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Monday without a Wheelchair: a story of caretakers in Taiwan
commissioned by Innovation for Change - East Asia 
first published

According to the Ministry of Labour, there are over 200,000 foreign caretakers in Taiwan; more than 74% of them reported not receiving any time off from work. This storytelling project is inspired by Gayra Mara Che, a Filipino caretaker whom I met in the area called “Little Manila” in Taipei. Gayra Che has lived in Taiwan for more than 10 years while sending money back to the Philippines every month to raise her children; she receives no help from her husband, who ran away a long time ago. Since her last patient passed away, she has been selling Filipino cosmetics on the streets in Little Manila. It is her only way of making a living. I wanted to show that her struggles, resiliency, and hope—and that of her peers—deserve to be documented in art forms like poetry and dance.

Little Manila turns into a hub for Filipino migrant workers on Sundays. Through a month-long group workshop, I worked together with them to create an illustrated map and cultural guide to the area. The map shows aspects of how these workers have shaped an area within Taipei, creating a home away from home. It also notes the roles played by KASAPI (KApulungan ng SAmahang PIlipino) and TIWA (Taiwan International Workers’ Association) in campaigning for labour rights and better working conditions for migrant workers.

For myself, I now call Taiwan home. I started this project by asking a question: what does home mean? When I shared the poem and video with Che and her friends, they said, “Yes, the suitcase is our life.” Perhaps “home” is always on the move, travelling with our lives, wherever we are.

"I came to Taiwan with a dream in my arms instead of my kids."

"Yes, the suitcase is out life."

"We send everything but us."

"Where the heartache goes away."

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