Tzu Chi’s Livelihood Training Program marks its expansion with the formal opening of the new Machine Operation Course (MOC) on November 6 at the Tzu Chi Great Love Campus in Sta. Mesa, Manila.
In an effort to train future breadwinners for more lucrative careers, Tzu Chi formally accepts the first batch of 23 students into the MOC program. The two-month course will train students in basic operation of industrial machinery such as drill presses, milling vises, and bench lathes. Classes will be heldMonday to Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with the foundation shouldering daily costs such as the students’ transportation to and from the campus.
Although Tzu Chi volunteers, by and large, will manage the program, they require an expert to teach a complex subject. For this, they enlist the help of Huberto Montevirgen, a mechanical engineering technology professor at the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP), to be the course’s instructor. He shares that safety will be the key lesson in the entire MOC program.
“The first thing they have to learn is, of course, safety. Once they have an idea of safety in operating machine tools, they can begin learning about measuring instruments. Only knowing the machine tool isn’t as important as measuring. With measurement, they can learn how to interpret blueprints,” he explains.
The logistics warehouse, once housing Tzu Chi’s recyclable handicraft workshop, has been repurposed with industrial machinery for the program. Some of which are donations from an employer in Taiwan who’s close to the Buddhist organization.
The 23 students of the first batch are picked from 53 applicants. According to Tzu Chi volunteer Olga Vendivel, experts from TUP and the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) advised them to limit their class to 25 students. With a small class, the MOC program will be able to produce the quality pioneer batch. Those who aren’t accepted, Vendivel assures, will move on to the second batch two months after the first batch’s graduation.
“We chose based on their background like if they’re computer-literate or if they’re high school graduates. We also looked at their grades and their work experience. Even if they’re high school graduates, if they have machine operation experience we also take that into consideration,” she explains further.
Some of the students are experienced in machine operation, but 30-year-old Junmark Rodriguez hopes to further his knowledge as the only breadwinner of the family.
“I pin my hopes on this program because my family is depending on me as a father to a three-year-old and a husband,” says Rodriguez, residing in Barangay Balingasa, Quezon City.
After five years of working at an automotive plant in Laguna, Rodriguez sought a higher-paying job in Taiwan to support his family. During his overseas stint as a machine operator, he was involved in a road accident. Fortunately, he suffered minor injuries and the erring driver paid compensation.
Nearing the end of his one-year contract, however, he began feeling weak. He fell one week short of completing his contract, resigning from his work and returning to the Philippines in 2016. A CT scan confirmed his fears: germinoma, a kind of brain tumor, and hydrocephalus.
For the rest of 2016, he underwent shunt surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. With the support of his relatives and government charity programs, he slowly recovered from his illness. Through social welfare services, Tzu Chi volunteers learned of his condition and committed a monthly assistance of Php3,500 and 10 kilos of rice.
Rodriguez sought to pay forward Tzu Chi’s kindness by becoming self-sufficient once more. The MOC program might just be his ticket back to Taiwan, as graduates will be given the opportunity to work either abroad or close to home.
“I’m willing to undergo this program to pay forward Tzu Chi’s help by being self-sufficient while I still can. I asked a Tzu Chi volunteer in our place if it’s possible to return to Taiwan for work. Then, she mentioned about this program, which gives the opportunity to work in Taiwan,” says Rodriguez.
Irene Duhay’s situation is barely any different from the rest of her class.
On the first day of the curriculum’s technical class, she has shown her eagerness to learn by answering the teacher’s questions correctly. She is looking for lucrative opportunities to alleviate her family’s poverty. The combined income of her laborer father and cash-for-work volunteer mother isn’t making ends meet for their five children.
“I became interested in applying for the Machine Operation Course to further my knowledge not only in my practiced field, which is technical insulation, but also in machine operation to give me more opportunities for work in various industries,” says Duhay, a resident of Barangay Banaba in San Mateo, Rizal.
Like other Livelihood Training Program courses, the MOC program is also oriented toward Tzu Chi values and etiquette. Every Monday, the students will attend lectures about life wisdom and learn about the Tzu Chi etiquette. The rest of the week will be devoted to development of operational skills.
In a job that involves high-speed machinery, Tzu Chi volunteer Wilson Sy sees self-discipline as the key component in honing tomorrow’s operators. The students have to learn safety as they work with such machines, as one who lacks discipline is at risk of losing a finger or two during a routine run.
“Self-discipline is important, first and foremost, as well as respect to others. Before we start [with machine operation], these values must be taught,” says Sy, who adds that the MOC students are insured in the event of a safety hazard.
“If they’re determined to learn, they’ll be able to go places,” adds Sy.
Values formation has remained a core element of Tzu Chi’s Livelihood Training Program since its inception in 2010. Over the years, hundreds of students, once lacking in self-discipline, have turned over a new leaf, making them more productive members of the society. Teaching the students values such as filial piety, respect, and gratitude along with the necessary livelihood skills will shape a more harmonious society.
“We do not want them just to learn the skills and knowledge on how to operate these machines. For us, what’s more important is to learn how to cultivate virtues and values,” says Vendivel.
Tzu Chi volunteer Olga Vendivel serves as overall coordinator of the MOC program. She believes that the high-paying work of a machine operator will help the students’ families establish a much better life. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
A beeline of Tzu Chi volunteers teach the students the dance steps in “Nice to Know You,” a popular Tzu Chi song. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
The students pay attention to Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s Life Wisdom (episode date: October 24, 2017). She reiterates the aphorism of not underestimating oneself as human beings have unlimited potential. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Following the Life Wisdom episode, MOC student Junmark Rodriguez (left) shares his insights. Also a long-term beneficiary of Tzu Chi, Rodriguez joined the MOC in hopes of being able to work abroad again. He was forced to retire a year ago because of his brain tumor and hydrocephalus. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
The MOC students are taken on a tour of the Tzu Chi Great Love Campus. In the environmental protection exhibit, they learn about the Jing Si line of portable furniture given to disaster victims. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
MOC instructor Huberto Montevirgen (left) and Tzu Chi volunteer Wilson Sy (right) discuss the further expansion of the machine workshop. The volunteers hope to add more machines to maximize the program. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Montevirgen, a mechanical engineering technology professor at the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP), demonstrates how to use a bench vice. Bench vices are used to hold pieces of materials in place. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
MOC student Iris Duhay asks the instructor some questions, an action Tzu Chi volunteers encourage aside from taking down notes. Duhay hopes to expand her knowledge to be able to provide better for her family. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Montevirgen demonstrates the use of a radial drill, a type of drill press used for heavier jobs. The movable press allows for precise work at multiple areas of a material. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】