Filipinos are Heroes for Better in the Middle East

Western Union Honors 25 Migrants in its Heroes for Better Campaign

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 10, 2015 /PRNewswire –Western Union has been serving Filipinos for 25 years. From 1990, Filipino workers deployed overseas were estimated at over 400,000* to over 10 million** in 2013, Western Union’s Filipino users have entrusted their hard earned money sent through our channels to reach their families and loved ones. As a company that helps many Filipinos to move money around the world, we have a special insight into this population and the unique, heroic qualities that they embody. It is for this reason that Western Union embarked on a campaign to recognize heroic efforts of Filipino migrants.

In the past, Western Union has been involved in supporting and sponsoring Filipino community activities, such as: Barrio Fiestas, Independence Day celebrations, Christmas celebrations and reaching out to the Filipino diaspora through ethnic publications and promotions. This year, as it celebrates its 25th year of providing service in the Philippines, Western Union takes its commitment to Filipinos a step further through the “Heroes for Better” campaign. It is a campaign that recognizes and celebrates the efforts of Filipinos around the world who, in their own way, have given their time, resources, skill and/or expertise to make a positive change. The campaign aims to showcase them as role models to inspire others to follow their examples to help create a better world. Western Union, with the help of the Commission on Filipino Overseas, handpicked 25 Filipino migrant heroes around the world. Here are the stories of Six Filipinos in the Middle East who have dedicated their lives for something other than themselves.

MARY JANE AL-MAHDI came from Olongapo City, Philippines and moved to Dubai, UAE.

With success comes great responsibility. While Mary Jane Al-Mahdi already wears many hats, being a multi-awarded engineer and businesswoman, reaching out to her fellow migrant Filipinos is still one of her main priorities.

Determined by her passion to lead and inspire people, Mary Jane established the Filipino Digerati Association (FDA) to bring education and skills improvement to the forefront. With the goal of empowering overseas Filipino workers, the organization provides free computer courses and workshops on entrepreneurship and livelihood programs to enhance their skills and widen their horizons. Aware of the difficulties many faced being away from home, Mary Jane also hopes to equip her students with knowledge and confidence to prepare them for future return migration and reintegration to the Philippines.

As of today, FDA has already helped over 15,000 Filipino migrant workers progress and broaden their work opportunities, but this is not the end of Mary Jane’s life work. She is devoted to bringing honor to her country and leading her fellow Filipinos in building a better future.

JULIETA SOLAShails from Jaro, Iloilo, Philippines and moved to Dubai, UAE.

Julieta first arrived in the UAE in 1984 and worked at the Rashid Hospital as a staff nurse at the Male Neuro-Surgical Ward. Since then, she has been transferred between several departments and eventually was promoted to become the Unit-in-Charge of Pediatric at the Latifa Hospital.

A registered nurse based in Dubai, UAE who has been devoting her time and skills to extend help to others, Julieta has been a Filipino Community leader for 20 years and organized leadership trainings, sport activities and mass wedding programs. She also volunteers in community work whenever a medical team is required.

All her hard work and kindheartedness have not gone unnoticed. She received the Dubai Government Excellence Award in May 14, 2007 from HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice President of UAE and Ruler of Dubai. She was also recognized as a Women of Substance by the Illustrado Magazine and awarded with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Kabayan Weekly in 2013. Julieta was recently named as one of the Top Ten Most Inspiring Nurses in the United Arab Emirates.

BENNETTE CUETO is originally from San Teodoro, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines and moved to Doha, Qatar

The youngest girl among 11 children, Bennette Cueto was born with a generous heart. Even at an early age, she started taking part-time jobs to help her parents to finance schooling for her and her siblings. Apart from becoming a working student, she also started helping underprivileged families by becoming a volunteer worker for the Focolare International Lay Movement.

In 2003, after attending a seminar in Italy for the organization, Bennette was blessed with an opportunity of a lifetime and was offered a position at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Qatar. But working abroad did not stop her from helping her fellowmen back home. Bennette became one of the founding members of the Oriental Mindoro Association Qatar (OMAQ) – an organization created primarily to assist distressed Filipinos in Qatar. She also started granting scholarships to a few deserving students from her hometown in Oriental Mindoro.

Fueled by what she believes to be an integral step to achieving more in life, Bennette continuously focuses on finding sponsors to provide education for more and more students. To her, volunteerism is a vocation that stems from the desire to lead a significant life for others.

