Hyde Guardo with his wife Sharon Ascension Guardo
Hyde Guardo with his wife Sharon Ascension Guardo Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: There are myriads of instances when the UAE has helped expats with ordinary jobs pursue extraordinary dreams. While thousands of tourists flock to Dubai and the UAE to tick the boxes on their wishlist, there are thousands of migrant workers in the country who live on a shoestring budget, so that they can help their families realise their hopes and aspirations.

A worker who earns a monthly salary ranging between Dh3,000 and Dh4,000 may not be partying or eating out or visiting exotic locations here, but he or she knows that it is still possible to live one’s dream with whatever he or she is earning in the UAE. Whether it is building a dream home, putting one’s children in a decent school, putting food on the table or supporting the medical treatment of elderly family members, a breadwinner in UAE has almost always stood by his or her family back home.

Gulf News spoke to three such people, belonging to three different nationalities, who have lived a simple life in UAE to fund big personal aspirations back home.

Making every dirham count

Meet Filipino expatriate Hyde Guardo, 42, who has lived on a tight budget. During 18 years of his stay in the UAE, he has been able to save enough and build substantial assets for himself and his family in the Philippines.

Guardo works as a driver in a Dubai-based company. Hailing from the Urbino province in the Philippines, Guardo came to Dubai at the age of 24, in 2004. “I started as a driver on a modest salary of Dh1,200. My friends back home, who had heard a lot about Dubai, had this impression about me leading a glamorous life, partying on most days, sightseeing and going restaurant-hopping. But the truth is that I was determined to save every penny I could so that I could provide a decent life for my parents back home," he said.

Guardo’s determination has paid off. In these 18 years, Guardo has slowly, but surely, built up an asset base for himself back in his country. Today, his salary is about Dh3,500, of which he sends back home Dh1,500 and sets aside some savings. His wife, Sharon Ascension Guardo, works as an office secretary, drawing a salary of Dh6,000. She too diligently contributes to the family kitty. “We spend only about Dh4,000 here on our food, rent, phone bills, etc. The rest of the amount is set aside for our savings,” said Guardo.

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Sharon Ascension Guardo at the couple's farm in the Philippines Image Credit: Supplied

Guardo, who does not believe in having a credit card, has always been extremely careful about his finances.

“From the very beginning, my mind was set on building a home for my family and buying land for farming. Here, we live in a small partitioned room. We have fun, but mostly in places that have no expensive price tags. We love to go to the beach or to the Corniche with friends and pool in with others in our flat for a weekend get-together. We keep ourselves on a very tight budget,” explained Guardo, who also took out a loan of Dh40,000 from a bank to finance his dreams.

‘Organise your budget’

The sacrifices the Guardos made have paid off and today they have a four-bedroom home in Philippines, a four-wheel pick-up vehicle, a three-hectare farm land and currently also grow coconut trees and a modest food retail store. “I have provided for my mother and hope to return to the Philippines with small savings, retire and enjoy the simple pleasures of farming. I still have to pay back my loan, which ends this May,” said Guardo beaming with satisfaction.

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Guardo's home and four-wheel drive in the Philippines Image Credit: Supplied

He has some advise for all his compatriots: “I often see many of my friends lose control on their spending once they start living here. I would like to advise them not to spend on expensive holidays, clothes and food, as we all have to return home one day. It is better to have long-term plans and organise your budget. Saving money now can help us build our assets and retire early and enjoy the fruit of our hard work.”

Starting as a showroom helper

Like Guardo, Pakistani expatriate Raja Amjad Kabir, 40, has stayed committed to simplicity and frugality. An operations manager with a company in Sharjah, Kabir came to the UAE in 2005 and started work as a helper in a car showroom for a monthly salary of Dh500.

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Raja Amjad Kabi is the youngest among six siblings Image Credit: Supplied

“I was 23 and the youngest son in a family of three boys and three girls. My father was unwell and unable to support the family. In those difficult times, I left my village, Bagh, to accept this job of a helper. The company provided accommodation and I was able to save most of my salary and send it to my parents,” recounted Kabir.

In the last 17 years,  he gained a lot of experience and was able to move to better-paying jobs. “I moved to sales jobs and began earning a salary of Dh800, then Dh1,200 and kept moving up the ladder. Today, I work as an operations manager, drawing a salary in the range of Dh12,000 to 14,000.”

Even as Kabir progressed to a better life, he never forgot his roots. He remitted nearly 75 per cent of his salary back home, helped build two houses - one in his village and one in Pakistan's capital Islamabad - assisted in marrying off one of his sisters and helped more than two dozen villagers to move to the UAE in search of better jobs.

“I have helped more than 30 people from my neighbourhood secure good jobs here in the UAE. I know what poverty is and I actively volunteer at the Pakistan Association, Dubai, helping the needy with funds to complete their education, find jobs and live respectable lives,” said Kabir.

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Kabir loves to volunteer in his free time Image Credit: Supplied

While helping his family back home in Pakistan, Kabir himself has also settled down in the UAE. He is now married and a father to three sons. He is especially thankful to his wife who has always extended her full support to him. “I work as a volunteer after office hours and sometimes return home very late in the night. My wife shares my ideals of living a simple life and helping others and we continue to save and help our family back home until this day.”

Carving out a dream 

Nepali expatriate Mitra Kafle, 40, came to Dubai at the age of 23 in 2005.

Mitra Kafle
Mitra Kafle had to drop out of school to earn a livelihood Image Credit: Supplied

“I belong to a very poor family from Nawalpur, near Kathmandu in Nepal. Education was a luxury for us and I had to drop out of school after grade five, to earn a livelihood. We were two brothers and we had to start working early, doing odd jobs until I moved to Mumbai, India, to be a cook with a family. I came to Dubai on a visit visa first, in 2005, to explore the place,” recalled Kafle, who later came back for the job of an office helper in January 2006 for a pay of Dh500.

Despite his low income, Kafle was determined to provide for his family and along with his job, he capitalised on his culinary skills, doing odd jobs as a cook and helper and working hard to save money.

“Initially, I would work until late, earning overtime, living in a shared accommodation with my friends,” said Kafle. Today, he earns a salary of Dh 3,500 and he sends home nearly 90 per cent of his income.

“I always keep my expenses below Dh1,000. I have to spend money on Metro fare, buses, phone cards, accommodation and food. This I manage within Dh1,000. I have always been sending most of money home. That has really helped my family’s fortunes. We used to live in a mud house in the village. Today, we have an eight-room, two-storey concrete home in Nawalpur.

"We live in a joint family. I also helped my brother set up a small fast food restaurant in out home town, which he ran for two years, but then it folded up and my brother moved to an African country to try his luck,” explained Kafle, who is now a father to two sons — Milan and Ayush.

'It's worth it'

“I feel my sacrifice is worth it because my children are studying in a very good school and have plans to go to university. My older son wants to major in Economics and study for an MBA degree. I feel so proud that although I could not study beyond grade five, my children are fulfilling my dreams."

He added: "They will never face an uncertain future owing to poverty. I am setting aside money in fixed deposits for their university education. Dubai has given me the opportunity to fulfil the dreams of my family and it gives me a sense of deep satisfaction."

Kafle visits his family once a year.