Living away from my country can be a really interesting and unforgettable experience. Settling into a new country is not easy. As an immigrant, I have to adapt to an unfamiliar environment and lifestyle, while maintaining aspects of my previous culture, my country of origin and the way of life I got accustomed to.
Each immigrant has their own unique story to tell as I have mine. Whilst for many it was easy, the journey I landed is the less travelled road. Taken one at a time, as an individual, I have a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, hope and despair. But collectively, it represents something greater than the sum of my totality. The forces that pushed me away from my family for a long time now have combined with a series of global factors, economically per se, pulled me to stay here in the United Kingdom. Being a single parent, I become the sole provider in the upbringing of my three sons fending for their basic needs – food, shelter and education. As well as supporting myself independently doing my best to live decently and with integrity.
There are no easy policy answers to the questions on why I ended up working in the underground economy, living invisibly in the society where my circumstances will be a stigma to be known. There is no easy-and-fast algorithm that decides whether I get to stay “normally, regularly” to fit in a normal environment to enjoy the benefits of being a regular citizen. What’s clear, however, is I have to survive my daily challenges in keeping up mentally, emotionally, physically and financially. Migrants will continue to flee bombs, look for better-paying jobs and accept extraordinary risks as the price of providing a better life for their children. This is the reality where I am now. Of course, I am afraid for my safety and have “fears” of my own. The reason of course is obvious.
I am an artist at heart – I know. I yearned to experience artistic expressions that were different from my own. I wanted to see more, explore more, and learn more. That was the other motivation that keeps me going to endure my existence here. I am making the best of my situation. Faith and hope keeps me going. Faith kept me alive during the difficult journey here, and hope allows me to look forward to a brighter future.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to make a reputation for myself here, performing and showcasing my abilities to some group communities. This is what I have always wanted to do — share my talent in writing and light painting, with the world I belong to and I am accepted. Music is also my other escape. When I’m singing, I am transported into a different realm. I want people who listen to me to forget their earthly worries.
There is so much suffering in the world. Ultimately, we all want the same things in life: good health, decent jobs, liberty, and freedom to pursue opportunities for our families and ourselves. And because many people (living invisibly in the society) can’t come out to showcase their talents. They feel they can’t be part of the outside “normal society.” They can’t have the respect due for them and create opportunities for them so as not to risk their lives. I am praying to seek a world where none are forced to leave their home and where all can live in freedom, dignity and peace. That the present government will wake up from the slumber of indifference, open their eyes to the sufferings of irregular migrants. Free them from the present bondage so will they not be exploited and harassed. That they are beneficial and can contribute to the growth of this country. And recognize them, as normal human beings, and as migrants, journeying in hope they can also call this country as their home.
Written by Lauren, a Filipino migrant worker in the UK. This essay was first published on the website of Southeast and East Asian Centre (SEEAC).