Occasionally while traveling in the States, I’ll slum it for a day or two in a backpacker’s hostel.
Yesterday, while staying in such a place in one of the seedier parts of beautiful Washington DC, I got talking to talking to the maid assigned to clean out my room.
Turned out she was a Filipina, late 20s I’d guess and clearly well educated.
She told me she was a former junior school teacher, with a dream to rise out the the poverty she and her family were accustomed to. She wanted to buy her own house, so had come to work in the U.S. to earn some decent wages, then return home with enough to set herself up.
She’d paid paid $5,000 to an “agency”, an huge sum in itself by Filipino standards, but on her arrival in the U.S. was hit up for another $6,000 in undisclosed “fees” and “charges”.
For the last 18 months “Tia” has worked 7 days a week. She works weekdays in a childcare center, then in the evening until late as kitchen hand. On Saturday and Sunday she cleans the hostel then waitresses at night.
The “agency” accommodates her in a three bedroom apartment with 11 other Filapinas, all in a similar position.
I’m a capitalist. I admire this lady for her work ethic and ambition. I have no problem with legitimate businesses who help people from third world countries attempt to escape poverty through working in richer countries.
It’s the element of fraud and exploitation that I despise. This kind of scam, the hidden “charges” and outright deception traps millions of men and women world wide on a never ending treadmill that is often one step above slavery. Horrible as it seems, “Tia” is probably far better off than many victims of these practices.
“Tia” was not complaining. I had to draw the information out of her. She was doing what she had to do to get ahead.
It’s one thing to read about these scams. Its another to meet one of its victims in the capital of the world’s richest and most benevolent nation.