The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) successfully launched its first-ever Virtual Volunteer web-based application in the Philippines at the PRC Tower Penthouse, Mandaluyong City. Together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Virtual Volunteer—the newest digital platform offers support to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their family members by providing information useful before considering migrating, while in abroad, and linking up with available services.
“This is a step in a right direction because it will provide power in the hands of those who want to go abroad. This whole thing is the power of knowledge. We want to give our people—those who want to migrate knowledge on their fingertips. Even before they go, they
know already what to do and what to expect,” PRC Secretary General Atty. Oscar Palabyab said.
The “Virtual Volunteer”—a source of verified local information that lives in any connected device aims to provide information to keep migrants safe and healthy at all stages of migration, provide information to OFWs and family members on available services, and provide information to PRC volunteers to help them engage with communities locally, contributing to delivering essential knowledge to people in every corner of the country. The Virtual Volunteer also provides reliable and unbiased information on what to do in case of emergency while in abroad, how to prepare to a new life abroad, and how to protect themselves from traffickers and abuse at any stage.
The web platform developed by the IFRC and tech giant International Business Machines (IBM) has already been rolled out in three countries: Greece, Sweden, Italy where it has been used by almost 30,000 people.
“This is not an application that has been launched overnight, this is the culmination of months and months, if not years of dedication and hardwork by the Philippine Red Cross and supported by ourselves and our important partners. We have launched this application
in Greece, Sweden, and in Italy, but this is the first-ever time outside Europe and the first time in Asia Pacific,” IFRC Asia Pacific Regional Office, Regional Migration Coordinator Atty. Ezekiel Simperingham said.
With a campaign, “Gabayanihan: Gabayan. Bayanihan. Kahit saan. Kahit kailan,” the launching ceremony emphasized the importance of the web-based application in delivering information to OFWs and those planning to go abroad.
The launching event was attended by PRC Secretary General Atty. Oscar Palabyab, IFRC Head of Delegation in the Philippines Chris Staines, IFRC APRO Regional Migration Coordinator Atty. Ezekiel Simperingham, IFRC Philippine Country Office Operations and Programmes Manager Patrick Elliott, IBM Philippines Albert Marqueses, PRC Welfare Service Manager Dr. Zenaida Beltejar, PRC local chapters, partner companies and organizations.
Migration in the Philippines
Migration report shows that more than 12 million Filipinos are working and living abroad. The growing volume of labor migration from the Philippines has increased the incidence of problems and challenges faced by migrants and their families.
“People going abroad do not usually know where to seek information and what available services they have. The right information can help them avoid falling in situations of abuse, exploitation, or traffickers. This web platform is a key in saving lives and building resilience. Having information easily accessible through a connected mobile phone is an easy, light way to prepare before going to a new country and access information once at destination,” said PRC Secretary General Atty. Oscar Palabyab.
PRC since day one has been supporting OFW cases through its Welfare Service, by making sure that humanitarian assistance will be delivered to the OFWs and their families.
“I always envisioned that one day, our OFWs will no longer have to leave the Philippines and their loved ones for better work abroad. More time with family means stronger relationship,”said Gordon.
What is in the Virtual Volunteer?
On the platform, users can find practical advice on what the Red Cross can do:
- What they need to know before they leave the country (how to find local support at destination, documents to bring, practical advice in the Philippines and in countries of destination, tips and more)
- Know information at destination (emergency contacts, where is the embassy, who they can call for help); and
- Information on what services are available for family members back home, offered by Red Cross and others, and connects people at any stages of migration with relevant services
PRC has also provided the following services:
- Psychosocial Support Program: OFWs and family members can contact the Red Cross for psychosocial support to cope with possible changes brought about by overseas employment of a family member.
- Home and School Visits:Visit of Red Cross personnel to the family of OFWs to ensure the family is doing alright in the absence of the OFW.
- Crisis Intervention: Support to OFWs’ families who are in crisis situations.
- Restoring Family Links: Reconnect family members who have lost contact with a loved one.
- Ambulance Service: Ambulance service for returning OFW in need will be provided· from the airport to the nearest hospital within Metro Manila.
- Referral: Refer people in need to other organizations for services which are not· within the scope of the Red Cross services
Virtual Volunteer will also provide frequently asked questions to be read by the OFWs when
facing difficult situations.
How to contact us:
- Philippine Red Cross Hotline: 143
- Trunkline: +63 (02) 790-2300 local 916
Just three steps to access the Virtual Volunteer web-based application: Connect to internet or wifi, visit www.virtualvolunteer.org and lastly, get help and be informed.
Putting together information in the hands of OFWs and their families is more accessible and a necessity to cross communication barriers and allow access to more relevant services.