By Ella Tanner, International Representative (Dubai)
Evelyn is joyful and nurturing. She is the type of woman that instantly makes you feel comfortable in her presence, as if she has been your close friend for years. I have known Evelyn for a while as she works as a live in nanny for a good friend of mine, Jess. Every time I see her, she gives me a big cuddle and mothers me like she does William, her 2 year old charge.
Evelyn is from the Philippines and is one of 750,000 nannies working in the UAE. She has been working for Jess since William was only a few months old. They live together in an apartment on the 47th floor in the middle of Dubai. Evelyn takes care of William from Saturday through Thursday whilst Jess works full time. Jess tells me that, really, Evelyn takes care of her too. She plans William’s days to ensure that he learns everything that there is to learn for a two year old. She takes him to the park, she takes him to day care for a few hours so he can make new friends, she teaches him Tagalog and she cooks him healthy, hearty food. Evelyn smiles as she tell me how much she loves William, ‘I was put on this earth to look after children’.
Fridays are Evelyn’s days off. Usually, she meets with her friends to catch up, cook food together and attend mass at the local Catholic church. That is why I was slightly surprised when Evelyn told me that she was a hustler. The picture I have in my mind of what a hustler is did not match the happy, kind woman that I know. In pop culture, a hustler is typically a male who aggressively and illicitly works to climb their way to ‘the top’. But Evelyn disagreed. To her, hustling was working hard to make the money she needed to support her family. She was a hustler and she had been hustling since she was a small child.
Evelyn’s father died when she was seven years old and she had to grow up very quickly and accept new responsibilities. She was now in charge of taking the family’s money to the market to replenish the stock to fill the shelves of her mother’s sari-sari store, the Filipino name for a convenience shop set up in the front of the owner’s house. She had to hustle with all the adult market sellers to make the money go as far as possible. A few years have gone by since Evelyn was seven but she has not stopped hustling.
From the money she makes as William’s nanny, Evelyn supports her entire family and their dreams. Her only daughter, who is now twenty, has been able to finish school and is now studying at university. Evelyn’s mother always dreamt of renovating and extending their family home and Evelyn has been able to do this for her. I ask Evelyn is it difficult to live away from her family and her country, she tells me it is - but it did not matter because she says, ‘I am living my dream’.