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Estelita’s journey as an entrepreneur started when she was a child. She came from a poor family with seven siblings. As the eldest child, she felt a great responsibility to support her siblings. “My only desire is to help my family,” says Estelita. Her parents could not afford to send her or her siblings to high-school.
“I had the biggest desire to send my siblings to high-school,” says Estelita. “I believe that education is the only route to get away from poverty.”
At a young age, she started to look for ways to make money. While tending to animals in the field, she looked for things she could sell in the village market in her home town of Iloilo in the Philippines.
The money she earned was used to buy food and supply for her family.
At 15 years old, she worked as a house maid for her auntie and uncle. During the day, she worked in the house. In the evening, she studied. “It was a big challenge for me back then,” says Estelita, “working during the day and studying in the evening, but I persevered.”
The money she earned, she used to fund the education of her siblings. She wanted them to finish their high-school and university studies. She put aside her own desire to go to school because she believes that for her siblings, “Education with hard work and determination is the passport for their future success.”
Estelita continued as a domestic helper for several families. The opportunity to work outside of the Philippines came when her American employer living in the Philippines went for a holiday in the U.S.
While in the U.S., she met with her friends who were seeking work as nannies in Hong-Kong. One of the applicants did not show up for the interview. “The secretary approached me to be interviewed instead… and it went very well. My English was good. I did not finish high-school, but my English was developed while working with the American family.”
She was offered a job in Hong-Kong in 1980. She worked for a family with two children. After that, she found employment for a Swiss family who also had two children.
After 5 years in Hong-Kong, her application to work in Canada as a nanny was approved. She worked as a nanny, and then as a caregiver for an elderly lady which she calls “mom”. “I had an opportunity to travel with mom to Hawaii for six months, every year, for 10 years. I looked after her until she passed away.”
While working, she continued to upgrade her English skills. “I wanted to have a restaurant one day, so I took courses in computers, accounting, typing, and cooking.” She was persistent in her education and enrolled in an international correspondence school. In 1994, she obtained her high-school diploma. She was 44 years old. “I’m very proud that I finally got my high-school diploma. It inspired me to work more.”
Estelita completed a degree in nutrition and a diploma for Hotel and Restaurant management. “I wanted to have a restaurant, but I ended up having a daycare business.”
To prepare herself for her business, she studied and completed an accounting certificate and child development assistant certificate. She also took insurance and mutual funds courses. Now, she owns and manages two of Calgary’s largest daycare centres – ESG Child Learning Centres (www.esgdaycare.com). Her centres are licensed to have 260 children.
“I know there are a lot of Filipinos here in Canada who are struggling for a new life. If you work hard, and persevere… you can have a bright future here in Canada.”