Philippines: Carry me back?

UGAT Foundation was established by the Jesuits in the Philippines to work with very poor families, so poor that some member or other leaves the country to find work. With four Jesuits on its board, four permanent staff and 150 volunteers (100 in the Philippines and 50 outside), UGAT offers counselling and psychotherapeutic help to migrants and their families both at home and abroad [HL20304]. Formerly aimed at Overseas Filipino Workers (OWF) working abroad temporarily to increase family incomes, the service has been extended to Overseas Filipinos in white-collar jobs, also experiencing homesickness and alienation. Work away from home is not only filled with the pain of separation and loneliness, but is seen as ?dirty, demeaning, dangerous and deadly?. Why do they go? The obvious answer is to earn more. 6.2 million workers are currently employed abroad in 26 countries. Fr Tanalega SJ, President of UGAT, takes their problems head-on as he tries to help them articulate their values and their pain. ?Actually? he says ?there is a long list of migrant problems from the feedback we have heard and collected, e.g. abuse, infighting among themselves and loneliness? but adds that ?the dependency issue has remained both un-analyzed and unresolved?, referring to the chronic and debilitating problem of dependency of the remaining family, which places a lot of burden on the OFW. At a Parent?s Recollection Day with families of OFW, he was able to elicit responses to questions like what really constitutes love (a bigger chequebook?), who really decides whether and who should go abroad to work, why does a migrant often not return, what anxieties beset those who go and those who remain, and how does such long term separation affect the family. He speaks of a ?group angst? that emerged. Migration generates problems of various kinds for both those who depart and those who stay home; the ?money-order economy? creates as many difficulties as it solves. Fr Tanalega and UGAT reflect on these at the same time that they help the people affected. [HL40605] Fr Nilo E. Tanalega SJ. UGAT Foundation, President. ntanaleg@admu.edu.ph