In June 2019, Shaun Rodriguez was caught in a drug buy bust operation in Cebu. Shaun has been a progressive prohibited drug user for over five years but it was the first time he landed behind bars.
The experience was a wake up call that jolted Shaun into leaving his past and starting anew. With the help of Project New Life, a joint digital training initiative of Globe Telecom and Davao-based social enterprise Virtualahan, he found a career in creating digital arts and eventually became a coach for graphic design at Virtualahan starting November 2019 where he shares his knowledge and stories with other recovering drug dependents like Klein and Zendie.
“I will be forever grateful to Globe and Virtualahan for truly helping me start a new life. I admit to have made wrong decisions in the past but joining the Virtualahan training has become one of the best decisions I made. Daghang salamat!,” said Klein who currently works as a customer service agent in Cebu.
Zendie, who is now an administrative assistant, also shares Klein’s feelings. “Now I can do better!” I’m grateful to Virtualahan and Globe for taking a risk on me, on us. I’m also grateful to our coaches for not only sharing their knowledge but also for the patience and understanding and for guiding us every step of the way. I just didn’t learn about digital skills but also about life. I have now a new perspective towards the word ‘impact’,” she said.
Project New Life is a pioneering project in the Philippines that provides aftercare and reintegration support to recovering or former drug dependents in Cebu City by equipping them with skills and mindset to become competitive employees and entrepreneurs using the equalizing power of technology.
Globe and Virtualahan started working on the project together last year to help drug dependents who were brought to the New Life Center, the first-of-its-kind drug rehabilitation and treatment center in Pinamungajan, Cebu which Globe constructed and turned over to the Cebu provincial government in June 2019. The facility was in support of the national agenda to help former victims of drug abuse recover from addiction and become productive members of society again.
Under the set-up, Virtualahan provides the training and employment support while Globe takes care of the digital tools, specifically, the internet connectivity for online learning. This is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) numbers 10 for reducing inequality, 8 for decent work and economic growth, and 4 on providing opportunities for everyone to have access to quality education which increases the social protection for this disadvantaged group.
“Recovering our youth from drug dependency and providing new skills for gainful employment is at the heart of Project New Life. We are grateful for partners like Virtualahan who do business by aiming for social impact to make a difference in the lives of the marginalized. We hope the people who benefitted from the training program will have a better future,” said Yoly Crisanto, Globe Chief Sustainability Officer and SVP for Corporate Communications.
“Some of our scholars have criminal records which makes it very challenging when we work with employers. So we have to take the bigger risk and our scholars are very determined to help us influence the players in our labor system that recovering drug addicts are not a hopeless case. Their success stories give a new meaning to diversity and inclusion in the workplace,” said Ryan Gersava, CEO & Founder of Virtualahan.
Virtualahan has been operational since 2015, training over 450 scholars with a 78% overall employment rate to date. For Project New Life, Globe and Virtualahan already successfully trained 30 former drug dependents, 12 are now fully employed.
Virtualahan ensures that the most excluded populations of society are given equal opportunities for high-level work in the new digital economy using an impact formula that integrates well-being sessions and community-building with digital job skills training. It is also one of the winners of Globe Future Makers Program, the social innovation program of Globe which helps enable emerging social innovators to create a positive impact on society through technology./PR