Cross post from http://www.abs-cbnnews.com
MANILA, Philippines - Myrna Padilla spent nearly 20 years working as a domestic helper in Singapore and Hong Kong, and returned to the Philippines to successfully start her own web design and development company.
Her experiences as an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) served as the inspiration for her company, Mynd Consulting, to develop an OFW Watch Android mobile application service. The app serves as a tool for OFWs to "empower themselves and give them the capacity to help each other."
The OFW Watch is an online monitoring and reporting system for OFWs, who would want to update their family members of their whereabouts and other concerns. Users can update the OFW Watch service through their mobile phones if they do not have their own computers.
"I see this as a way to prevent exploitation of our kababayans abroad. By using social media, we’ll be able to link together OFWs and help them whenever we can. This is also a way for me to aid the kind of people who, like me, have also toiled to get their families out of poverty," Padilla said.
The Davao-based Mynd Consulting was recently made a member of the Philippine Software Industry Association (PSIA).
During the PSIA's 4th general membership meeting in December, Padilla shared her story - from growing up in a poor fishing village in Laoay, Bohol to her experience working as a domestic helper overseas.
As a child, Padilla would swim daily in the sea to collect seaweeds and seashells to sell. The money would be used to buy food for her family.
"Life was never easy but my family and I learned how to survive. But I thought that we shouldn’t be living like this for the rest of our lives. I knew that only by moving away would we ever change our lives," she said.
In 1988, Padilla began working as a domestic helper in Singapore and later Hong Kong. She was sad to leave her family, especially her two children, in the Philipipnes.
"If Filipinos back home heard how difficult life was for domestic helpers working abroad, they would not have wanted to leave, but the other domestic helpers also understood that going home was not an option so they had to put up with all the hardships," she said.
She noted many domestic helpers in Hong Kong were homesick, while others even suffered abuse from their employers. This prompted her to establish the Mindanao Hong Kong Workers’ Federation.
At this time, she began learning to use the Internet as a way to keep in touch with her family, and taught other OFWs to do the same. "It changed a lot of things in my life and I saw it as a great equalizer, especially my kababayans," she said.
Padilla decided to venture into business, opening her first business process outsourcing company Mynd Tech Management Services (later becoming Mynd Consulting) in 2006. She also founded the International Federation of OFWs and Families in 2008 and later became the vice president of the Davao Software Industry, Inc.
With her work in software development and for OFWs, Padilla was tapped as an advisor for the OWWA Microsoft Tulay, a livelihood training program for returning OFWs, and named the first global ambassador of the Telecentre.org’s Digital Literacy Campaign.