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OU on the BBC: Meet The Immigrants - Programme five

Updated Tuesday, 8th April 2008

Find out more about the fifth programme in the BBC/OU Meet the Immigrants series.

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There are more that 150,000 Filipinos living in London, and in this episode we meet one of them. Suzi is a Filipino domestic worker, living in a small basement room of a large Georgian House. She has four sons back home in the Philippines, and much of the £300 a week she earns from her three cleaning jobs pays for her children’s education in Manila. Her wages are ten times as much as she could hope to earn back in the Philippines.

Suzi is one of the eight million Filipinos who leave their country to work abroad and send money home. Another is Juanna Carnete, who has been working as a domestic for the last 20 years to support her family. She has twelve siblings, to whom she sends money home regularly. It’s estimated that workers outside the Philippines send home £5.5 billion pounds a year.

Last year, one of Juanna’s brothers became seriously ill with complications from diabetes. With no public health service in Philippines, Juanna had to pay for his dialysis treatment. In spite of sending large amounts of money to keep her brother alive, he eventually slipped into a coma and died.

Juanna eventually built up debts of £40,000 on seven credit cards - most of which was interest. To make matters worse she lost her job. Unable to cope with the increasing debt, she filed for bankruptcy.

Another group of immigrants in London are the Roma. There are at least 12,000 in the city and its suburbs. In this film, we meet one group who have moved to Britain after being subject to persecution in Poland.

Youth worker Zorba Huczko, who came from Poland with his family when he was 10, is organising a talent show for the young Roma in London. He holds auditions, at which we meet some of the hopefuls, including Adrian, an 11 year-old violinist, playing in the traditional Roma style. We go on to meet his family at home, and they tell us more about Roma history and music.

Juanna’s day in the bankruptcy court has finally arrived and, with the help of her local Citizens Advice Bureau, she is able to wipe the slate clean and contemplate a new life. Although now debt free, she will be restricted financially in the future.

The day of the Roma talent show dawns, and backstage at a packed and expectant theatre, Zorba and his wife Sara are getting into their costumes to co-host the event.

The evening is a celebration of Roma culture. Amongst a host of talented acts, the winner is finally judged to be boy-violinist Adrian who scores four straight 10s from the judges!

The large boxes of goods sent home at Christmas time are traditionally known in the Philippines as ‘Balikbayan boxes’, and are one way of easing the pain of separation. Suzi spends three months and what money she has left - after sending much of her wages home - to build up a stock of goods for her family in Manila. When her crate is full she sends it off, and we see Suzi’s four sons and husband, Dante, unpacking her gifts in their house in the Philippines.

First broadcast: Monday 14 Apr 2008 on BBC ONE

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