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.

Slide1

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

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 

image1

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

 

FB_IMG_1461296859399-1

Sunday Beauty Queen

Sunday Beauty Queen

 

Heavy make up, curly hair

Red lips on my glossy face

Wearing silver high heels, matched with my long black gown

 

It’s Sunday in Singapore

Look at their faces,

Everyone is happy wearing their crown

They look so beautiful that everyone adores

 

I walk to the stage and take my first walk

All eyes are on me, staring and someone is amazed

 

I notice a lady at the corner of stage

She is eyeing me from head to toe

 

I pose, and smile

Cameras are flashing on my face

I feel like I’m celebrity in Hollywood

 

At centre of the stage it’s time to make a half-turn

My stage time is finished, my show is over

I know she saw me and I know I make her smile too

But I am unsure if this makes me happy or scares me off

 

The special lady follows me backstage

No words come out to mind or from my lips

What should I say

I greet her with a hello ma’am in a whispering sound

 

She smiles and a hug from her makes me comfortable

I know it’s my off-day and today is Sunday

 

She holds my hand and says

I’m so proud of you

You are my beautiful helper

I smile in return, I know in my heart I was the winner that day

to have a supportive employer like her

 

  By Rosita Madrid Sanchez

Meet the writers: Bhing

Robina Navato, or Bhing as her friends call her, is one of 26 writers in the book ‘Our Homes, our Stories’ – an anthology of 28 real-life stories written by domestic workers in Singapore. Her story ‘I love my job’ shows how, with the right employers, being a domestic worker can be a dream job. Still, her experiences of being a domestic worker in Singapore for more than two decades also tell that the life of a domestic worker is never easy. Bhing has been an active volunteer with HOME for years and is part of our Sunday helpdesk, where she helps fellow migrant workers with advice. Apart from that she is an eloquent advocate of migrant domestic worker’s rights at many different platforms in Singapore. So we at MyVoice felt it was about time to learn more about this amazing woman, and we asked her some questions about her experiences writing for the book and as a HOME volunteer.

What was it like for you to be a writer featured in the ‘Our Homes, Our Stories’ book?

For me, it was a dream come true. The project has inspired me to do even more to spread awareness on domestic workers rights. Having been a domestic worker in Singapore myself for over 2 decades, I have gained a lot of experience with different employers. I like sharing my experiences with my fellow domestic workers, and giving them ideas on how to deal with their own problems at work. Being a domestic worker is not as easy as some people think. But I have managed to last for 22 years, and I am still working here. Mainly because I love what I do. I love my job. I picked this phrase as the title of my story.

Your story is great as it shows the different sides of domestic worker life, the good and the bad. It is well-written and balanced. What was it like to write so openly about your life?

I love to write, and to compose poems too. I like to share how I feel. Usually I can only do it when I’m not happy or I hear a sad story. Writing about my own life was different. I was very excited when I was doing it, but it was never easy. I kept thinking of my previous employers, with whom I had very good relationships and happy experiences. I started to miss them. And then I recalled my bad experiences with other employers. As a domestic worker, we never know what kind of employer we will get next. When I focused on those parts, I felt stressed. And when I thought back to my first year here, I got a nostalgic feeling. I did not know anything then. I said “yes” to everything my employer asked me to do. Because at the time, I did not know where to get help and who to talk to.

So that was two decades ago, and I believe you now know quite well what to do to get help?

I volunteer with the HOME Helpdesk every Sunday. Sometimes I receive calls too during the week. At the helpdesk I advise other domestic workers that have problems with their employers. Being part of this Helpdesk taught me about humility. Listening to other people’s problems made me realise how blessed I am. That is why I do this. I love my volunteer work like I love my day job. I have gained many friends there too.

Bhing

Do you do any other volunteering?

I have had so many amazing experiences volunteering with HOME. When I just started, they sent me to Thailand for a United Nations conference about undocumented migrant domestic workers. I gave a presentation there.

