Friday, May 15, 2009

shameful entitlement....

Ana left her home in the Philipines not because she wanted to, but out of desperation. Her husband was hurt in an accident on the worksite. There was no money and no option. She had to find work to keep her family afloat and the only way to do that was to move to a country far away and far different than the climes of her look for work as a live in caregiver. She knew many others from her village who had made the trek and were working full time for families with room and board covered on top of a salary. They left with the same save all their money to send home to their destitute families, with the dream of eventually move them to the land of milk and honey.

With very little in personal possessions and a pocketful of hope and enough money to pay for a plane ticket and a few days accomodation when she landed, Ana hugged her 5 children, her husband and boarded a plane. She had no idea what she was getting herself into. She had no idea when she would see her children again. Left in the care of her own mother, including a toddler she had just weaned from her breast, Ana held onto her faith with all her might, and tried not to look back.

As soon as she arrived on foreign soil covered in ice and snow she had never seen before, she was quickly embraced by other Philipino women who took her under their wing and arranged for her to be registered with a government agency. Soon, she was hired to look after an elderly woman who had just been released from the hospital after death defying surgery. She was frail and weak after years of alcohol addiction, and had lost much of her desire to live. Dementia was setting in as well. Unable to attend to her own personal care, Ana was the sole person responsible for this woman's well being. Unbeknownst to her, Ana soon learned that this woman's husband also needed attention as his health too was deteriorating from Alzheimer's and recent hip replacement surgery which didn't heal properly.

The woman who hired Ana and oversaw her hours of employment and paycheck was the daughter of these two needy people. She took her own responsibility seriously, so much so that she chose to hold her power over Ana at every waking moment. Knowing that Ana had to live and work in Canada as a caregiver for three years before she would qualify for any type of immingrant status, this boss woman took advantage of the fear instilled in Ana. Condescension and powermongering were the chosen tactics. Passive aggressive threats were common. Ana was coerced to believe that she should be grateful completely to her new employer, even though she was never given a day off for months until some intervention from other family members took place. And even then, she paid for their voiced concerns when they were too far away to protect her.

Every two weeks Ana sent home the majority of her paycheck. And every two weeks, she was allowed to leave the house for 1/2 a day reprieve. After a year of this treatment, one of the other family members, who wasn't legally and rightfully supposed to be involved in the day to day goings on in his own parent's home, demanded that Ana receive enough time off to return to the Philipines to see her family. This "intervention" was held over Ana's head and held as a deep anger grudge by the woman in charge.

What kept Ana going was the knowledge that she was appreciated and loved by the other family members who had no legal recourse to help her, but were always just a phone call away. What kept her going was her family in the Philipines whom she loved dearly and who needed her to make the money to allow them to live and eat and survive. What kept her going was the prospect of a better life one day in the near future.

Over the course of two years, Ana, who was hired to look after one aging and needy person, cared for two demanding dependent people with many needs and accumulating health issues. On top of that, she cleaned and cooked. She shopped on her days off, ran errands too without the luxury of a vehicle to use and dealt with anything in the home that needed attention or repairs. Near the end of her tenure, their health issues became more and more grave. Visits and repreives were offered whenever the other family members of this elderly couple could fly to her assistance, but in between those times, she was on her own. It was stressful, debilitating, and inhumane what she had to endure. And there wasn't a damn thing anyone could do about it to change things because the person in charge was the person in charge who was the power of attorney. The continuous threats were harsh and unbelievably unforgivable.

There is much more to this story, but I can't find the words yet to finish it. It was one of the worst experiences I have been connected to and it haunts me to this day. One day, I will write out all the sordid and sorrowful details of how badly this woman was treated, but not yet. Today, beautiful Ana comes to mind very vividly, two years after my in laws passed away because of the recent story in the news about Ruby Dhalla, Member of Parliament from Ontario who is still in the process of trying to clear her name and reputation after two very brave and very scared women from the Philipines came forward to describe how they were treated by Dhalla and her family while they were employed by them to care for an aging parent. Like Ana, they were threatened and expected to work like slaves.

I am sickened by this story because it hits too close to home and has dredged up raw pictures in my recent memory of a time when I was powerless to do anything about it. I know how difficult it would've been for these two caregivers to come forward knowing full well that it might be the end of their dreams of remaining in Canada and bringing their poverty stricken families to live here. I know full well how the "system" works and how quickly they could be sent straight home, left off in the margins by the people who should be working for the government to make sure they are treated with equality and dignity and respect. I know how many threats they have endured already, as the shining star beautiful Liberal MP scrambles to save her ass from political annihilation.

