Ministry seeks to make the migrants and their families empowered in their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother.

Specific Objectives

The program at parish level aims at forming a parish-based community of migrants’ families to help them cope with the realities of migration and its consequences on the family and community life.  By joining this community, the migrant family will be able:

  1. To be more aware of his/her personal feelings and needs with regard to his/her situation as a part of a migrant family, to realize that there are many others in a similar situation, and to be in community with them, and be able to express and share these feelings with one another
  2. To move to create a community of support among these members of families of migrant workers in the parish
  3. To allow each person to deepen his/her spiritual, moral and social personal strengths for coping with feelings/problems
  4. To bring to focus how spiritual values in Christ can help them cope with their situation, and to make them more active in the parish
  5. To educate migrants’ families on the importance of family life in accordance with the Church teachings amidst the realities of migration
  6. To help them create and implement programs that will answer their own needs

For your comments, suggestions and observations regarding the Migrant Workers Program

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