Our Homes, Our Stories

They share our lives and homes, but have you ever wondered what life is like for a migrant domestic worker in Singapore?

Our Homes, Our Stories offers a look through their eyes as they share real-life stories, from childhoods in mountain villages to rogue agents and difficult employers, and that one thing they all suffer from the most: homesickness, and the pain of leaving their families behind – in Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar and India.

The women write frankly about sacrifice, broken trust, exploitation, lack of food, and salary deductions. But there are also tales to lift the heart, of supportive employers, the love they have for the families they take care of, and how they use their time in Singapore to realise their dreams for the future.

The stories explore different facets of the theme ‘home.’ All proceeds of this book go to HOME, to support their important work. All the writers in Our Homes, Our Stories are part of the HOME community, either as volunteers on their one day off, or as residents at
HOME shelter for domestic workers.

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If you want to support this project, you donate to our campaign at http://www.giving.sg to support publication: https://www.giving.sg/humanitarian-organisation-for-migration-economics/our_homes_our_stories . You can choose to pre-order the book, buy a VIP package with access to the launch party, or of course simply donate as much as you like to support this amazing project.

And mark your calendar: on March 11th you can pick up your copy at our launch event, at the Hollandse Club.

Invite launch

The book will be available at the HOME offices and select bookstores in Singapore. Watch this site for further details on how to order or purchase your copy after Match 11th.  An ebook version will be published in March 2018 as well, available with all major international retailers.

To get regular updates on the book, please ‘like’ our Facebook page: https://web.facebook.com/ourhomesourstories

For more information, order, review copies about the book, please contact Karien at karien@home.org.sg

BEING A DOMESTIC HELPER

By: Jean RAGUAL

 

Being a domestic helper

 

My heart is without pain

If they call us only HELPER

The sadness of my will

Who are the educated people of the world?

 

They still lower the real meaning

And the importance of being a HELPER

 

You are a hero and very helpful person

Your blessings will be rewarded

GOD to create you will be praised

 

You are a hero and very helpful person

Your blessings will be rewarded

GOD to create you will be praised

 

Sweaty day and night

Soaked at work

She will remain stable

Because each drop of it

In life it is symbolic

Cinderella’s reality

Cinderella’s reality 
**
Thirty minutes past six
Phone starts ringing
Six times six times six
Cinderella is late
The monster red dot father is in rage
**
She was treated like a real princess
At the castle beside the bay
True smile surfaces on her face
Happiness she longs to embrace
Appreciation she wishes
Dignified and a real bless
**
Thirty minutes past six
Slowly monster shedding her flesh
Cutting her sanity bit by bit
Stepping her dignity to pieces
Rude words suffocate her breath
Now she is drowned in tears
The monster with a mouth like a sword slashed her with words
**
Thirty minutes past six
Doors open, door shut
No one can save her in that shack
Corners hear her cry
Rooms fill her anguish
Home she calls imprisoned her freedom
Family she says cuffs her equality
Thirty minutes past six Cinderella faces reality
She is nothing but a maid.
**
#rolinda77

He Played my Heart

We are proud to announce the winner in the poetry category of the ‘The More we get Together’ writing competion: Rolinda Onates Espanola

Her beautiful poem ‘He played my heart stole the hearts of judges and audience alike!

Above you see Rolinda (left) with  runner up in the poetry competition Jean Raquel (right)

 

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He Played My Heart

 

At 5:30pm everyday we go there

With bags full of goodies and water

You on your scooter

Me, you always tell to walk faster!

 

Playing is fun, full of laughter

You play cops and robber

Hide and seek makes you feel better

Racing and Virus let you ask to stay but longer

 

Sometimes you get bruises

Sometimes you cry endless

Sometimes you’re disappointed

Sometimes you’re a stubborn head

 

I watched you grow in here

I watched how you behave to others

I watched how time moves us together

I watched how this place brings us closer

I watched how I love

The child that I can never have.

 

#rolinda77

 

 

The Playground

HOME MyVoice proudly presents, the winner of the ‘The More We Get Together’ writing contest in the prose category: Saturnina De Los Santos Rotelo (better known to friends as Cute)

When we hear the word playground, we always think they are for children only. If you look at them closely, you will see they are places with different structures, shapes and colours. A children’s world. But the playground is a joy for everyone, it’s a place to meet people from different walks of life. Employers meet employers, domestic workers meet their friends, make new friends, just as children play with their friends and make new friends too. It is a place where you can look inside the lives of children, where happiness does not need an explanation as it can be seen on their faces. But don’t forget they get hurt and cry there also. But they will learn from that. A playground is like real life.

As a child, I never knew what a playground was as it does not exist in my village. I played in our backyard, outside my house. For me and the children in my village everywhere was a playground. I liked to pretend I was a teacher, and my pretend students would write on banana tree leaves that looked like paper because they had lines on them. For a pencil they would use a small stick. They’d sit on a stone.

Singapore playgrounds are awesome! They have beautiful structures and designs. I like to go to the playground in West Coast Park. I meet my fellow domestic workers there; we bring food and play with our charges the whole day. There are high and long slides. We go up those slides together, we play hide and seek, and we climb in the spider web-like structure. I enjoy playgrounds as much as the kids do. Because when I was small I never played in a playground as beautiful as this.

The playground is my resting place too. I can sit down there and relax my mind and tired body. It is a place where I can talk to my friends about my workday, my life, and even my love life. I can laugh to my heart’s content. We share what food we have, eating together. We dance or exercise. One time, I even celebrated my birthday in the playground.

