I’ve been here in Taiwan for many years already, and I find it very interesting that a lot of my “kababayan” (countrymen) wanted to work abroad. Initially I felt that people wanted to work abroad for economic gain. When I heard that you have a relative who is working abroad, then I believed that you already belong to the middle class. You can own new appliances, and you can renovate your house.
And now that I am here, I was given the privilege to journey with the migrants who came to Taiwan in search of a better life. It is not easy to work abroad or in a foreign land, being away from your loved ones, missing special or important occasions in the family, and most of all having to work in a different culture. At its worst, some experience abuses and discrimination. It may be difficult but they just have to deal with all of these factors in order to work.
I met this girl, she was in her early 30s, and she was sheltered in our place. She was hired as a caregiver, but then it turned out that her work was to clean the whole backyard of her employer and the three-story buildings all by herself. In spite of all the difficulties and abuses she experienced, she has to bear all of this or else look for another job where a good employer is not a guarantee. As much as she would like to go home and find security, she couldn’t because she needed to think of the many bills she needed to pay not to mention her debts before she came here. She could not imagine herself becoming the “burden” of her family when she comes home. All she wants is to give hope to her family for a better life.
I guess I could say most of the migrant workers are here because of their love for their family. They are willing to take all the risks and difficulties as migrant workers, because they want to provide better futures for their families. We have a community prayer group here, and it is organized by volunteers. In this prayer group we become one in our tears of sadness, joys, worries and loneliness. Our experiences brought us in union to the same God. Our hope is in God. We know that Jesus has gone through all of these experiences that we now have, and He feels for us and He is in one with us.
The challenge of the migrant workers is that they make all of these sacrifices out of love for their families, but is it worth the sacrifice of being away from the families who need their love and physical presence?
Columban lay missionary Joan Yap lives and works in Taiwan.