A migrant caregiver-mother’s dream come true

Community News & Features Jul 13, 2018 at 4:21 pm

Gladys-soloGladys Ayson, Magna Cum Laude

By Rick Esguerra

In rites held June 11, 2018 at the University of Ottawa, Gladys Ayson graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts (Honors Program) in Psychology.
“I had to fight for it,” says Gladys. She was .05 points short of the 8.0 grade point average needed to graduate magna cum laude. She believed her thesis defense was excellent, and so she approached the University Ombudsman and asked if she had to defend her thesis all over again to get the required mark. She was then asked to just do a poster presentation before a wider academic community. She did an oral presentation. “And I made it!”

A “straight-A” student, her diligence in academe, hard work and actual involvement in her field of study developed in her a critical mind, and the drive to get a deeper understanding and real appreciation of people and things around her.

“The A’s don’t matter,” she said, “if one is not involved (in the practice).” She did volunteer work at the Hospital for Sick Children and is a member of the Childhood Cognition and Learning Lab of the university, conducting studies with children aged 3-5 years, enriching her knowledge in child and developmental psychology. In her spare time, she volunteered as literacy tutor, teaching English to mostly Syrian and African refugee children. Still, she has ventured into other fields like the neurosciences, having done her honours thesis on the impact of marijuana on the brain function of regular users.

Mother Edith Ayson and the graduate

Mother Edith Ayson and the graduate

Proud mother Edith Ayson boasts of her daughter receiving awards in academic excellence since her elementary years in the St James Town area, and even in her younger years in Markham where she was born. “The very first time she went to school, her teachers were surprised she already knew the alphabet and some arithmetic” Edith said. But Gladys adds, “She (mom) used to give me math exercises, like the multiplication table.”

Edith came to Canada through the Foreign Domestic Movement Program in December 1990 and worked as live-in caregiver for a Canadian family in Markham. Gladys was raised and spent most of her pre-university years in the home of Edith’s employers. “My mom is the most amazing woman ever! I saw her care for other people’s children (she worked for three other employers too). And in each of those households, the kids also considered her as their second mom. With all her work, she never complained, she persevered and even did her ‘mom job’ raising me to what I’ve become now.”

Single mother Edith and her sister Linda raised the young Gladys with the support of some “10 or more women who were my moms too,” according to Gladys. Mostly caregivers like her mother, and workers in other service industries, they were members of the Concerned Filipinos of St. Anthony’s Parish (CFSA), a community organization that renders assistance to kababayans here in Canada and back in the Philippines as in the survivors of the Mt Pinatubo disaster in 2001. Edith used to share an apartment with good friends and CFSA members Rovie Pagunsan and Jinny Marquita. Rovie and Jinny recall, “Edith and Linda worked two, three other jobs and pooled resources so that Gladys would be able to finish university and carve out a better future for herself.”

It was in high school when Gladys started to reflect and ask questions. “I was going through a lot of changes and adjustment … I wasn’t into my teachers, they couldn’t inspire (the students).” She felt some teachers then were just there to “promote their own status, seek tenure.” She found out later this was also true in the university.

From left: Linda Ayson,  Lhala Basalio, Gladys, mom Edith, Rovie Pagunsan and Jinny Marquita

From left: Linda Ayson, Lhala Basalio, Gladys, mom Edith, Rovie Pagunsan and Jinny Marquita

Gladys points out, “There’s nothing wrong with this and I completely understand their need for some job stability. But if they are in the business of moulding minds, they should be passionate about teaching and be able to inspire.”

And certainly, there were those who were good teachers. That way, she says “students could focus more on learning than on grades, students would not be pit against each other and pressure could also be eased on the parents.” For Gladys, there is need “to change a whole system – maybe the system of teaching, of education” a task that she hopes she can be part of.

“My mom didn’t believe I graduated magna cum laude until she saw the official papers. Then she spread the news from our household, to our neighbours and friends, all the way to the Philippines. I didn’t realize this was such a big thing for our community until now.”

Today, this intelligent Filipina Canadian is bent on pursuing a doctorate in Experimental Psychology specializing in Developmental Psychology with a focus on children. “And I will try to keep on doing my best … if only to inspire others in our community.” This she says, with a new-found awareness of what it means to be a role model to the Filipino youth. She is indeed a living example that a migrant mother’s greatest dream – that of having her child get a university education with high honours – can come true.