PONDERING


 by Gracia Kibad

Columban Lay Missionary Gracia Kibad was assigned in Ireland from 1996 until 2014.  She moved to Hong Kong in 2015 when she became the Coordinator of the Lay Missionary Central Leadership Team. 


In my past ministry I had on numerous occasions listened to migrant workers share their stories. Some were wonderful and inspiring but sadly some were not so happy. I have witnessed some of their successes. Some their failures. One thing that is most important and is truly close to their hearts are their families back home. Whatever it is they are undergoing they have their loved ones in their hearts always as their motivation and inspiration.

On the bus one Sunday evening a couple of weeks ago as I sat myself the conversation of two passengers behind me became audibly noticeable. Judging from their conversation they are domestic migrant workers. Not that I was eavesdropping but their voices were really loud enough to be heard at least two seats away from where they were seated. 

Nearly every family in the Philippines have at least a relation working overseas. The economic migration is such a phenomena in the Philippines that it is affecting hundreds of thousands of families back home. At times their children are the most vulnerable in this situation. People at home too are feeling the void created by the absence of loved ones working overseas. Time spent apart loving each other in ones absence can never be mended and the human heart still long for the lost time. Human relationship is meant to be spent together with those we love. However choices at times bring people to live lives apart from each other due to search for greener pastures overseas. The immediate question is how can the ‘wall of absence’ between loved ones left at home and those who are working overseas be bridged when reunion finally comes? 

Foreign Domestic Workers in Hong Kong on Sundays (http://hongkong.coconuts.co)
We do not really know the heart of some migrant workers because at times family members are blinded by their misguided perspective. At times family members want to in a way ‘punish’ them thinking ‘they deserve the money they are asking in exchange of their absence at home’ or that because ‘they chose to leave the family and spend their life somewhere without their loved ones’.
It was obvious that the conversation was an exchange between people undergoing different struggles. The two people in the story above found in each other a listening ear. In sharing their individual stories they would have found support from each other, even from a new acquaintance on the short bus ride to where they were going to. Like any human beings they needed to talk and needed someone to listen to them. Their burden may have been lightened as it is shared with someone who listened... Some migrant workers could be most vulnerable especially because they do not have easy access of family or community support around them when they are overseas. Some are not so lucky to have their immediate family around them like the hundreds of migrant workers here in Hong Kong. People like them are the ones who needs much support.

At times in my past experience that is just what I did. Being present to people whenever they needed help or when they needed someone to talk to. At one time when I was in Ireland I offered shelter to two newly arrived nurses who have been promised a job that was not there in the first place but luckily with their qualifications they have landed a job pretty soon after their ordeal.

While most stories of migrant workers are good, at times we heard stories that were not so pleasant. Some were much worse than the other. At times they suffer in silence. They sacrifice for their loved ones at home. On top of family concerns they may have at times needed to deal with difficult work situations and sometimes would have suffered abuse from their employers. Some verbal or physical. Worse case some experienced sexual abuse. Some even lost their lives to escape danger or violence.We do not really know the heart of some migrant workers because at times family members see them like 'banks' with whom money can be drawn anytime it is needed. It is at times forgotten that their homesickness, tears and sweat are its equivalents.

We do not really know the heart of some migrant workers until we understand some of their sadness, loneliness, difficulties and pains that are at times camouflaged with beautiful clothes or jewelries they wear. . . For some of them, their day off is a time to feel good about themselves and they put effort in dressing up well. We can’t fault them in that because week in and week out their job is to clean the house, or look after a baby or a bunch of kids, take care of an elderly or sick person, ... doing menial jobs that allows them very limited time to spend for themselves, like doing personal things i.e. brushing their teeth, combing their hair, etc.. because of the endless jobs or errands they need to do to look after the needs of their employer’s family. Their time is often spent for others of which they are paid for but never spent on themselves.. Normally their day off is a time to put on their best to feel good and look good. So if you see their FB photo posts don’t conclude that they are living luxurious life away from you just because they wear fashionable clothes, faces covered with make-up, or their bodies adorned with necklaces, bracelets and earrings. .. Although some are lucky, with good jobs and enjoy a reasonably comfortable life overseas, and at times with their families with them, some are not fortunate.

When they come home RECEIVE them with open arms and SPEND TIME with them. LISTEN TO THEIR STORY: Take interest in their life and story, ask them how it is as a migrant worker, draw them out with your questions because they need to tell their story (although at times they do not feel their story is worth relating) but do not push. Give them time and be patient with them. They are at times embarrassed to share their stories that may include their ordeals because at times they feel they need to protect you from their difficulties. TAKE CARE OF THEM: When you feel they are distant show your care for them because at times they feel guilty having been away. At times they do not know how to make up for the lost time without you in their lives. At times they feel they lost you from being away from them and they feel you may be better of without them. Unfortunately they just do not know how to reach out to you. But LOVE them just they way you need to.

One thing they have in their hearts is: They are coming home to the ONLY home they know, where they feel LOVE is waiting and where the people THEY LOVE DWELLS.

They dread every goodbye they needed to say and even though they are faraway, you as their loved ones are never far from their memory, because you are embedded in the most special corner of their hearts.

For varied reasons people chose to work overseas but I believe they chose it NOT because they want to be away from their loved ones.

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