White House Honors Two Filipino “Champions of Change”

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) —  Myrla Baldonado of Chicago, Illinois wants to raise the standard of salary of caregivers, including the grant of overtime pay for live-in caregivers and vacation leaves, while Catherine Eusebio of Fremont, California wants to “promote change that starts with empowering the most impacted (young) people to lead.”

Baldonado and Eusebio are two Filipino out of the fifteen Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women, who will be honored as “Champions of Change” at the White House on Monday, May 6th.

The ceremony is part of the White House’s observance of AAPI Heritage Month, which recognizes Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women, who are doing extraordinary things to create a more equal safe, and prosperous future for their communities and the country.


“These fifteen women represent the strength and diversity of the AAPI community.  These leaders – in business, advocacy, philanthropy, sports, the arts, and academia – are wonderful examples for young women across the country,” said Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
“As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this May, we pay tribute to the many AAPI women – from Bernice Pauahi Bishop to Congresswoman Patsy Mink to Sunita Pandya Williams – who have shaped the story of America,” added Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to the First Lady and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.


The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White house to feature groups of Americans – individuals, businesses and organizations – who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live at 1:00 pm ET on Monday, May 6th.  To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program and nominate a Champion, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions. 

Baldonado, 59, a Chicago-based caregiver, organizer, and key figure behind the recent wave of domestic worker interest initiatives in Illinois is a native of Manila, Philippines. She began work as a caregiver for the elderly and disabled when she migrated to the U.S. in 2007. The unyielding abuse, poor wages, and 24-hour shifts deeply upset her and moved her to action. 

Since 2011, Baldonado has been organizing domestic workers to know their rights and is a spearhead behind the Illinois Domestic Worker Bill of Rights (SB1708) that is currently in the Illinois Senate. She co-curated the pioneering museum exhibit “Unfinished Business: Home Economics in the 21st Century” at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum. She played a key role in conducting research for the groundbreaking national study “Home Economics: The Invisible and Unregulated World of Domestic Work”. She also is a national leader in Caring Across Generations and the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance.


“This award is a milestone in the long journey from invisibility to recognition for domestic workers and an affirmation of the leadership of Asian American women in the U.S. and abroad,” said Baldonado, also an AFIRE volunteer. AFIRE Executive Director Jerry B. Clarito took pride of her award as “one of the champions from Chicago – one of our own.”

A household worker organizer with the Latino Union of Chicago, Ms. Maldonado is dedicated to improving the working and living conditions of the estimated 2.5 million domestic workers in the United States.  A former caregiver herself, she co-founded the multiracial Chicago Coalition of Household Workers to gain dignity and respect for caregivers, house cleaners, and nannies.  She speaks nationally for the Caring Across Generations campaign that seeks to transform care in the U.S. and she is a worker leader of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

When U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) attended a town-hall meeting with the Filipino community last January at the Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE) headquarters in Chicago’s north side, Ms. Maldonado lobbied the Senator for support to co-sponsor S. Res. No. 453, expressing the sense of the Senate to support seniors and individuals with disabilities. It seeks to expand and support strong home care workforce. It also seeks to make long-term services and supports affordable and accessible in communities that uphold the right of seniors and individuals with disabilities to a dignified quality of life.


During AFIRE’s Usap-Usapan (town-hall meeting) on comprehensive immigration reform last February at the Bride of Christ’s Church,  Maldonado proposed that existing petition should not die with the death of the petitioner. This means that the beneficiary may be allowed to get a substitute petitioner, who is not a relative. She added new visa category should be created for caregivers.

Eusebio is a Social Justice Fellow at Asian American/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, where she manages API Dream Summer, a component of a national internship program that engages partners in community and philanthropy to support the leadership development of immigrant youth.

Catherine also serves on the Board of Directors of United We Dream, the largest network of immigrant youth-led organizations.  In her words, she “she strives to promote change that starts with empowering the most impacted people to lead.”


The other awardees are:

Aparna Bhattacharyya, Atlanta, GA, who is passionate advocate for immigrant survivors of family and sexual violence and ensuring they have access to safety, justice and healing; Atsuko Toko Fish, Boston, MA, a first generation Japanese American, committed to innovation and social change in the U.S. and Japan, especially in the areas of empowering women and promoting understanding between the two cultures.

Lusiana Tuga Hansen, Anchorage, AK, born in American Samoa and has lived in Anchorage, Alaska since 1985. In 2004, she started the first Samoan language computer school for elders, and in 2005, helped launch the Polynesian Association of Alaska (PAOA) to bring the community together through cultural events, history, and arts and crafts programs; Pramila Jayapal, Seattle, WA, in the aftermath of 9/11, founded the non-profit organization OneAmerica, now the largest immigrant advocacy organization in Washington State; Arline Loh, Wilmington, DE, a former banking information technology expert who was forced prematurely into early retirement because of advancing liver disease caused by Chronic Hepatitis B. 

Having been infected with the Hepatitis B virus at birth, she draws closely on her own experiences with the disease to educate and inform people about the dangers of the condition and how to prevent it. Mia Mingus, Oakland, CA, is a writer and organizer, working for disability justice and transformative justice to end child sexual abuse and dedicated to communities and movements working for social justice;

Natalie Nakase, Los Angeles, CA, in 2003, became the first Asian American player in the National Women’s Basketball League when she joined the San Jose Spiders. Karen L. Suyemoto, PhD, Boston, MA, is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology and Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Van Ton-Quinlivan, Burlingame, CA, vice chancellor of workforce and economic development of California’s system of 112 community colleges, is working to transform the country’s largest higher education system through Doing What MATTERS for Jobs and Economy™; and Shireen Zaman, Washington, DC, is the Executive Director of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a grassroots think tank focused on issues related to the Muslim community in the United States and abroad. 


CHAMPION OF CHANGE: Myrla Baldonado is shown standing in front of her Freedom Notebook, a journal of her work as a caregiver, at an exhibit at the Jane Addams Hull House, University of Illinois at Chicago. (FAXX/jGLi Photo courtesy of Myrla Baldonado)

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