Arlene Gamboa

Written by Canmore Museum

How long have you been in the Bow Valley?

“15 years. I came here March of 2006. It’s awesome, especially coming from the Philippines. My story is, I have a family in Toronto so ever since, I really wanted to go to Canada. I am freshly graduated in the Philippines. After I finished university, I wanted to be an independent immigrant but just because I am a fresh graduate and coming from a third world country, it is impossible for me to enter Canada.

My relatives advised that the easiest and fastest way to move to Canada from Philippines is to be a caregiver, so I took 7 months training. After a year and finished the course, they found a prospective employer for me in Toronto but I was denied. I am devastated, because this is my dream country.

My other cousin works and lives in UAE and she convinced me that maybe I should visit Dubai. I applied for a 3 months visit visa. I got a job at Dubai Media City, ended up working there for 2 years.

I worked in Dubai Media City (Reuters Building) as a server, and handle finance in the Dubai National School. Working at Dubai National School is a great experience so I can put this on my application that I am dealing and connected with kids as I am pursuing my application to work as a caregiver in Canada.

So happened that my aunt’s co-worker who is a Doctor (Anesthetist) is looking for a live-in caregiver. She processed the papers and applied for a work visa for me.

Processing papers in the Philippines to Canada took me 2 years but when I applied from Dubai through Abu Dhabi, it took only 3 months.

The caregiving program before is 2 years. Once you fulfilled your caregiver program, then you could apply for an open permit, and then citizenship.

Because my employer is like a family and my experienced in Canada is nothing to compare what I had in Dubai. I felt like I’m just having a vacation in beautiful Rocky Mountains, right!

When I was in Dubai, I had to share the room with six other women in different nationalities. That is why I was surprised when I had the basement suite for myself, have my own washroom and a walk in closet. I appreciate every little things because I had a culture shock when I live in Dubai and when I moved to Canada, it was a dream come true.

I am so blessed working with very active, supportive and loving employers who treated me like their own. My contract is 2 years but because of medical condition of a member of the family, I extended my contract until everything is all sort it out. My employer is a firefighter and a Doctor so they both have weird work schedule to help look after their lovely daughter. At that time, I was really hoping to go back to school and upgrade my credentials, so I asked them if they are willing to sponsor my cousin from the Philippines to replace me. I stayed and work with them for 6 years until my cousin gets here.

I studied Health Care Administration at Bow Valley College and after I graduated, I am lucky enough to gained experienced and start build my connection through Bow Valley Primary Care Network, got a casual position at Bear Street Family Physician as MOA (Medical Office Assistant) and later get a job in Banff Mineral Springs Hospital.

I have been working at the hospital for 9 years now, on May 13. I worked in Registration for 6 years and almost 3 years in Finance Department. I am lucky to be here in Canmore and Banff such a nice small community. I am living the dream.”

What does an average day or week look like for you right now?

“Now that I’m in finance I work Monday to Friday, 8am to 4:15pm, and weekends off. I go to Calgary on the weekends to see my partner and visit my aunt (who helped me to come out here), she is a widow and she is taking care of her 90-year-old mother. She is not driving so on the weekend I go help them run errands. It is hard right now due to COVID; I can’t risk it to go see grandma. Therefore, the only thing that I can do is to get some groceries for them and occasionally drive them for Doctor’s appointment.

In our current situation right now, my life is… Work on the weekdays; go to Calgary on a Friday afternoon. Come back Monday morning, straight to work and repeat.”

The Stories of Resilience project offers deeply personal insights into the lives of Bow Valley residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. They each share their unique challenges, fears, hopes, and lessons learnt during this unique time in history. This project was brought to life by a collaboration of local organizations: Bow Valley Immigration Partnership (BVIP), artsPlace Canmore, Kristy Wolfe Photography, Canmore Museum. With special thanks to Community Connections in the Bow Valley.

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