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You can find nice employers in the playground, who are happy to be friends with domestic workers, they talk and laugh with us, help us when needed and listen to our sentiments. Employers with good hearts, that might even recommended certain domestic workers to her friends to hire, as they like what they see as they play with the children there.

As a domestic worker I have played many roles in playgrounds. I was a children’s playmate, an adviser to fellow domestic workers, or even a second mother to a child I take care of. I have to make sure of their safety. I wipe their sweat when they are sweaty, make sure they drink their water and give them snacks when they are hungry. The happiness and the safety of my employer’s child is my number one priority at the playground.

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I have been to many playgrounds, in different places, each one of them has left memories – of every child that I took care of, and every friend that I made there. Visiting playgrounds in Singapore was a journey that will remain in my mind and in my heart forever. I will cherish those moments, especially the sweet innocent smiles of the children I took care of.

The PLAYGROUND is one of my favourite places.

HOME Indonesian Helpdesk

By Novia Arluma

A group of volunteers from Indonesia, better known as HOME KARTINI, have been active with HOME for a long time already. In August 2015 the HOME INDONESIAN HELPDESK was formed. Several domestic worker volunteers were prepared to be a front line of case worker volunteers to do outreach, and get closer with the community of Indonesian domestic workers in Singapore.

The volunteers were given a basic training and became involved in forum discussions and other workshops in order to support their duty as they prepared to assist their fellow domestic workers in trouble. Then, in December 2015 the new office for the Indonesian Helpdesk was opened at Grandlink Square.

From there our team officially started to run the Indonesian helpdesk. We meet every Sunday on our day off and we are dedicating our day off to run the HELPDESK. We started to spread our contact details via social media. We wanted everyone out there that needed help regarding working issues to know they could contact us. We give consultations and advice, solutions for their problems.

Our important mission is: To give simple sosialitation and to educate our fellow domestic workers to KNOW YOUR RIGHTS as domestic workers. And for that purpose, we are aware that, before we can give answers to any questions, we have to learn more. We have to gain more knowledge  about the rules & regulations for domestic workers in Singapore.

We have noticed that today, more domestic workers are aware about their rights. And they will contact us to tell about the working conditions in their employer’s house. If something is not right, they ask for advice on what to do before they take the next step.

I myself can receive three or four calls or messages every day. And that’s not including my team members! We have become aware that learning by doing is the best way to learn. We have to keep learning and be up-to-date with the regulations for domestic workers. And, as a specialised Indonesian team, we are not only focused on learning about Singapore law, we have to learn about Indonesian laws for migrant domestic workers as well. HOME gives us the freedom to explore our knowledge by joining discussions and become connected with Indonesian NGO’s around the country which are focused on migrant workers issues.

HOME is not only a HOME for migrant workers who needs help.
But ..
HOME is a place to grow our spirit ..
Spirit to learn ..
Spirit to help others ..
Spirit to fight for our rights ..
Spirit to treat everyone as our sisters & brothers ..
We are HOME
We are family …

The INDONESIAN HELPDESK team is a part off HOME KARTINI FAMILY, together with the HOME Academy 3, HOME KARTINI sport, and HOME KARTINI musical and dance. So, aside from our duties as the HOME helpdesk team, our team members also have to work together with HOME KARTINI FAMILY in some programs. And of course we work together with all HOME volunteer as we are HOME FAMILY!

The HOME Indonesian Helpdesk is open every Sunday from 10 to 6pm

It is located at :

Grandlink Square, 511 Guillemard Road #01-06, Singapore 399849

Domestic Worker hotline: +1800-797 7977 / +65 6341 5525

 

My first meals

My first meals

 

Javanese was my first language

Like a first breast milk, fed by mother 

Be my flesh and blood

Indonesian is my national language

School forced me to learn it well 

Then English?

It was horrible 

Because of work, I have to understand it well 

 

I squeeze my brain to remember them 

Javanese, Indonesian, English

Ora, tidak, no

Iyo, iya, yes

It surprised me as well 

When I’ve known, not only my languages around me 

 

As simple words

When I said “aku cinta padamu”

Philippines said “Mahal ko Mahal Kita “

Hindi said “Mee tumsai pyar karti hu”

Bangladesh said” Ami tomake bhalobasi”

Then Telugu slowly answered me ” ninuninu pramestunanu”

Chinese said “wo ai ni “

In my heart then I was mumbling “hallah wong arep muni aku tresno kuwe wae kok kangelan” 

The simple words I want to say

“My ice cream melted

While I was busy eating avocado”

Hi sweetheart

I love you

 

From all of those

I learnt something

Not only Javanese as my first meals

But I have to taste many meals

It makes me feel more amazing

To this beautiful Creator the difference

 

By Artika Honey 

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Forgive me, child

FORGIVE ME CHILD

(by: Jean Ragual)

 

The mother is the light of home

A mother, who has a big role in the family

A mother, who will do everything

As a mother I need to find a job

It is hard to me to leave you

But this is for you

 

My child forgive me, if I am far away from you

Forgive me, if I left you at your young age

Someday you will understand everything

Thank you for all your stories to make me happy

When I talk with you

You give me strength everyday

 

Forgive me, Child

If you wonder why

Our home is not already complete or

Why you never see your father already

 

You are my only strength, my inspiration to continue our dreams

You are my treasure that GOD gave to me

Not all I can give to you

But I do everything I can, to make you happy

My love for you is forever

 

And no one can replace in my heart

My child, you are my flesh and blood

You are the reason I am strong and brave

While I am far away from you

 

Forgive me, my child, I love you forever

 

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The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) is an anti-human trafficking organisation advocating empowerment and justice for all migrant workers in Singapore