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Microsoft Awards $835,360.00 Grant to Visayan Forum Foundation to Aid Fight Against Human Trafficking
At the recently-held annual assembly of the partners of Multi Sectoral Network Against Trafficking (MSNAT), Microsoft Philippines renewed its commitment in the fight against human trafficking as it awarded the Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFFI) with a software and cash grant worth over US $800,000 for implementation of the Unlimited Potential Curriculum for victims and potential victims of human trafficking. The annual assembly saw the addition of 15 new partners of the VFFI, putting the number to 50 partners covering almost every corner of the country.

“Many people do not realize that human trafficking does happen in the Philippines. We at Microsoft are committed to help these victims and potential victims improve their lives and open new opportunities by making them reach their full potential,” said Marivi Abueg, Marketing Director, Microsoft Philippines. “We are very happy to be partnered with VFFI in helping these people acquire new skills that allow them to either open new businesses or make them more employable in the workforce market,” added Abueg.

In 2006, Microsoft and Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFFI) partnered to launch a program called step-UP or “Stop Trafficking and Exploitation of People through Unlimited Potential” with an aim to provide IT skills training, confidence building and direction setting to current and potential victims of trafficking to help them find better access to employment opportunities.

Since the partnership started, over 30,000 individuals have graduated from the step-UP program. “VFFI used to provide only psycho-social help to victims of human trafficking. Through the step-UP program, we now give technical skills training which has since made our program more holistic. Beneficiaries are better equipped to be reintegrated into society and they also become more employable,” said Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, President, VFFI.

Learning basic computer skills may seem trivial for people who have grown up with technology, but for those who are new to it, new-found skills open tremendous opportunities that create a better future for individuals. “Most of us take for granted the ability to send and receive emails on a daily basis. The simple task of word processing, doing spreadsheets and the like is a big step for these beneficiaries and hence open up so many doors for employment and even entrepreneurship opportunities,” said Flores-Oebanda. By strengthening its ties with VFFI and expanding the reach of the step-Up program, Microsoft dealt human trafficking another big blow.“We have made a difference in the lives of a lot of people who have regained their self-confidence and discovered new skills. We are committed to continue this fight and give more people the skills and resources that open new opportunities for a better life,” added Abueg.
This latest amount from Microsoft, a total grant of US $1,847,421.00has been given, expects to train another 20,000 plus beneficiaries, from children to adults. “step-UP has become a converging point for partners and victims, giving VFFI the platform for a complete cycle in the victim’s re-integration. A complete economic rehabilitation is afforded the beneficiaries, helping them start anew. Without Microsoft the complete model of intervention for these victims would not be realized,” added Flores-Oebanda.

Through the step-UP program, VFFI and Microsoft Philippines build capacities for different other NGO partners to plan and operate sustainable training centers to ensure that a multiplier effect takes place.

Participants first go through direction setting which include values formation and resiliency building. After which they undergo several IT courses, from basic computer fundamentals to web design. Finally, the IT curriculum now includes hardware repair and PC troubleshooting. The program has expanded since to include micro-enterprise skills training to give participants basic entrepreneurship skills.

To date, the VFFI has training centers in Manila, Batangas and Davao City, which are considered to be trafficking hot spots. Through the different NGO partners, there are 51 Community Technology Learning Centers (CTLCs) in the country. These CTLCs span from Leyte in the north to Pampanga, Samar, Dumaguete, Maguindanao, to Davao in the south.


About Microsoft
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

What is step-UP?
step-UP is a local initiative under Unlimited Potential, Microsoft’s global program which focuses on improving lifelong learning for underserved young people and adults by providing technology skills through community-based organizations around the world

step-UP stands for Stop Trafficking and Exploitation of People through Unlimited Potential. It was launched on the third anniversary of the signing of Republic Act 9208 or the "Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003” (May 26, 2006).

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