Giselle Cholett an OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers) in Switzerland has launched her own charitable foundation naming it “Little Hopes. “The launch took place in Sultan Macalpang D. Permites Central School, Matungao District, Lanao del Norte on Saturday.
The initial distribution by the charity included approximately two hundred (200) packages of basic school supplies such as notebooks, colored paper crayons and pencils.
The recipients were kindergarten to grade school students whose parents are Internally Displaced Person’s (IDPs) who were affected by the 5-month siege in Marawi City.
Like any other IDP’s Giselle a native of Pikit, North Cotabato recalls, that during her school days the fighting between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was close to her residence that her family, as well as neighbors had to move multiple times to remain safe.
Many of them lived in a makeshift mass shelters where access to necessities like clean water and electricity was nearly non-existent and availability of basic commodities was sporadic at best.
Despite her family’s challenging living conditions, Giselle pursued her dream to get a college degree and find a good paying job to make the lives of her parents and siblings much easier.
After earning her degree, Giselle sought and found a job in Manila at AcNeilsen Marketing research for 189 pesos a day as her income wherein it failed to meet the needs of her family. In order for her to secure a modest, yet safe and decent standard of living in their community she applied for a work visa in Canada. Unfortunately, her visa was denied.
Despite holding a college degree Giselle swallowed her pride and accepted an offer from overseas employment agency in Hongkong as a domestic helper hoping that this would be her gateway to Canada.
Unluckily, her “dream” turned into a nightmare.
Giselle was mistreated in unimaginable ways by her employer. Her work day began by 6:00 am and ran continuously until 11:00 pm. She was often fed with a small piece of bread for her meals. She was made to scrub floors with harsh chemicals without a mask or gloves for protection. Doors were locked to prevent her escape and her salary was withheld. She survived, thanks to the kindness of other domestic helper who left scraps of food for her near the garbage can. Even then, Giselle had to sneak the food into the house in her underwear.
When asked “why didn’t you try to run away?” Giselle says it would left her with no income at all and she would have been terminated, lose her visa, and be sent back to the Philippines. That would end her dream of fleeing to Canada where she knew her life would improve and her ability to help her family would grow dramatically. She refused to give up this dream no matter how difficult her life was at that moment.
When her employment agency found out of how she was mistreated by her employer they filed a suit against them. Giselle then was given a new employer in Hongkong still as a domestic helper. Life was more promising this time. She slowly was able to fill the needs of her family and was able to support her sibling’s education.
During her journey as an OFW in Hongkong Giselle met the man she wanted to build her life with.
Now happily married and content that her dream is turning into reality, Gisell felt that this was the right time to share her blessings and help other people; especially children in need and decided to start her own charitable foundation which she named “Little Hopes.”
LITTLE as defined by Gisell are the “LITTLE” things that a child wishes for and the little bit of help that she can extend in her small way. ‘ HOPES’ is for a child’s desire and determination for a dream that, like her own, really, can come true.
# Irma Boza/now-pinay