Nora Torres, left and Ericke Hernandez Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: On Thursday, first-time dad Ericke Sergie Hernandez signed his termination letter as an office boy.

His outlook is bright, his confidence strong, and his hopes high: The end of a six-month entrepreneurship course, due the next day, will open doors for him.

Hernandez was laid off due to a market slowdown after working as an office boy for two years in Abu Dhabi. The Filipino expat has come a long way from first working as a janitor in Saudi Arabia.

The self-taught Arabic speaker jumped from cleaning floors to waiting tables and then became an assistant supervisor. His grit and determination led him to work in Dubai as an office boy.


students completed the course in UAE from 2013 to 2019

On Friday, he graduated from a six-month programme called ‘Alse of Life’, or ‘Alse Overseas Filipinos Leadership, Innovation, Financial Literacy and Social Entrepreneurship’.

“Life has been tough,” the 25-year-old told Gulf News. “But I refuse to give up. I worked my way up in Saudi Arabia, learned Arabic to show my boss I could do more.”

“Through the ‘Alse of Life’ programme, I was able to put my days off to good use, learning how to make business plans, financial management, and other endeavours. I expanded my network and met new friends. It was truly a much-needed self-improvement programme.”


Graduating with Hernandez is Nora Torres, a nanny working in Dubai for the past five years. A former accounting clerk in the Philippines, Torres was forced to work in Dubai as a maid to help make ends meet back home.

The programme helped expand her perspective on life and widen her dreams.

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Graduates from AUH

“I learned to save for my future, for my family. I learned that it is okay to say no so you can better manage your finances,” said Torres.

“Now, I am going to save for the next two to three years so I can finish building our house back home and I can put up a small eatery and retail business in the province.”

Hernandez and Torres are just two of the 116 graduates of the ‘Alse Of Life’ programme on Friday that targeted overseas Filipinos, many of whom work in ‘three or four’ type of jobs, usually perceived by some as “dirty, demeaning, de-skilling or dangerous”.

“With the skills they acquired from the programme, starting with leadership skills, which empower them to view themselves as agents of change and transformation, financial education, both are concepts and skills that they can use to improve their economic security particularly in retirement and or integration back into the Philippines,” said Leopoldo Garcia, Programme Head of Alse of Life (UAE).

Entrepreneurial skills

“The entrepreneurial skills focused on social entrepreneurship so that OFW’s can explore their potential for changing their livelihood options, either in the host country or back in the Philippines instead of relying solely on paid employment,” Garcia added.

Garcia said he is confident the students will be able to turn their lives around in a few years which is what their other graduates have so far done.

“We have many graduates who are already back in our country and start their own businesses and I can mention one which is close to me. She is a graduate of Batch 36 in 2017.

"She returned to the Philippines and she started to pursue her passion for fashion. Right now, she is joining mall trade exhibitions showcasing her dress designs. Her name is Cecil Evangelista.”

As many as 542 students have completed the course in the UAE from 2013 to 2019.

The programme is also being held in about 12 countries and 22 cities across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.