Dubai: Can Filipino domestic workers become the next wave of entrepreneurs in their home country?
Joan Francisco, 30, a nanny here for two years, offers a hint. The mother of one started dabbling in stocks trading three months ago using an online platform.
She sets aside Dh100 per month and invests it in a long-term stocks fund which she hopes would one day fund the college education of her five-year-old child.
Her “classmate” and friend, Christy Guinto, 40, meanwhile, has been a housemaid in Dubai for seven years. Guinto has prepared a business plan to organize a food business in her home province of Pampanga.
They are just two of the 800 domestic workers dabbling in finance and entrepreneurship, through an intensive six-month course offered in cities around the world as part of the Manila-based Ateneo School of Government's (Asog) outreach service called Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship (LSE) programme.
While the Jesuit-run institution charges tens of thousands of dirhams for their undergraduate and graduate courses in Manila, they charge a "token" fee of Dh350 from domestic workers in Dubai, where classes are run at the Philippine consulate.
Many of these workers attend through sponsorships.
Some 1,300 individuals already completed the LSE program since 2008, when it was launched in Rome, said Valenzuela.
A great majority of those who already completed the course in other cities — Hong Kong, Singapore, Milan, Rome — are household service workers.
"At least 800 of them are domestic workers," said Valenzuela, "and many from other cities like Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore — have gone home for good and started their own business after completing their business plan in our classes."
"Many of our students are really domestic workers — caregivers, shop assistants, restaurant workers, hotel workers. LSE has a lot of those," said Valenzuela. "In Dubai, many of those who joined the programme are non-domestic workers."
Dr. Mario Villaverde told their Dubai graduates: “The knowledge and practical skills that you acquired from the LSE course will be indispensible tools as you continue your lifelong journey as global citizens.”
“Seek for excellence, live and work with integrity, and support one another to grow and develop as future entrepreneurs,” he said.
Four groups in each batch were lauded for their respective business plans deemed both viable and socially relevant.
Some of the Dubai-incubated projects are quite promising.
The highlight of the event was the awarding of a "start-up" fund mechanism, through the Innovation Fund or I-Fund.
Pack Me of Batch 36 and Enerhiya Solutions and Technical Services of Batch 37 will receive a start-up fund of Dh4,000, and provided a business license extension for one year by Dagaz HR Consultancy, and will be assisted by BPO Consulting in managing their financial documentation.
Pack Me, an App-based courier service concept, relies on social network community. It was proposed by a four-member team with the youngest at 27 and the oldest at 30.
Enerhiya Solutions and Technical Services’ concept is to finance, develop and implement projects aimed at enhancing client’s energy efficiency and reducing energy-related expenditures, providing both economic and environmental benefits.
Three individuals also gave their graduation remarks.
It includes Cecilia Evangelista, a nanny for more than eight years in Dubai, who plans to go home for good in April 2017 to support the dress-making business of her mother using the tools she learnt from the LSE programme.
“I have also increased my social awareness to understand and respond to the needs of others. I am also self-assured that the business I will start is something I am passionate about,” she added.
Victor Manuel, who was celebrating his 41st birthday, expressed his utmost gratitude to ASoG, the Philippine Consulate, the Philippine Business Council-Dubai and Northern Emirates and the LSE Secretariat for the opportunity to experience how it is to graduate.
Manuel never went to college in the Philippines because he needed to work at a young age to support his parents.
He currently works as a visual merchandiser and has financed his sister with her college degree in the Philippines.
Administrative manager Arminda Armirol, who was one of the seven members of the practicum group, said that their business, Petshionista, a brand of fashionable pet wear, entail a lot of determination since she and two other partners who are also part of the practicum group work full time.
It is only on Fridays that they devote their time exclusively on their social enterprise.
“Together with my partners, Leo Barrameda and Emmie Garcia, we stepped out of our comfort zone and dared to risk. In life, you have to take risks to get ahead. The biggest risk will be the one you don’t take,” he further said.