Philippine shelter in UAE offers women new skills to make a fresh start

DUBAI // Dozens of women at a labour office shelter are kept busy learning new skills to help them overcome their New Skillstrauma and slowly regain their confidence.

The women, mostly housemaids, have spent weeks at the Filipino Workers Resource Centre in Dubai after fleeing their employers because of lack of food and sleep, maltreatment, overwork or non-payment.

“When they arrive here, you see them often staring into space, feeling like there’s no hope,” said Delmer Cruz, the labour attache in Dubai.

“So we do not focus primarily on the economic dimension of reintegration. We need to address their psycho-emotional needs first. We try to make them feel good about themselves.”

A human resources consultancy company has developed modules on “self-awareness, self-discovery and self-recovery” and “unleashing your potential”.

Its owner, Cristina Calaguian, runs the sessions along with two other volunteers.

“We try to build their confidence and not dwell on the negative things,” said Jerry Selayro, 35, a human resources professional who spent eight years in recruitment.

“They suffered from various traumatic experiences which often develop into a badly tarnished self-image, so we encourage them to plan their life. Many of them have been sexually abused. One maid said her head was shaved by her employer to punish her for being flirtatious.”

Mr Selayro and his brother Jec, 22, conduct psycho-emotional sessions at the shelter at least twice a month.

After the sessions, the next step is to provide other skills apart from housekeeping, then convert those skills into livelihood opportunities by generating business ideas, Mr Cruz said.

Trainers from the non-profit Filipino Digerati Association are on hand to assist the women in massage therapy and reflexology.

“We would like to help them earn some income and develop their own business,” said Wilfren Papaya, 32, a quality engineer in Dubai and the group’s president.

Digerati will also offer training on dressmaking, balloon-making and cosmetology so the women can start their own business when they return to the Philippines.

Another group, 3K, made up of housemaids, is teaching the women the craft of making accessories. They create earrings, bracelets and necklaces made of beads.

“I’m fortunate to have good employers who are very supportive,” said Annabelle Caser, 39, a housemaid in Dubai. “They allow me to take some time off to teach the women.”

Free training on hair, make-up, nail art, hand-painting, candle-making, photography, and mobile maintenance and troubleshooting, will also be offered.

The Philippine overseas labour office in Dubai offers an orientation programme for the women on ways they can access the government’s various services.

“Balik Pinay, Balik Hanapbuhay” aims to provide training to generate a means of livelihood back home for the women after their work abroad.

Other activities include group counselling on personality development, regular health check-ups by the Philippine Health Care Professionals group, and promoting a healthy lifestyle through aerobics, Zumba, ball games and more from the HerBraveTaste.

A similar shelter in Abu Dhabi that houses runaway housemaids plans to provide a secretarial training course, crocheting and cross-stitching, and various arts and crafts.

“These women need to be kept busy and productive during their idle time,” said Angel Borja Jr, the labour attache in Abu Dhabi.

“We’re now stepping up our reintegration programme to ensure they make the most of their time here.”

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