By Vir B. Lumicao
This, said departing social welfare atache Elizabeth Lim Dy, would boost family ties and values, and help keep the family intact during the long separation.
Dy, the first welfare attache to be assigned in Hong Kong, is set to leave at the end of her three-year posting on July 31. Her office, which has been providing counseling to four to five OFWs daily, will shut down until a new attaché takes over.
She should have left in May but was given an extension by her new boss, DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo
“Sana, bago sila (OFWs) umalis, meron na silang self-realization ng kung anong maaaring mangyari,” Dy told The SUN in an interview on July 21.
She is pushing for pre-departure education of both the OFW and their families that ideally starts at the local government level, saying the workers do not seem ready to cope with the likely impact of leaving their loved ones.
“Isang bagay na inirirekomenda namin ay to strengthen the pre-departure orientation na kasama talaga yung welfare cases services para maintidihan (ng mga pamilya ng OFWs). It’s not that easy to just leave your family, your country, then go to another country and you’re not ready, not prepared, and eto yung magiging mangyari sa iyo,” Dy said.
“Iba kasi ang preparation sa family eh. When you leave your country… ang pinakaunang iniwan mo, hindi lang yung country, yung family mo, sarili mo,” Dy said.
Hong Kong is one of seven foreign posts where the DSWD has a presence, the others being Dubai, Jeddah, Riyadh, Kuwait, Malaysia, and Qatar.
There used to be another in Korea but it has since closed down, and Dy says she is unsure whether it was for good.
Dy said Taguiwalo wanted to know what the needs of the various posts are and asked for an assessment. “It’s either na magdagdag o (bawasan) yung posts, kung ano yung kailangan,” she said.
Dy considers Hong Kong the hardest of the seven foreign posts due to the predominance of female OFWs here. She recalls that she noticed the big number of Filipina inmates doing time for drug-related offenses when she arrived here in 2014.
“Perhaps they didn’t realize the seriousness of what they got themselves into, especially drug-related problems,” Dy said.
She was also appalled by the many cases of abuse committed by employers on maids
But the most common OFW problem that the Social Welfare unit deals with in Hong Kong is family issues, including extramarital relations and child abuse.
She said workers often focus only on seeking greener pastures without seeing the need to talk with the family about the possible adverse impact of the long separation.
If the husband and wife are physically far apart and one does not know how to manage the situation, child abuse, even rape, could set in.
“Soon they realize that even the children are abused to the extent of bein raped by their own father, family member, or somebody from the community,” Dy said.
The resulting stress could lead a worker to depression, but Dy said her unit could manage that with collaborative effort and support from the host government.
“Ang goal natin ay maayos man lamang yung kanilang pamilya , o yung sariling worker natin or, at least, yung social functioning man lang niya maaayos through psychosocial intervention to help her pull herself together and find a way to help her family,” Dy said.
When necessary, Dy would refer cases to Hong Kong’s Social Welfare Department and the International Social Service , or forward them to the DSWD in Manila. Some of these were juvenile-related welfare cases, while others involved inter-country adoption.
In some of these cases, temporay shelter had to be secured for pregnant OFWs who did not want to return to the Philippines because the chid they were carrying were from an illicit affair in Hong Kong.
“So, they ask the DSWD for a shelter until such time that they are prepared to face their families”, Dy said.
With her unit about to close down, many troubled Filipinas in Hong Kong and Macau, which has been part of Dy’s coverage, will now have to turn somewhere else for help and comfort.