Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Of Nannies and Philippine Economy

Consider the story of Juana Tejada who came to Canada in 2003 under the federal live-in caregiver program. After completing her three-year assignment, she was eligible to apply for a permanent resident status. In 2006 during a medical exam to obtain her clearance, she was diagnosed with cancer. Based on Canada's immigration laws at that time, authorities could not grant her request for an immigrant status.

She eventually lost her battle against cancer but won the fight for her fellow nannies after her death. The Juana Tejada Law was put into effect, enabling the nannies to apply for immigrant status without a need for a second medical clearance.

The most lucrative export of the Philippines, Filipino nannies are modern day heroes and a testament to the resilience of Filipinos. Sending home six percent of the total foreign remittances of $20 billion a year, these nannies act like floating devices for the Philippine economy.
Understanding their plight and anticipating their vulnerability, Chito Gonzalez, Country Development Manager of Western Union Canada, pushed and shoved to get a program in place for these Filipino nannies to be able to remit their hard earned dollars at the safest and most cost effective way possible. 

In a Christmas party that his company sponsored for the nannies, I observed a unique business model that goes beyond customer service. For instance, Chito Gonzalez, being an immigrant himself, understands one very important point. Aside from the injustice and abuse that a lot of them have to bear, they suffer from homesickness and separation anxiety. Becoming somewhat like social workers, Western Union came up with a unique outreach program through Fr. Bienvenido Ebcas, Jr.

Acting as both spiritual and community social worker to these nannies, Fr. Ben, as he is fondly called, plays host to his flock at the Our Lady of Assumption Parish in Toronto. Situated in the heart of Forest Hill, home to many of Canada's affluent families who employ Filipino nannies, the church serves as "headquarters" to many of them who long for company and the feeling of home, especially during Christmas. They even have a lounge named after Juana Tejada, complete with several computer systems where the nannies can do social networking through the kindness of Western Union.

Resilient, resourceful, selfless, courageous, and smart, not to mention the gift to the nation's gross domestic product, the Filipino nannies are indeed modern day heroes both at home and in Canada. Magaling ang Pinoy!

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