I wholeheartedly believe the women and what they described.....I wholeheartedly believe that they were forced to do work they weren't hired to do, they were forced to listen to a Ruby Princess who grew up fed on sugared slices of entitlement talk down to them, yell at them, and demand they hand over their passport. I bet there were threats to call the Immigration office, and to ruin their reputations with the government agency who originally referred them. This, I'm afraid is commonplace in the world of Philipino caregivers. For them to come forward and testify at an inquiry created overnight by a hungry government willing to take advantage of a faux pas of the opposition is one of the bravest actions I've heard of in a very long time.

Ruby Dhalla? Bollywood is calling you again. I'm sure they will have a part for you as Princess Entitlement. Your time as an elected official is up. And your dream of becoming leader of the Liberal party has evaporated. Oh, and if you need an assistant or someone to play the role of lady in waiting in your next film? I've got just the right person for you. She too thrives on the flavour of entitlement. The two of you are meant for one another.

As for Ana's old boss? She forfeited her family and she will never be invited into my house again. Ever.

You know what makes me hold my head in shame as I shake it back and forth? These people have no inkling...NO INKLING that they have done anything wrong. In fact, they consider themselves victims. It makes me want to vomit.


Selma said...

That is so sad. And so horrible. It really is just slavery. I've heard a lot of stories like this with children from Asia sold to wealthy families in Australia. These kids are slaves and have a 'non status.' A friend of mine who is a human rights lawyer says it's all too common; that many impoverished people are regarded as commodities to be traded. It's unacceptable in this day and age, yet it continues to happen. I could weep when I think about it.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

WOW! This is such a heaertbreaking story....I don't understand people who treat other people in such an inhumane manner and act like Dictators while doing that, and THEN..THEY feel like they have been wronged! OY VEY!

It is interestung about so very many Philipinne Women being such amazingly loving care-givers. I have known a few people who's parent needed this kind of 24/7 live in care, and in ALL cases, they, the offspring of the parent, were so incredibly grateful for the kind warm loving care their parent recieved---They could not do enough for these caregivers....! How horrible Dana, that this invoolved "family" to you and how you must have felt so terrible not being able to right this situation---the "power" being in the hands of someone so very mean and so un-loving.

Awareness said... is common though there are many employers of the caregivers who are kind and generous. I'm happy to know Ana has found such a family and is safe now.

Naomi....Nothing is more important to me than equality and compassion for others....nothing. This situation tore me up and still does. I have a tremendous amount of anger still simmering inside me over Ana's treatment. It's beyond my comprehension.

Sadly, it's not the whole story. Ana's experience was worse than what I have shared here, but I didn't have the guts to write it all out yet.
We loved her from afar....and tried to support her in any way we could without her feeling the repercussions. My children still ask about her, wondering how she is and how her own children are in the Philipines.
We are forever grateful for the dedication she showed under such shameful circumstances.

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Wow. Very sad. It was surprising to learn you were talking about your own family. I am glad you're part of Ana's life.

Gilly said...

That is such a sad story. But I am afraid that similar stories are hidden in many parts of the world, including the UK. And many of the Arab States where Asian women are held as slaves.

Trafficked children for the sex and drug industries. Domestic workers denied freedom and treated as subhuman........

And do our elected representatives care? Mostly, no. They are too busy feathering their own nests.

paulwchambers said...

the injustice runs deep

Awareness said...

Gilly....I believe the same thing, and know this is not uncommon.

Paul....deeper than we can even fathom.

Carmi said...

I've been watching the Ruby Dhalla affair play out with a mixture of disgust and shame. Disgust that an individual could sleep at night after treating another human being in such a degrading way, and shame that such a thing continues to be tolerated in my beloved country. And shame-squared that this woman is an elected representative of the population.

We look down our noses at earlier generations for enshrining slavery in the very legal fabric of the land, yet allow this to go on in our supposedly enlightened modern era. It sickens me to my core, and I hope this scandal initiates the change that is so desperately needed by these worthy contributors to our society.

Awareness said...

Carmi...BRAVO! You summed up my feelings too.

Here's to changes!!

Awareness said...

AND major repercussions for the entitled Bollywood Princess and my SIL!