Virtualahan: Breaking Down Employment Barriers for PWDs
Finding a sustainable source of income is one of the biggest challenge that persons with disability (PWD) face on a daily basis. People with medical, mental and physical limitations are not just battling for their condition but enduring the inequality in the workplace primarily because of discrimination.
Virtualahan, a social enterprise based in Davao City, is changing the system using a business model that upskills, employs, and empowers people with disabilities to become productive members of society.
“We equip people with skills and the right mindset so they can start working online as remote employees for digital businesses around the world. We have taken advantage of the power of the internet and the growing outsourcing industry to fulfil our mission which is to promote inclusive and sustainable employment, decent and productive work for all in a workplace that treats everyone as an equal,” said Ryan Gersava, Virtualahan Founder.
Virtualahan was recently declared as one of the winners of Globe Future Makers Program, the social innovation program of Globe Telecom held in cooperation with the Singtel Group of Companies to help enable emerging social innovators create a positive impact on society with the help of technology.
“We see a lot of potential in Virtualahan in solving the need for gainful employment of PWDs and those with medical conditions who often face discrimination. We believe that innovations like this one plays a key role in making wide scale impact to help drive social development in the Philippines,” said Chelle Gray, Director for Globe Citizenship.
“With the technology support and mentorship of the Globe Future Makers program this will help us deal with our challenges in delivering our services, optimizing the tech aspect, improving our e-learning platform, even cut other practices to save on costs by using different tools and expansion to help those with no access to the Internet,” declared Gersava.
Gersava, a Licensed Medical Technologist, put up Virtualahan when he was denied of employment due to a medical condition despite having high qualifications. With the help of two siblings, Josh an IT professional and Rose, a registered nurse, they set up Virtualahan which is a play on “virtual” and “eskwelahan,” a Filipino term for school. The social enterprise is a 100% virtual company which keeps their operations lean and highly functional. It is a very innovative and highly scalable model that uses technology to deliver positive impact.
Virtualahan recruits, screens, and qualifies candidates to undergo an intensive six weeks’ skills and capacity building program that allows unemployed PWD to become self-earning and dependable members of the family and the community. Successful graduates are then provided with employment support through direct hiring, referrals, and online job preparation. They are employed as virtual assistants, customer service representatives, transcriptionists, data managers, among others.
“The work from home model is the best strategy that we found to help people with mobility issues to earn a decent income. We create structure, accountability, management and the opportunities for advancement and set these people to deliver maximum value. In the process, we are building a support network that meets in person and online to nurture confidence, teamwork, and social equality among our members,” added Ryan.
For the past two years, Virtualahan served 127 beneficiaries from 20 different cities across the country. It has also represented the Philippines in major international competitions like the ASEAN Impact Challenge in Singapore, has spoken to international conference like the Social Enterprise World Forum in Hong Kong, was accepted in prestigious fellowships like The DO School in Germany, The Global Good Fund in USA, and represented the country at The Youth Assembly at The United Nations in New York.
Winning the Globe My Future Makers is an important milestone for Virtualahan in expanding its advocacy to more areas in the country and eventually to the world.