HENGIE TATON left Negros Occidental, Philippines and moved to Hadiya, Kuwait

Hengie Taton has always dreamed of working abroad as a nurse to give back to the family who adopted and took care of him as a child. And as fate would have it, he accidentally came upon a job posting abroad.

Currently working as a nurse and rescue personnel in the Middle East, Hengie has seen some of the most tragic incidents, which led him to realize how fortunate he was. He thus became engaged in different charitable activities that cater to the needs of Filipinos in the Middle East. Through his active involvement in organizations such as the Pinoy Ambulance Nurses in Kuwait (PANIK) and the Pinoy Nurses Association – Kuwait (PNA-K), he has helped many distressed Filipino workers recover from their grim experiences.

As part of the charity work infused back to the Philippines, the groups (PANIK and PNA-K) organized relief operations for victims of Typhoons Pablo and Yolanda. Fund assistance was also sent to Aklan Province in the Philippines for the construction of a classroom in an elementary school. For the less privileged in Antique Province in the Philippines, he likewise initiated “Anita’s Kitchen”, a rolling cart producing food for undernourished children of the province.

MARIO BALBOA left his hometown in San Fernando, La Union, Philippines and moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

A natural leader in his own right, Mario Balboa has headed some of the biggest companies in and outside the Philippines. But more than just being an accomplished engineer, he is also a man for others.

As an officer of several professional organizations in Saudi Arabia, Mario strives to protect the rights and look after the development of Filipino professionals in the country. Through his involvement in these groups, he has endeavored to promote and showcase the skills and talents that are unique to Filipinos around the world.

His simple idea of linking civic, professional and cultural Filipino organizations gave birth to a landmark accomplishment in January 2014 with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding institutionalizing the official collaboration of the Saudi Council of Engineers and the Philippine Council of Engineers and Architects (PCEA) for the welfare of Filipino professionals, particularly engineers and architects. PCEA is the only Filipino umbrella organization recognized by the Philippine Professional Regulation Commission and Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.

This memorandum has become an effective medium for various groups of Filipinos to legitimately exist and operate in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

ASMA VALMONTEleft her home in La Union, Philippines and moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

They say that if you truly want something, the universe will conspire to make it happen.

It has always been Asma Valmonte’s dream to provide a better life for her family and to give back to poverty-stricken communities in the Philippines. Despite her personal struggles, she did not waver. Instead, she decided to work as a tutor in Saudi Arabia with hopes of achieving her philanthropic vision. Fast forward to 2013, what was once a dream has finally started to come to fruition.

With the support of her fellow Filipino migrants, Asma founded the Bacnotan Global Alliance to help improve the lives of underprivileged Filipinos back home. Since its creation in January 2013, the group has already sent four (4) students to college, and has initiated several other health and education projects.

These are just six of the 25 migrants that Western Union has honored during the “Heroes for Better” campaign. The background, professions and advocacies of the 25 Heroes for Better are diverse, but their compassion and dedication to serve others are qualities that are distinct to all the heroes.

“You don’t have to be economically well-off or highly educated in order to make a difference. These are really ordinary folks that have actioned towards specific causes and became heroes.” shares Patricia Riingen, Senior Vice President, South East Asia & Oceania, Western Union. “It is our sincere hope that the accomplishments of these Filipinos will inspire others to follow their example of taking positive action towards a better nation and eventually, a better world.”

*POEA 2004 report, http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/philippines-culture-migration

**Commission on Filipinos Overseas, 2013 Compendium of Statistics on International Migration

About Western Union
The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU) is a leader in global payment services. Together with its Vigo, Orlandi Valuta, Pago Facil and Western Union Business Solutions branded payment services, Western Union provides consumers and businesses with fast, reliable and convenient ways to send and receive money around the world, to send payments and to purchase money orders. As of September 30, 2015, the Western Union, Vigo and Orlandi Valuta branded services were offered through a combined network of over 500,000 agent locations in 200 countries and territories and over 100,000 ATMs and kiosks, and included the capability to send money to millions of bank accounts. In 2014, The Western Union Company completed 255 million consumer-to-consumer transactions worldwide, moving $85 billion of principal between consumers, and 484 million business payments. For more information, visit www.westernunion.com.