Growing up in a small village in rural Philippines, life was tough. My family didn’t always have money to buy the basics. I am the youngest of six, and my parents worked very hard on the farm so that we had what we needed most of the time. We were survivors, it was not always perfect, but I had the support of my family.
When I left the Philippines, my children were aged four and six years old. That was 12 years ago. Today they are almost young adults. I miss them terribly and my dream is to be able to see them and hug them again.
I came to Ireland in search of a better future, to find a decent job that could enable me to pay for my children’s education and support my elderly parents. I still remember the day I left my village to come to Ireland. My husband dropped me off at the airport, but my father refused to come because he was so nervous. I had never even been to the airport, never mind a plane. I remember the flight took forever, I was full of so many emotions; I was scared, nervous, afraid, but also excited for the future.
Life in my new home
Before I emigrated, I worked as a Montessori teacher. So when I was offered a job as a childminder, on my arrival to Ireland, this previous experience helped me to care for a four and a one year old, and for a new born. I really loved minding the children, as they reminded me of caring for my own babies. One year later, my employer’s mother had heart surgery and I was asked if I would stay with her overnight for a few months until she recovered.
I found the job very challenging, because I was caring for the children during the day and taking care of the grandmother at night. Sometimes she would wake up in the middle of the night and call for me, so some nights I did not get much sleep and was exhausted.
After two years working for this family, I was recommended to another family who had an older person who needed a private home carer.
I now care for a very independent 95 years old lady. I cook, clean, iron and I am her companion. She is an amazing woman, very strong and very determined. At the moment, she is recovering from a fall so we spend a lot of time doing her mobility exercises to get her strength back up.
Being a carer brings me so much joy! When I am caring for my lady I can feel a strong connection, it’s like being close to my own mother again.
My lady and I live on a farm where there is a lot of green and fresh air. I love it, as it reminds me of being back home at our farm. But mobile phone coverage is very poor, so sometimes I am not able to talk to my family or friends, which makes me feel very lonely and isolated. The winter months are particularly tough when it is dark at 4pm and the whole place become still with silence.
“I was tested for Covid and the test came back positive. I was devastated.”
One October afternoon began as any normal day. As soon as I arrived for my shift I could see that my lady did not look great and had no appetite. Fearing for the worst, I called her family immediately, and they called her GP who then organised for a swab test the next day. Four days later, the test came back positive.
When I found out my lady was positive for Covid it felt like I was hit with a bag of bricks on my head. I was so sad, worried and afraid. I feared for her life as she was very vulnerable, and I feared for my own life as I was thinking about my own family back home. Her family asked me if I wanted to stay and care for my lady, and I said absolutely. I knew the risks, there was a possibility that I too would catch the virus, but that didn’t matter to me in that moment. All I wanted was to take care of my lady.
I spent many late nights praying for her to get better. I searched the internet for tips of what to do when one has Covid. Then one day, I started to feel sick, I was very tired and achy. I was tested for Covid, and the test came back positive. I was devastated. I became depressed, I started to think about my own children back home and the possibility of dying and being far away from them. I wondered what would happen to them if I died.
The virus made me paranoid, I started to worry about the smallest things and my head was constantly spinning. I felt very lonely and isolated. I knew I had to survive, because I am a mother and I had no choice but to survive, and I knew I could not let Covid take over. For 21 days, we were isolating. It was like being in a jungle on my own, with nobody to help, and the only option was to keep going and to keep fighting for myself and for my lady.
My lady was very weak and it was so sad to watch, because I couldn’t really do much for her as I too was suffering. I did not want my lady to see me down, most times I tried to show her that I was strong as I did not want to worry her. Some nights my lady would call me because she wanted me to keep her company, but I was too tired; my temperature was usually high at night, my chest was sore and my body was achy. But still, I went into her room because there was no one else to help her.
I am so thankful that my lady and I have made a full recovery and she is back to her usual self. This virus is really life threatening, there were so many dark and worrying nights.
My hopes for the future
I love Ireland, this is my home, and the people I have met here have been kind to me. Ireland reminds me of the Philippines, as people are very hospitable and have a good sense of humour.
I am also a member of MRCI’s My Fair Home, a network of migrant home care workers working in the private home who came together to improve the lives and working conditions of home carers in Ireland.
At the moment I have no plans for the future, I find hard to plan because I am undocumented. When you are undocumented you don’t know what the future will be. All I wish for is for the government to see our hard work and to give us a pathway to papers.
There are many home carers who are undocumented, and many families who are longing for home carers. It is important for the elderly to stay and be cared for in their own home.
I wish I could bring my sons here to visit me and I would like to go home and see my mother while she is still alive as she is getting older. My father died a few years ago and I was not able to bury him. I would love the opportunity to visit my home family again.
Support the work of My Fair Home
Angeles is an active member of MRCI’s My Fair Home network, which empowers home care workers who make such a valuable contribution to our families and lives but work in very precarious circumstances.
My Fair Home supports migrant carers to know their rights, to speak out and to organise for better pay and conditions, for decent working hours and a living wage.
Nobody else is doing this vital work and you can support it by making a donation, no matter how small, today: