It was a cool, rainy day in June when Adela welcomed me into her home in Citadel. ’Come in! It’s chilly out today,’’ She said. A slim Philippino woman, she waved her arms to encourage me to hurry.
I thanked her and entered into a well-kept townhouse, where a collection of shoes neatly arranged at the front door tipped me off to the presence of children.
‘’How old are your children?’’ I asked, as I introduced myself, and met Adela’s husband, Oscar.
‘’Eleven and six.’’ She replied. ‘’Two boys!’’ We laughed, as I told her about my own daughters, nine and five.
‘’Boys are harder, I think,’’ I offered. Clearly, she agreed, and Oscar, who had been quiet through our introductions, smiled. ‘’I hope we can get the kids together at the barbecue.’’
‘’Oh, we won’t be here!’’ Adela told me. ‘’We will be in Vancouver.’’ They are going there to visit Oscar’s cousins and sister, who live there. His sister used to live in Calgary, and it’s been some time since they have seen her. They are only going for the weekend because Adela has school she can’t miss. I ask her what she is taking.
‘’Accounting and payroll.’’ She answers. ‘’People ask me why I would take that because it is not a fun profession. It is hard, but the work is good, and you are either right or wrong.’’ I can see immediately that appeals to her, being right. Her home is very clean, and she is proper, everything is in its place, and she seems to take a quiet joy in being ordered and neat, like numbers in a column adding up properly.
I ask how long they’ve been with PPC. ‘’Three years, nearly four.’’
Oscar chimes in. ‘’It will be four in October.’’
‘’Yes. I have worked for other cleaning companies. They are not the same.’’ Says Adela. ‘’PPC is different. The way they treat us, it is very kind. They understand that we are people.’’
Oscar agrees, and says he enjoys the parties. ‘’Other companies don’t do things like that.’’ They explain that they had done cleaning before PPC, and before that, Adela worked as a nanny, when she came here from home. Well, not exactly home – they had both been working in Taiwan, and had been married for five years before she came here through the domestic help program, and was then able to sponsor Oscar to come over.
‘’Our story is complicated!’’ Adela adds, enticingly. ‘’When I came here, I was maybe two months pregnant with our first child! I had to keep it a secret from my employer, until about five months, when I told them.’’ I ask her if she was worried she would be fired. ‘’They didn’t fire me. I went to Vancouver to have the baby, and then home for a while. I had to leave him with my mother for two years while I worked here as a nanny with the same family, until I was able to bring Oscar here, because Oscar was working in Korea at that time.’’
They are hard workers. Even though it is a cliché, people from the Philippines do have an incredible work ethic. Oscar is a forklift driver during the day shift for a large warehouse, and his job there has benefits. They work at two daycares overnight, which they explain pays their mortgage. They recently gave up an additional site, because Adela is focusing on school. They also send money back to their family in the Philippines, and I learn that Oscar’s mother passed away last year.
‘’It isn’t like here’’, says Adela. ‘’The hospital bills were very large.’’
‘’My sister moved her back home to be with family,’’ says Oscar. I also learn that Adela had open heart surgery here in Canada to repair a leaky valve, and that with our medical system, even though there are some expenses not covered, we are certainly more fortunate than citizens in countries without health care. I ask if they have been back to visit.
‘’No, it has been eight or nine years.’’ We talk about the difficulty of being first-generation immigrants to Canada, with one foot on this continent, and one foot in their home country. They see their future here, and their children’s futures here, with grandchildren being here, and slowly losing ties to the Philippines as the older generation passes on. ‘’We are here for our children, so they will have opportunities.’’ Adela is firm on that. They are extremely focused on their family, and spend recreation time with the kids outside when the weather is nice, biking or going to the park, sometimes swimming, and they usually barbecue on the weekends. Oscar notes it’s sometimes nice to just relax, take time and watch a movie, and I can see he enjoys the comforts of the home he has built here.
I ask what advice they can give to cleaners starting out with PPC. Oscar says ‘’Go through the training at your sites, and then take extra time to learn. Learn what you can do to make the cleaning better, you can figure out what makes the clients happy.’’
Adela agrees. ‘’When PPC gives feedback, it is in a good way, so you know what needs to be done. The clients are usually nice, and sometimes they don’t know what is included in our service. But Jared always helps, and when we need to change something, it is easy to do.’’
I leave this accommodating couple with a renewed appreciation for the challenges they face, being from another country and moving to Canada with almost nothing, it is encouraging to see what they have built together for their family, and I’m thankful they connected with PPC.