Monday, October 23, 2017

"I love You, Alona"

(The following is the speech delivered by Ms Cynthia Ho, the daughter of the employer of Alona Famatiga, domestic helper in Hong Kong during the graduation ceremony of Ateneo LSE53 held at The Chinese University of Hong Kong last October 22. 

The Ateneo Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Training Program for Overseas Filipinos and their Families (Ateneo LSE) is a flagship Executive Education program of the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG). Ateneo-LSE is organized by WIMLER Foundation in Hong Kong.)

Years ago, I was 11 then, when I suddenly learned that we have one new family member at home, one that is not blood related, not even sharing the same ethnicity, but our bond is much stronger than many of my blood related ones. 

I left Hong Kong for the USA when I was 16 to pursue my study.  I came back again when I was 23. I left our home when I was 30 and started living on my own until now. I am now 41 years old. Alona has been staying with my parents for 30 years, while I lived with my parents for 22 years only. Trust me, staying with my parents is not one of the easiest thing to do, especially because my mom is not an easy person to live with.  I would like to call that a generation gap.

So, seven years after I graduated, I finally moved out. All these years I keep wondering what an amazing woman Alona is being able to stay in this family for 30 years! As I grew up, I finally understand it. It is because she does not only TREAT us as family, we ARE her family.

Let us do a little bit more mathematics here.  I was 11 when Alona came.  I spent 5 years with her and I left for the USA.  I spent another seven years living with my family before I moved out.  That means I have only spent 12 years living with Alona! But what makes us so close? I would say, destiny indeed! 

Alona is like an angel sent to me from God. She took good care of me when I was young, from as simple as cooking and taking care of all housework to bringing me lunch every single day when I was in early secondary school. She protected me when my mom punished me at home (trust me those were not simple punishments), to standing up for me when I was being mistreated. Nowadays she still takes care of my parents so that I could literally be carefree, knowing that no matter what happens, my parents would always be well taken care of.

Even though it was just 12 years that we lived under the same roof, she has shared my laughter and tears.  And I am glad that this sharing is mutual  since Alona also has her tough time. As Alona said: "We have been through ups and downs together". She sees everything that happened to me, my changes, my metamorphosis. She sees all the struggles and successes I have had.  There is not a minute that she doubts on me, and she has always been very supportive to me, sometimes even more than my own mother.

I am a grown-up person now.  I wish I could do more for her, for she is not just a helper, but a close family member. I wish she could stay here forever and I could take care of her just like what she did for me, but that would be just too selfish of me, for she has her own family too in the Philippines. She has sacrificed her most beautiful years with us, and as she is gradually getting older, she should have the opportunity to retire and spend the rest of her time with her own family too and do the things she wants to do, for herself and herself alone.
When that day comes, I know I gonna miss her. 

However, being able to graduate from this Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship training program, I believe she will make the best choice for herself and continue to be the leader of her life, and seek the type of happiness she truly deserves.

I love you, Alona!

CYNTHIA HO, is Sex Therapist and Relationship Counselor in Hong Kong. She studied Sexual Health at University of Sydney and Film at Boston University. Ms Ho was 11 years old when her parents hired Alona Famatiga as household helper.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

LSE 53 BP awardees aim to help farmers, fisherfolks

Hong Kong – October 23, 2017 

The winners of the LSE 53 Best Social Enterprise Business Plans 2017 awards were announced at their graduation ceremony at The Chinese University of Hong Kong yesterday. LSE 53 class submitted a total of 14 business plans with three or four members each. Mentors were assigned to advise them in the process of writing the narrative, financial statement and designing the powerpoint presentation.

They presented the business plans during the trial presentation where they received comments and advices from the panelists on how to improve their work specially the financial forecast.  Then, they were given two weeks to finalize the business plans and finally presented them before the Board of Judges during the final presentation. It is very interesting to note that this year, most business plans are quite clear with the social component. From the 14 business plans, the Board of Judges picked the winners. For the first time since LSE was introduced in 2012, two teams received two awards each.

This year’s winners per category are:

Magsasakang Byaherang OFW garnered the Most Socially Relevant Award for their mission to economically empower the Mangyan people in San Vicente, Mindoro and tapping raw materials indigenous in the area.

Magsasakang Byaherang OFW is a social enterprise which is engaged in buying, producing and selling products of Mangyans, the indigenous people of Tinis-an in Barangay San Vicente, Roxas, Oriental Mindoro.

