Annie Chua-Frith - Paglalayag Series
Part of the Paglalayag: the Philippines to Canada Journey series.
Annie Chua is a published author, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, professional freight forwarder of Canada, former president of the MillWoods Vocabulaires Toastmasters Club (2016-2017) and owner of Assured Cargo International Ltd. and Voyable Travel and Tours.
She is the author of the best selling book (Elderly category in Amazon) of Domestically Yours: A Caregiver's Inspiring Journey. She was also the recipient of the Manggagawang Pilipino of the Year in the 1st Golden Balangay Awards in 2017.
About "Domestically Yours: A Caregiver's Inspiring Journey". In 2003 Annie made the bold decision to join thousands of women working in Canada under the "24 months Live-in Caregiver Program". Her intent: to create a better future for her children. However, to make her dream come true Annie had to leave her four daughters behind in the Philippines while she travelled to work as a nanny in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Follow Annie's journey as she encounters homesickness, loneliness, cultural shock and more. Did she make the best decision? Would the sacrifice be worth it? Her story reveals the hurdles she endured as a single mom relentlessly pursuing her dream to bring her daughters to Canada. Her story is sure to inspire anyone who wants to make their own dream come true.
The following Q & A are excerpts from "Caregiver Inspiring Story: 7000 Miles Away from Home", pinoy-canada.com, (Feb 2016).
What education did you receive in the Philippines and what was your career outlook there?
I graduated Bachelor of Science in Psychology at Centro Escolar University, got married at a young age so I wasn't able to pursue my doctorate degree. Started with a family of 5 children. And with the death of my 3rd daughter and mother, I had decided to work my way up to improve our lives. In between those circumstances, I became a single mom to 4 daughters.
Eventually, I got an opportunity to gain experience with an export company which brought me to work 12 years with Expeditors International a global freight forwarder in Manila, started in a clerical job and achieved a supervisory position as the company grows.
While on my overseas business meetings in Hong Kong (1996) and Thailand (1998), I met two hardworking ladies working as domestic helpers in those countries and they both introduced the 24 months Live-in Caregiver program in Canada. That's where I got interested in working overseas and thought this could be a good stepping stone to create a new life. I really wanted to specialize in home care since I enjoyed that aspect thoroughly.
Why did you decide to leave the Philippines and what made you choose Canada?
It was a very tough and courageous decision to leave my children behind in the Philippines while working in Canada as a caregiver. My intent is to give my children a better future. I never knew anybody to where I'm heading. So in 2003, I travelled 7000 miles away from home and faced the future with optimism.
I chose Canada because the government has a strong family immigration platform and diverse in their freedom of choice, rights and privilege for individual or group. The government of Canada has a more secure infrastructure, job and health system. During that time, they were the only country who had the 24 month live-in caregiver program. Now Australia and New Zealand have followed.
What was your first impression of Canada and what happened to your career here?
My first year was really tough for missing my children and family back home. I think I had a bucket of tears while waiting for my children to be with me. Honestly, I really don't like the cold weather in Fort McMurray so I moved down to Edmonton and fell in love with the city. Though the weather is still cold but there's a lot of things to do in this city like skiing, curling and skating. And I like the summer festivals set up in Edmonton like the Heritage Festival, Folk Fest, Family day, Food fest and a lot more.
My career blossomed after I finished the live-in caregiver program, though I did not leave the job right away. I took a part time job with Tim Hortons while at the same time took some courses with Canadian Institute of Traffic and Transportation in order to go back to freight forwarding industry. After the course, I put my name in the job bank website, and in a matter of week posting, I got hired by one of the global freight forwarding German company Kuehne & Nagel in Edmonton and continued my upgrading in transportation while working with them.
Luckily, I bought a townhouse in south side Edmonton even though I was still in my open work permit status. After 5 years since I came to Canada, it was the happiest moment of my life when I successfully sponsored my 4 daughters and we were reunited.
In order for me to spend more time with my children, I moved to a Canadian freight forwarding company - which was closer to my home.
As a single mom, I thrived to make our living as comfortable as possible. So in order to support the family financially, I established Little Annie Kidzline selling infant and children clothing and accessories, which started in our basement, attended some trade shows and 6 years now in Mill Woods Town Centre.
