18 Jan Celebrating Thirteen Years of Services to Caregivers to Canada

I have delivered COA sessions to caregivers for the past eight years, and have met some incredible individuals who left to start new lives in Canada. As COA concludes the delivery of orientation to caregivers, I want to share Victoria’s story, a former COA participant who came to Canada as a caregiver to create a wonderful new life for herself and her family.

Cecilia Leung

COA Philippines Facilitator

The Caregivers Program is a unique visa pathway. After finishing two years of full-time employment in Canada, caregivers can apply for permanent residency and then bring their dependants to Canada. Caregivers work in private households, providing care for children, the elderly, or people with disabilities. To qualify as a caregiver, applicants must go through six months of training in the Philippines.  Many of these participants are registered nurses, teachers, or college graduates in a variety of healthcare and other programs.

COA started delivering pre-arrival orientation sessions to caregivers in the Philippines in September 2002. Since then, COA has provided pre-arrival settlement support to a total of 19,619 caregivers. However, due to changes in the Caregiver Program, COA training for caregivers concluded in November 2015.

As a caregiver facilitator for the past eight years, I have come across many courageous, strong, and selfless individuals seeking a brighter future for themselves and their families. I had them share their fears and their uncertainties during sessions, but also their dreams and expectations.

Here is the story from one of these brave caregivers:

Cecilia Leung, COA Manila Facilitator and Dr. Denise Spitzer (middle) with a group of Caregivers following the one-day seminar offered by IOM in Manila, Philippines. November 24, 2014.

My name is Victoria and I arrived in Canada as a live-in caregiver on May 17th, 2003. Before my arrival in Canada, I attended a COA seminar which helped me quite a bit. I gained a better knowledge of Canada, Canadian culture,  how to better understand my contract and my employer-employee relationship, and because of this, I was able to quickly orient myself upon arrival.

In Canada, I looked after my aunt’s mother-in-law, Lola, who was 92 years old. I lived in the household with them, and was greeted warmly. My aunt and uncle helped to guide me in my new life in Canada. However, after 17 months of taking care of Lola, her family decided that it was time for her to enter a nursing home. This meant I would have to find a new employer.

While at first I was nervous to work for people I didn’t know, my new employer was a family who was warm, kind, understanding, and supportive. I was warmly greeted as a family member. My duties at the time were to look after their one-year old son. During that time, the family also sponsored my sister as a live-in caregiver.

Over the course of twelve years, I have been employed by six separate families, and have been able to bring over my two sisters, my daughter, and three nieces, all under the Live-In Caregiver Program.

Leaving behind my life in the Philippines was difficult.  I left behind my family, friends and a job at a hospital. But Canada is a beautiful, rich, and peaceful country where I can bring my family to live, work, and raise their families. The most difficult time I experienced was when my son in the Philippines became sick, and I was unable to go home to take care of him. I was blessed at the time by my husband and other family members who were there to help him and each other. There were times when I would feel so lonely, homesick and depressed. I was however able to overcome these difficulties by going to church, making new friends, shopping, working hard and staying connected to family through the internet.

After 5 years in Canada, I received my permanent residency status, and two months later, I was able to bring my husband and four kids to Canada. And after five more years, we all received our Canadian Citizenship.

My family has thrived since moving to Canada. In 2010, we purchased our own seven-bedroom house in Burnaby, British Columbia. All of us, including my children who were of working age, worked hard to save money for the down payment. Since then, my two youngest children upgraded their education; one became an Electronics and Computer Engineer and is working at the University of British Columbia, while the other received a degree in Early Childhood Education and is working for a large daycare in Vancouver. My other two children plan on pursuing further education as well.

At present, I’m still a nanny, but I’m proud to be a nanny. It is a noble job. Taking care of children is my passion.  It makes me happy and I still enjoy this job. Through this job, I was able to help my other family members come to Canada, which I consider my greatest achievement. At present, my family in Canada numbers twenty-one: my husband and four kids, a son-in-law, two daughters-in-law, two grandkids, three nieces and my two sisters’ families. 

Working and living here is not all glory, there are hard times too. In order to survive in Canada you must have the guts to explore a new world, along with patience, hard work, respect for others, and also love for yourself. 

I hope my story will serve as an inspiration to others. Thank you very much!

Burnaby, British Columbia