Monday, February 11, 2008

Building Bridges

May-an Villalba, Director of Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation, Named Philippines Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2007 in Ernst & Young Competition

From Business World:

Maria Angela Villalba, Executive Director of Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation was cited for applying a practical, innovative, and market-oriented approach to her business through creation of products and services that address the challenges faced by communities, help solve complex social problems, and benefit the marginalized and the poor. She was given the Social Entrepreneur category award. She links migration of Overseas Filipino Workers to local community development by harnessing migrants’ resources through credit programs and eventually investing these in local social enterprises or commercial operations such as in a coco coir plant, a rice center, milling, and palay trading business.

Ms. Villalba was first exposed to the plight of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) when she worked in Hong Kong as a Training and Organizing Consultant. She observed the behavior and learned about the pressing concerns of migrant workers, bringing these to the attention of her Korean boss.

Her involvement with migrant issues eventually led to the creation of the Asian Migrants Center (AMC) and she became its first director. AMC focused on helping abused migrants and assisting them in their legal requirements. What struck her was that in each of the cases that she handled, the abused migrants would choose to stay and search for a new employer. "We had very interesting cases where the women were clearly abused but were not willing to come home. I can only imagine the kind of trauma that they had. I would ask, ’What would it take to help you go home?’ They would answer, ’We would lose face with our family. We would lose face in our community. What is there to go home to?’."

Because of this recurring phenomenon, Ms. Villalba sought to create a program for migrant workers to help them build long-term assets back home. She also prepared savings and investment studies about migrant communities in Hong Kong and Malaysia. She took her cause to the United Nations where she was able to help draw better policies for migrants all over the world.

After conducting the studies, Ms. Villalba finally formed the Migrant Savings and Alternative Investment for Community Development and Reintegration (MSAI-CDR) development model. Migrants of different nationalities were grouped together.

Unlad Kabayan gives an MSAI training to women from a Davao community.

In 1996, she launched Unlad Kabayan in the Philippines with the MSAI-CDR development model at its core. Ms. Villalba then formed partnerships with local cooperatives to perform studies on what types of businesses are most suitable for investment. The first $100,000 of migrant savings was invested in a shoe factory in Cebu. A campaign to convince Filipino migrants to invest in local businesses in their hometowns also followed.

Lolita Tocayon's candy and toy-making business is one of the credit program's most diligent borrowers.

Unlad Kabayan concentrates its operations in poor communities in the Philippines. This in turn presents benefits for all the parties involved. Migrant workers invest in a business that they can manage when they retire or when they decide to return home. The investments are welcomed enthusiastically by the community. Local residents are provided with jobs and the community can progress economically.

At present, the organization is incubating five businesses in different communities nationwide. These include P7-8 million in assets ($171,500
to $200,000 US) in a coco plant, a rice center, milling, and palay trading business. In the next four years, Unlad Kabayan is set to support farming communities with new agricultural technology, crop and livestock production techniques, and farm credit.

May-an Villalba (center) at the awards ceremony

The success of Unlad Kabayan signals a very crucial shift in the common belief that there is little hope left for the Philippines. Ms. Villalba has demonstrated that social entrepreneurship can link people and their dreams; that there is hope in alleviating poverty. Unlad Kabayan bridges two of Philippine society’s significant yet under-represented sectors — OFWs and impoverished communities — by harnessing migrants’ resources, investing these wisely in communities and that, in turn, developing the local economy.

Congratulations to

*Visit Unlad's website for more information on the innovative services they offer

Related articles

Cooking Up Profit- Social Entrepreneurship as a Key to Development in the Philippines

International Labor Migration & Remittances in the Philippines

International Labor Migration & Human Trafficking

No comments:

Post a Comment