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Compassionate Technology

A Letter from Cathy Chang and Juan Lopez, serving in the Philippines

June 2019

Write to Cathy Chang
Write to Juan Lopez Carrasco 

Individuals: Give online to E200533 for Cathy Chang and Juan Lopez’ sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507588 for Cathy Chang and Juan Lopez’ sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery)

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Imagine you are an overseas Filipino worker (OFW). You are living hundreds of miles away in Hong Kong or Singapore, maybe thousands of miles away in the Middle East or in the United States. You are working hard and are trying to manage the debts to pay back the many people and companies who helped you to go abroad in the first place. With what is left, you manage to eat, to sleep and to live. You save as much of your hard-earned money as you can to send back to your loved ones back home.

Can you ensure that your child’s school fees will be paid on time? Could you pay for groceries for family members in the Philippines? While you are serving in the home of your employer, what would you do if they refused to provide adequate food and rest? Even worse, what if that employer sexually harassed or assaulted you? Who could you turn to? How would you get help? Could technology put you in touch with compassionate people who could respond quickly and effectively?

Enter Compass PH. In November 2017, CompassionatePH Technology, Inc., or Compass PH for short, was launched. It serves as a tool, community and companion for migrant workers and their families to connect with programs and services from the private sector, as well as immediate assistance and rescue during emergency situations. The founders of Compass PH — young people who are savvy in media and technology and share a deep love for the Philippines and its people — believe that compassion and technology can work together. They launched the tool based on wish lists created by Filipino migrants attending orientation seminars before departing to work abroad.

While preparing for our Filipino National Migrants Summit on April 29, our team of co-organizers expanded to include Compass PH in the person of Nar Reyes. We chose the date of April 29, 2019 because we were mindful of the four-year anniversary of Mary Jane Veloso being granted temporary reprieve from her execution in Indonesia. While Mary Jane was traveling to what she thought was a job, her recruiter planted drugs in one of her bags. As a result, Mary Jane was guilty of drug trafficking. Her job recruiters are still on trial in the Philippines, but Mary Jane’s testimony is barred from the trial. During the summit, we shared our ongoing solidarity with her and her family and discussed the current state of all Filipino migrant workers.

Our national summit was also a few days from the May 13 midterm elections for Senate, Congress, provincial government, city mayors and council leaders. Many of our Filipino friends were hoping for politicians who would address the very conditions that are driving people to work abroad, such as poverty and education.

We were excited to bring Nar and the Compass PH organization on board for the summit and our work together, especially since we made some attempts to do something similar in March 2018. At that time, we tried to begin mapping out the locations of various Filipino churches, programs and services available to migrants. With Post-it notes, pushpins and a tarpaulin map, we did our best at asset mapping. With its technological capabilities and functionality, Compass PH was able to help upgrade us from the tarpaulin to Google maps, and from an informal to a more integrated referral network.

Recently, I sat down with Nar to ask him more questions, and, in turn, to share his responses with a wider audience. Like many Filipino families, Nar’s family members have experienced living, working and marrying outside of the Philippines. Nar’s father worked in the Middle East as a purchasing agent, primarily from when Nar was a toddler until around when he was in fifth grade. Nar remembers receiving balikbayan boxes — a Filipino version of care packages. The word “balikbayan” means “overseas Filipinos.” About every three months, Nar received toys and gadgets, while his mother and sister received clothes and perfumes. Every other year, his father visited during summer vacation so that they could enjoy family time.

Because of his father’s extended time working abroad, Nar never felt close to his father. That distance was only bridged later, when Nar was a young adult. Nar’s father returned to the Philippines by the time Nar was a teen. When after Nar graduated from college his father fell ill and was recovering from a stroke, Nar became one of his caregivers. From that extra time together, their father-son relationship was gradually rebuilt.

While working at a BPO (business process outsourcing) company, Nar and a small group of co-workers realized that they all shared the desire for a closer relationship with family members who were working abroad. Together they developed and launched Compass PH. In the short time since it was founded in 2017, Compass PH has gained 46 partners in 18 countries and about 12,500 Facebook followers, with about 10% of those followers using the app.

Nar started as a volunteer, but six months ago he became the sole full-time employee of Compass PH. He still works with a team of other volunteers who help identify and research potential partners and manage ongoing operations. Nar often makes presentations to prospective partners and finalizes the terms of partnership with them. He also presents information to migrant workers who are attending pre-departure orientation seminars. Nar is on call to respond to the queries of migrant workers.

Given his work experience of late nights at a call center, his current on-call work with migrants and their families, and his personal experience of having a father who worked abroad, I can see why Nar is committed to this potentially life-saving work.

Thanks to the SOS emergency button on the Compass PH app, Juliana received assistance when her new employer was verbally and physically abusing her. Juliana’s aunt knew about the situation and reached out to Compass PH on her behalf. Compass PH helped her aunt file a repatriation request for Juliana with the appropriate government agencies. After Juliana returned home, Compass PH introduced her to volunteers from Migrante Philippines, a migrant-serving organization that helped Juliana file a case against her employer and recruitment agency.

As we move forward with Compass PH as our newest partner, it is our hope that we can find better and stronger ways to bring together churches and organizations to communicate with one another, in the Philippines and wherever overseas Filipino workers need their programs and services. Technology is connecting migrant workers and their families, and we hope to continue to serve them before, during and after they return to the Philippines.

We’re grateful to God that technology has enabled us to stay connected and to share updates like these about our family, as well as about our work in the Philippines and around Asia. Juan continues to use his fun-filled and faithful leadership to serve youth and children, through creative, and when necessary, therapeutic games. Aurelie has finished the first grade and is now enjoying summer vacation. Thank you for your prayers for our family and partners like Compass PH. Thank you for your financial support that makes possible these partnerships that support and protect migrant workers and their families.

Cathy and Juan

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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