Through Photography, Filipino Migrant Caregivers Share Their Hopes and Fears As They Work During COVID-19

Handwritten messages from loved ones, a cup of coffee next to a laptop displaying proof of English proficiency, a plant bud beginning to sprout from an earthen pot. These were some of the things Filipino health workers photographed for a new photo exhibition now on display in Toronto.

Stable: Filipino care workers during COVID-19It is a series of photographs of migrant Filipino nurses, personal support workers and caregivers working in Canada, exploring their experiences as frontline workers during the pandemic.. Stable, which means “firm and strong” in Tagalog, consists of 30 printed photos taken by Filipino health workers inviting viewers to see things from their perspectives, as well as a slide show of the 78 photos of the participants.

When discussing essential workers during COVID-19, members of the Filipino community found that Filipino care workers were rarely included. Ethel Tungohan, associate professor of politics at York University, wanted to change that.

Tungohan led the project along with other academics, researchers and community organizers from the Canada Migrant Resource Center and GABRIELA Ontario, a feminist organization led by Filipino women.

Through Stable, Tungohan wants people to understand the hopes and struggles of Filipino health workers and demand policies that protect them. The researchers behind Stable also have a request reforming health care systems to address job burnout and precariousness, specifically for workers of color.

Tungohan found that frontline workers were commonly described as “tough” or heroic during the pandemic, but words like these had different meanings, depending on who was using them.

“We are against the romanticization of resilience (which) tends to be used by policy makers; it tends to absolve them of their own responsibility for leading this situation to unfold as it has, “said Tungohan. “But we are here to celebrate the women who formed their own community … to fight the situation they are in.”

At the start of the pandemic, Tungohan also noted that conversations about essential workers were primarily focused on doctors and nurses. He put aside professions such as personal support and home care. workers. And these were the works of various members of the Philippine community that the researchers knew about.

So Tungohan wanted to amplify these voices by exploring what Filipino health workers are going through during the pandemic directly from their perspectives.

One of StableThe participants, a personal support worker who Star has granted anonymity for fear of workplace retaliation, told The Star that what she liked best about the project were all the stories she heard from other Filipino care workers during narration, or storytelling sessions. These sessions, facilitated by the team behind Stable, ran from July 2020 to August this year.

“When you hear the stories, they are horrible,” said the participant. “There are things behind closed doors that we never know. Nobody knows what is happening. “

One story that stood out to the participant was that of a nurse who was in charge of three floors alone in a nursing home. He photographed the piles of garbage he had to deal with, the pile full of disposable masks.

These stories further pushed the participant to share her own experience so that the experiences of Filipino care workers are no longer hidden in the dark. For the project, she took a photograph of a photo she has of her granddaughter, who lives in the Philippines.

Since moving to Canada 13 years ago, he has not returned home to see his family. And your chances of traveling to see them are even lower during COVID-19.

“For me and other migrant workers too, when we work with our clients, we treat them like our family, but we can’t even go home and hug our own family,” said the participant.

Matatag is currently at A Space Gallery and will be open until January 2022.


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