What were the obstacles you had to face in Canada and how did you overcome them?
Lots of sacrifices, adjustments in Canadian culture, weather, environment and society were the main obstacles I encountered. It takes strong guts and determination to reach for my goals and tried to manage it day to day, taking one step at a time. I put God in the centre of my life and asked for guidance and will power. It wasn't easy but I managed to put them all together. Probably because of a strong belief and trust to our Almighty that I was able to make this dream come true.
I'm sharing these blessings in my published book Domestically Yours: A Caregiver's Inspiring Journey which is available in print and in all multi media platforms. It will surely inspire readers to reach for their dreams, take action and thrive for better situation.
What are the most notable differences between the Philippines and Canada?
It is difficult to compare apples to mangoes. Or maybe we can easily distinguish their tastes and likings. Canada is a rich and financially stable country and started with a relatively established government while Philippines is still in the process of becoming one. Philippines will be able to reach their goals if the right group of people will run the country but it could take years to get the right ingredients. It has many resources to work on and discover more to share to the world. I hope that whoever will govern the Philippines will improve the broken system and will think not only inside but outside the. box as well.
One thing that I would like to suggest the Phil. government is to look into a policy on how to protect the OFW - Overseas Foreign Workers because they are the backbone of the economy. Without these OFWs, it would not be where it is today.
In fairness, I like the way the media is promoting the Philippines lately. Soon to be the Tiger of Asia... well I think it used to be way back in 1970s and 80s... I hope this will come true. It gives Filipino pride to go for it.
Where do you feel at home?
I grew up in Manila but I felt much at home in Canada because our family are growing bigger now that 3 of my daughters are settled and I have 2 wonderful grandkids. Also I found my soul mate Wes Frith and enjoying life with him.
What do you miss about the Philippines?
I miss my brothers so much and friends in the Philippines. Social media has played a major role in connecting us all. I found some high school and university classmates in Facebook and some former work mates in Linked In and Twitter.
I also miss some of our local food specially fresh seafood, most of them here are frozen. I miss places like Tagaytay, north Luzon, Cebu and Bohol, their warm beaches and warm weather.
Frankly, I do not miss the crazy traffic in Manila (lol). In Edmonton or Alberta, there's not much traffic and can easily get around the city and I love driving in the highway to the Rocky Mountains.
The following Q & A are excerpts from the FCM Multicultural Magazine (Oct 2016).
Who inspires you?
My children inspire me and influence me. When I'm gone, they can still have what I've built. I also want to be an example to them. If I can do it, I would think that they would do it too even if they take small steps. I also want to be an example to everybody. My mother also inspired me. She always helped people. She helped pay for my relatives' education. After my book is launched in the Philippines, I plan to put up an educational foundation for kids. A portion of the sales of my book will go to the foundation to help put kids to school.
If someone wants to start a business, what are the key steps they need do?
First of all, figure out what you want to do. Focus on one thing you are passionate about. Passion is critical. If you're not passionate about what you're doing, it won't last. When you put up a business, it's not just about making money. You have to love what you're doing. Then do your research. How are you going to go about it? And also what is your exit strategy.
For Filipinos who recently came to Canada and are struggling and falling into rough times, what's your advice?
I know what that's like. You need to have a fallback plan. You can't focus on one thing only. It's very common for Pinoys to have two jobs. If one doesn't work, they have another job to go to. If problems come up, solve it as it comes.
What can you advise mothers who want to start a business or change careers?
When an opportunity comes, grab it. You'll regret not taking the opportunities. If it doesn't work, at least you tried. Whatever you learned, you can apply later on. If you love something or want to go into business, do it.
If you were to represent the Filipino community, what would you be?
As a strong woman of the community. For us mothers, we need to collaborate to find ways to include our family in the community. I'd be an ambassador for women, especially for the caregivers. I want to help them. I want to help them show their talent and pursue their potential.
Find your passion. Once you have your passion and focus on it, it will grow. Take a small step and move forward. Pray to God and ask for guidance. God and the universe will help you. Continue towards your goals, be focused, and be attentive to what you are doing. Face the consequences of your decisions but be strong!