OCTOBER 23, 2008
(STAR) By Rey Galupo - The Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFFI) recently announced the expansion of Stop Trafficking and Exploitation of People through Unlimited Potential (Step-Up) program, which provides IT skills training to former victims of human trafficking and underprivileged youth and adults.

The project, which was launched in partnership with Microsoft, is aimed at boosting the chances of former trafficking victims to rebuild their lives and find better jobs.

“Out partnership with Microsoft for the Step-Up program has given us a huge boost in the fight against human trafficking. Through the program, we are able to see former victims rebuild their lives, find careers, and slowly be reintegrated into society,” said Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, VFFI president and executive director.

The program is also focused on heightening social awareness about human trafficking, which the organization has been fighting since 1991.

“Unfortunately, this problem continues to be a reality and we know that more people can benefit from the training. This is why we sought to expand and with the grant, we will be able to reach out to new partners and accommodate more individuals in the center,” Flores-Oebanda said.

Step-Up was launched in May 2006 coinciding with the anniversary of the signing of Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.

Since its inception, over 10,000 people have received IT skills training in learning centers operated by VFFI and its NGO partners nationwide.

“Human trafficking continues to be a bane in today’s society. As more and more Filipinos leave the country each day to find work overseas, human trafficking continues to be one of the major issues we need to focus on. We are expanding Step-Up to make sure that there are adequate resources available to eradicate human trafficking and exploitation in the country,” said Rafael Rollan, Microsoft Philippines managing director.

As part of the expansion, Microsoft gave software and cash grants worth more than P12 million to VFFI.

The grant will enable the organization to engage more NGOs and open new Step-Up centers in different provinces, including Bulacan, North Cotabato, Western Samar and Zamboanga.

These are in addition to centers already existing in Bacolod, Batangas, Camarines Norte, Cebu, Davao, Manila, and Quezon City, among other places.

Roldan said around 33 percent of the program’s graduates were able to find employment, while others decided to pursue further education.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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