DOST iFWD PH: An OFW’s Flight to Conquer Plight

The COVID-19 pandemic which terrified our nation, just like the rest of the world, has brought daunting challenges to everyone including the Filipino migrant workers. Our country, which is known as one of the major sources of labor supply worldwide, has identified this health crisis as economically destructive, leaving massive job losses and repatriation of millions of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) across the globe.

Due to strict border controls and lockdowns in many countries, OFWs were displaced and forced to return home as the situation worsened in the middle of 2020. Eventually, this not only triggered emotional and psychological distress among the workers, but also dropped the country’s employment rate and socio-economic position.

Pre-Departure and Take Off
Steering hopes to address the effects of the pandemic which became particularly more difficult to every OFW, the DOST-spearheaded by the DOST-National Capital Region (DOST-NCR), has laid down one of its programs to bring forth immediate solution to the difficult situation of the OFWs. This tech-based solution is dubbed as the “Innovation for Filipinos Working Distantly from the Philippines” or iFWD PH.

After several planning sessions and consultations, the DOST iFWD PH Program was launched at the height of the pandemic in May 2020. Its major objective is the provision of opportunities for displaced and repatriated OFWs and their families in establishing business enterprises anchored on science, technology, and innovation.

Initially, there were 98 migrant workers nationwide who braved the call to board the momentous flight in 2020 towards a better future here in the Philippines. Another 40 and 42 workers also took the journey in 2021 and in the present year, respectively.

Just like having layovers during air flights, the Program is designed to be implemented in two (2) phases – (1) Capacity Building wherein various core business development training, business plan development and conceptualization are provided; and (2) Innovation Funding wherein an innovation-enabling fund (iFund) is provided to the OFW-owned enterprise for product development, laboratory testing, technical consultancy needs, trainings, packaging and labelling design, and equipment acquisition.

As they took off for ascent, members of the Entrepinoy Volunteers Foundation Inc. (EVFI) served as technology-based entrepreneurship advisors as well as resource persons, and DOST-NCR staff served as ‘shepherds’ of the OFWs as they officially kickstarted their journey with iFWD PH. Attached DOST research and development institutes also introduced DOST-developed technologies that the OFWs may adopt in their chosen businesses.

On the very first day of September 2022, a total of forty-five (45) valiant Filipino passengers from various countries finally landed at the Novotel Manila in Araneta City, Cubao to celebrate the milestones of the iFWD PH Program.

By: Shaira Rapisora, SCCU

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