Albertans mark Family Day with sacrifices, both great and small

Some Albertans felt something was missing today as residents around the province marked Family Day.

Some put down their phones, while others dream of the day when they will be reunited with loved ones

Families celebrate Alberta's annual holiday in February at Studio Bell in downtown Calgary with an interactive drawing session. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Some Albertans felt something was missing today as residents around the province marked Family Day — a local holiday since 1990.

For some, it was technology.

The No Phone Family Day campaign is back this year. The challenge, created last year by the Calgary-based group Parenting Power, urges families to spend time together connecting, relaxing, and playing — without devices.

"Using the excuse that we need our phone for our camera, I'll challenge parents on that one, or I'll challenge kids on that one," said campaign spokesperson Gail Bell. "We certainly don't need to be taking pictures of all our moments, and we certainly don't need to be posting as parents about look what we're doing on Family Day."

Bell says the initiative is expanding into March, with the 30-for-30 challenge. Families are being encouraged to put down their phones for 30 minutes for 30 days.

"Go play shinny. Go for a walk. Cook together, bake together. Play a board game. We need to remember that kids spell love 't-i-m-e.' And then once you've started the ball rolling, you realize how much fun you do have together," said Bell.


Others missing something much more

For other Albertans, the missing piece on Family Day, is family.

Marilou Espedro spends Family Day looking after someone else.

"It's so sad, it's Family Day but I cannot be with my family," said the mother who moved from the Philippines seven years ago.

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Since then, she's only seen her husband and five sons twice. Her dream is to reunite her family, permanently in Alberta, but for now she works to pay for her life in Calgary and sends roughly half of her paycheque back to the Philippines.

"At first I was working as a nanny but then I was able to get my certification as a health-care practitioner, and now I'm working in home care," said Espedro.

Her story is not unique. About 17 per cent of Alberta's workforce is foreign born. Immigrants and temporary workers send nearly $24 billion overseas annually.

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