Arlene Echevarria moved to Doha from the Philippines in 2014 to work as a hotel housekeeper. When she left Manila, her youngest son was four, her middle child seven, and her oldest 13.
As she and her husband earn their living and save money so they can one day buy their own family house in Manila, Arlene’s mother and sister are taking care of their children.
“I stayed with my boys as long as I could,” says Arlene. “I couldn’t face leaving them when they were babies and needed me with them. When Prince, my youngest, started school, I decided to join my husband, who had already been working in Doha for a year. I wanted to do my part for our family, provide for my children and help build a solid future for them.”
Arlene misses her boys to the point that she becomes teary every time she talks about them, but she stands by the reasons behind her sacrifice: “When I was young, I had to find a job to sustain myself financially, and I regret not having the opportunity to study. I want my children to have an education, professional careers. Studying is their only job, and mine is to make sure they succeed. I am happy to send them money so they can buy the latest technology gadgets, as long as their grades are good!”
She talks to her boys every day on the phone, and she spends at least a month a year with them in Manila. Messaging services like WhatsApp also help her keep in touch with them and see them grow up, albeit from a distance.
“My sister regularly sends me pictures and videos of my kids,” she explains. “I trust her and my mother completely, and I know the boys are in good hands. Yuki and Christian, my oldest and middle child, are old enough to understand why I cannot be with them all the time. My youngest struggles with that, but recently he asked me to buy him an iPad, and when I explained I wouldn’t be able to unless I stayed and worked in Doha, he was happy to concede.”