Elenita’s fight for a new life in Brighouse

Ramon and Elenita Gutierrez of Brighouse
Ramon and Elenita Gutierrez of Brighouse

For Elenita Gutierrez, making a new life for her herself and her family was a dream come true - but realising that dream involved a lot of hard work, separation from her loved ones and even near-disaster.

Elenita now lives in Brighouse with her husband Ramon and children, Camille and CJ (Carl Joel), and is proud to call the town her home. Originally from the Philippines, she was living and working as a nurse in the capital Manila but making ends meet was hard and supporting the family was a struggle.

Calderdale Citizenship CeremonY:'Deputy Lieutenant Neil Davidson with Elentia Gutierrez who came to Brighouse from the Philippines in 2006 and her son Carl Joel (CJ).

Calderdale Citizenship CeremonY:'Deputy Lieutenant Neil Davidson with Elentia Gutierrez who came to Brighouse from the Philippines in 2006 and her son Carl Joel (CJ).

“Ever since I was a young girl, I had dreamed of travelling and living abroad. I applied through an agency for work in England because I believed I would have a better life here.

“The agency sorted out all the paperwork and found me work as a senior carer at Elm Royd Nursing Home in Brighouse.”

Elenita, now 45, travelled to England in 2006, leaving Ramon and the children back in Manila. It would be three years before they would live together as a family again.

Though Elenita speaks excellent English - English is the second language in the Philippines - arriving in West Yorkshire in the depths of winter was a wake-up call.

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“It was the first time I had seen snow, the first time I had seen trees without leaves. I found it hard to cope with the cold.”

On the plus side, Elenita found a warm welcome at Elm Royd and loved her job. “I missed my husband and children badly but we would Skype as often as we could and I knew they were managing without me. My friends at work and the friends I made at Christian Brethren church in Brighouse became like my second family. They helped me when I was feeling down and missing the Philippines.”

The plan was always that Ramon, a clerical worker in Manila, and the children would join Elenita as soon as they had saved enough money and arrangements could be made.

But in 2009, when the Philippines were struck by devastating tropical storms and floods, the family’s plans almost ended in disaster.

Ramon and the children were at home when floodwater swept through their home, engulfing everything in its path. They had minutes to flee to safety.

As he struggled through the rising water with Camille and CJ, aiming for higher ground, a strong current pulled Ramon and his daughter apart and for a few moments he thought he had lost her.

“It was very frightening. We are used to floods in the Philippines but we had never seen anything like this,” said Ramon.

When Ramon got to safety, he remembered with horror that all his papers, passport and travel documents for his new life in England were back in his flooded home - so he had no alternative but to struggle back to get them.

Having lost most of their possessions in the flood, Ramon and the children stayed with relatives until their departure date for England.

The Gutierrez family now feels settled in Halifax Road, Brighouse. Ramon has also found work at Elm Royd, Camille is about to start a business management course at Huddersfield University and CJ is studying at Brighouse High School.

“We keep in touch with our relatives back in the Philippines but our home is here. I love my job and I have made new friends,” said Elenita.

In May Elenita and CJ were presented with their British Citizenship certificates in a special ceremony at Spring Hall in Halifax.

Deputy lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Neil Davidson, who was at the ceremony, said he found Elenita’s story very inspiring.

“People attending these ceremonies have an interesting story to tell but I was very impressed by Elenita and all that she and her family had gone through.”