The proposed business aims to organize the Mangyans, provide training in self-development such as proper hygiene, organic farming, basic financial literacy training, and enhance their skills in chips production.

The Mangyans are the first to inhabitants of the island of Mindoro compromising 10% of the Mindoro population. There 12 known Mangyan tribes, each with their own language, culture, and a way of life. They hardly could meet their basic needs due to insufficient income. Farming root crops and growing fruit trees are their only means for livelihood. As of now their main products are banana, taro, and sweet potato. The business plan proposes to process these raw materials into chips. They will install solar power supply and renovate an abandoned building to serve as a working station for the chips production.

Magsasakang Byaherang OFWS serves as their marketing arm. 

The team members are: Elizabeth L.  Lingan, Rhodora U. Camba, Alona F. Famatiga, and Lowie L. Cuenca and mentored by Randolph Flauta who works as Senior Engineer at NXP Semiconductors Hong Kong (Now Nexperia).

Mega Ampalaya Jam team garnered two awards: Most Comprehensive and 
Most Innovative Awards

Mega Ampalaya Jam is a social enterprise that aims to help Ilonggo Ampalaya growers and jam makers by using ampalaya as the main ingredient of the jam. Ampalaya jam is non-existent in the Ilonggo market but based on the market survey the team conducted, there is a demand for ampalaya jam. Ten farmers who are local residents of Pototan, Iloilo will supply raw ampalaya so they can increase their income.

The business addresses the unhealthy lifestyle of the people due to busy lives which caused lesser time in meal preparation. They tend to consume junk and unhealthy foods because they are easy to prepare and tasty. It also addresses the insufficient income of ampalaya growers which hinders their economic development.

Mega Ampalaya Jam is innovative because although ampalaya is full of nutrients and easy to grow, it has never been considered as a main ingredient by jam makers in Iloilo due to its known bitter taste. The proposed business plan hopes to change this stereotype on ampalaya. They will process it into healthy and delicious jam.

The team also garnered the Most Comprehensive Award because before writing their business plan, they conducted market survey in Iloilo involving 400 respondents. This extensive study of the market, comparative prices, existing competitions coupled with ampalaya jam tasting enabled them to prepare a well-thought and convincing business plan.

If implemented, the company provides opportunity to four overseas Filipino workers who are presently working in Hong Kong by producing a local product that has potentials to capture local and national markets.

The members of the team are: Marycris T. Catubay, Nannette M. Pasol, Cheryl L. Precia, and Aien A. Salay with Leila Rispens-Noel, social entrepreneur, founder and director of WIMLER Hong Kong as their mentor.

JARC Seafood Company team won Most Viable and Well-Presented Awards

JARC Seafood Company received the Most Viable and Well-Presented Award.
JARC Seafood Company Ltd. is a social enterprise that aims to transform the mindset and practices of small fisher folks in Atimonan, Quezon province who are presently engaged in illegal and destructive fishing into a sustainable sea farming of high value fish species like grouper. This fish species is highly valued because of its excellent body texture and flavor. The export market for the groupers is rapidly increasing especially in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan. The team plans to provide proper training and financial assistance to start grouper fish farming.
The team easily convinced the Board of Panelists about the viability and benefits of sea farming. The business plan could stimulate grouper farming, increase production, scale up markets, and eventually improves fisher men's livelihood and financial situation. Moreover, it addresses poverty of fisher folks, illegal and destructive fishing.

The team members are: Janice G. Villanueva, Ancherell M. Manjares, Ronaliened R. Ros, and Carla Theresa P. Ramos and mentored by Jared King, social entrepreneur and co-founder of E3, a company which helps transform businesses by rethinking the way they view and treat their workforce.

About LSE

The Ateneo Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship (A-LSE) aims to develop the leadership skills and potentials among overseas Filipinos and their families, provide them with knowledge and skills in savings and investments and other financial matters, and develop and enhance their entrepreneurial skills. The LSE Program is a joint initiative of the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) together with OFSPES, SEDPI,  Ugat Foundation, the Philippine Consulate HK, the Philippine Overseas Labor  Office (POLO HK) , and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA HK) .  LSE53 in Hong Kong is organized by WIMLER Foundation HK with support from Prime Credit, Philippine National Bank and SWIFT APAC.