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Helping Overseas Workers in Singapore Achieve Their Financial Goals


At the age of 23, Elaine Pacapac, a single mother with two young daughters who grew up in the Philippine province of Cavite, sought employment in Singapore as a domestic helper to give her children a better life. 11 years later, Elaine is still a domestic helper in Singapore but also a small business owner. With her support, her three sisters in Cavite help her run a profitable mini-grocery and she is now in the process of setting up another small business – a photocopying and printing shop.

Asked how she got to where she is now, Elaine fondly refers to her experience as part of the 2013 Citi-ASKI Overseas Workers Financial Stability Program. Introduced in 2012 and supported by the Citi Foundation, the program equips overseas workers, primarily Filipino domestic helpers, with financial and entrepreneurial knowledge and skills to help them achieve their financial goals, build assets and improve their livelihoods. The program is also offered to overseas workers from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Indonesia. In addition to financial support, Citi volunteers have also been helping to teach some of the financial education classes on Sundays.

“Before taking up the course, I didn’t know how to manage my earnings,” Elaine, who now saves 30% of her monthly salary, recently recalled. “After sending money back to the Philippines, I would buy stuff I didn’t really need. But since I started studying financial planning, I realized that I shouldn’t be spending my money that way. Managing money is important for the future.”

As overseas workers often remit most of their earnings back home, the Program also extends to family members back home so they can better manage the funds they receive. Upon completing the program, Elaine took out a microloan from ASKI Philippines. Drawing on the loan in combination with some personal savings enabled her to set up her new business venture. Meanwhile, her sisters still in the Philippines also attended the Program. Their discussions quickly evolved from strictly domestic concerns to budgets, daily earnings, and managing expenses for both business and family.

“With the grocery store, my family does not have to wait for my remittances each month,” Elaine said, clearly proud of reaping the benefits of her hard work and determination. “Even if it’s a little late, it’s okay.”

Paying it forward, Elaine is now an active volunteer leader and team teacher in the Citi-ASKI Overseas Workers Program, helping her peers achieve economic empowerment and more productive careers.

On Sunday, April 3, Elaine celebrated with more than 100 participants in the 2015 program as they officially graduated from the Citi-ASKI Global Overseas Workers Stability Program. Held at the National University of Singapore, the graduates were celebrated at a ceremony attended by the Philippine Ambassador to Singapore, His Excellency Antonio A. Morales, Labor Counselor for the Bangladesh High Commission Ayesha Shelley and ASKI Global Chief Executive Officer Irma L. Cosico.

Having been a Citi Volunteer and champion for the Program since its inception, I’ve seen first-hand how much it has helped its graduates improve not just their own lives and prospects but also those of their families. The goal is for overseas workers to empower themselves through financial knowledge and gain financial independence and reunite with their families back home. It is also important to ensure that when they eventually return home, their years of hard work and hard earned money will not go to waste. Only when overseas workers and their family members can act on the same financial knowledge and share the same vision can there be positive transformation and progress for the whole family.

The program has benefited over 768 overseas workers in Singapore. Last year, it expanded to include an Advanced Financial Education Course covering personal finance, investments and insurance. Digital learning materials were also introduced to complement classroom lectures to facilitate a continuous and sustained learning process.

By Margie Pagdanganan, Citi Private Bank Singapore Investment Centre Head, first posted on The Citi Blog (13 April 2016)

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