My next three blog posts will be about my recent visit to Israel in June 2010 where I visited Filipina caregivers there that worked in Israel who make extreme sacrifices to be able to send money back to their families in the Philippines.
In 2009, the Philippines ranked fourth highest country in the world to receive a record amount of of US $19.69 billion in remittances which inadvertently saved the country from a deep recession (Migration Policy Institute).
So where did all these remittances come from? Thanks to Dora, a Filipina caregiver in Israel who keep sending regular remittances back to her family in Kalinga Province, Northern Luzon. Dora seems like a typical overseas worker. However, with a closer look, Dora had to make extreme sacrifices to make ends meet to be able to send that money back to her family. Dora’s story is not unique; it typifies the personal, heartbreaking stories of many Filipinos working abroad who bear the brunt and the high social costs of migration to be able to send remittances back home.
On June 3, 2010, I had to stay for a few hours in the afternoon with Dora when I arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel. She greeted me warmly at the front door and she took me to a spacious apartment where she takes care of an elderly woman who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Dora bathes her, feed her and takes her of all her daily needs. She’s been taking care of her for almost six years. Dora seems to have a nice work setup but as I dig deeper the whole picture doesn’t look all that rosy.
Dora hasn’t taken a day off in over 7 months. She works 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She earns US $700 a month and she refuses to take a day off so she could save every penny she earns and send it back home to her family in Kalinga, Philippines. She would go outside once a day when she takes her patient to a nearby park. If she’s lucky, she would be able to chat briefly with another Filipina caregiver that works across the street. But besides that, she has no interaction with anyone else besides the woman she’s taking care of who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Dora is thankful that she’s got a used laptop and an Internet connection that she pirates from an unsecured connection. It’s her only window to the world. She chats with her friends on Facebook, reads the news about the Philippines online and watches movies on YouTube. Without her laptop, she might not have lasted this long without any connection with the outside world. Dora plans to continue working without a day off for a few more months.
Why the extreme sacrifice of working without a day off? Dora’s got a year and a half old son in the Philippines and her mother is taking care of him. I saw Dora taking care of all her patient’s needs. It seems odd to see Dora taking care of a stranger in a foreign land while she had to leave her own child to someone else’s care. Dora bears the brunt of the extreme sacrifice and social costs of migration – leaving everything behind, working abroad and risking so much to be able to send money back home.