I have also been a ‘human book’ in the Human Library SG. As a human book, readers ‘read me’ by asking me questions. That way I could introduce HOME to my readers and spread awareness on how to treat domestic workers right. I often represent HOME at panel discussions too, for instance last month at a ‘Difficult Woman’ panel discussion. Sometimes I do interviews with students, or give school talks. I have also been part of a video on the poem I wrote.

 

That is a very impressive list! What is your motivation to make time do all this?

With all these things that I do, my purpose is helping my fellow domestic workers. Every platform is important for me. It can take time to prepare for presentations but it’s all fine. This is not about me, this is about the things that I can do to help others. Because I know that I have the will and courage to do this.

IMGL4839 copy

So let’s talk about the book. What does it mean to you?

I learned a lot being part of the ‘Our Homes, Our Stories’ project, both writing the book and selling and promoting it. It has made me realise that we can help others if we have the courage to talk, to narrate our stories. My dreams should not stop the moment I became a domestic worker. There is hope! There are so many things us domestic workers can do to have a meaningful life here. Many people think that we are simply unskilled, un-driven, have no ambition, but we can prove them wrong with projects like this one. We are motivated by the people who believe in us, who treat us fairly and who value our worth.

Who did you write it for, who do you hope will read it?

I hope that both domestic workers and employers will read this book. Because our stories are raw and real. Each one of us has a different story to tell that other domestic workers can relate to. They can learn from our experiences.

And really all employers need to read this book. Reading our stories will make them understand us more. This book will be an eye opener for them.

IMGL4991

Did you tell your own employer about the book? What did they say?

My employer and I were having conversation one day, when I mentioned the book to her. I told her that I am one of the writers, and that my story is about all my experiences in Singapore. She was very happy and excited, and told me that she is very proud of me. She bought the book and attended our launch party too.

Is there an important message you wanted to bring across with your story?

The most important message of my story is to love what you do. I love my job and I am proud being a domestic worker. If we love what we are doing, there will be good relationship between our employer and us. If we love our job, we will have a very good understanding of it. We will not allow anyone to take it away from us. Because it is our bread and butter. But we also need to know our basic rights, and what we need to do when an employer is abusing us. We need to have the courage to speak up. And remember that there’s always hope.

Why do you think an organisation like HOME is important?

HOME helps so many domestic workers. HOME gives them a reason to fight because this organization understands and supports them. As a volunteer at HOME, I have experienced how many domestic workers rely on this organization. I can feel how satisfied they are after we give them advice. HOME is where the help is!

 

If you like to read Bhing’s full story, please purchase a copy of our book. More information on where to get a copy can be found here.

Photos by: Mita Kelder photography

The More We Get Together

Playgrounds are much more than a place for children to explore and develop their creativity; they bring people of all ages and backgrounds together – children, their parents, grandparents, and other caregivers. Making friends and building social networks are important for everyone’s well-being, and a playground can help with this for young mothers and domestic workers alike.

WebsiteBanner 980w x 340pxThe National Museum of Singapore, in collaboration with the Housing & Development Board, recently launched an exhibition titled The More We Get Together: Singapore’s Playgrounds 1930 – 2030. The exhibition invites visitors to relive their childhood memories as well as think about future playgrounds. In response to the exhibition which runs till September this year, HOME has partnered with the National Museum to present a special event on June 10th this year, where we will look at the role playgrounds play in the life of migrant domestic workers, and the children they care for.

At the event we will have readings by domestic worker writers from the book, Our Homes, Our Stories, and we would love to hear from you too! Therefore we would like to invite all domestic workers in Singapore to join our writing competition with the theme:

The more we get together: Domestic workers at the Singapore playground

What do playgrounds mean to you? What role have they played in your life? Did you meet your friends there?

We’d love to hear your thoughts, anecdotes and memories!

The competition is open to all domestic workers in Singapore. The children they take care of, their parents, or grown-ups reminiscing their own childhood caregivers are also welcome to contribute. Prose as well as poetry can be submitted.

The best stories will be published on the MyVoice blog. The top 3 entries will receive a special prize and the writers are invited to share them at our event on June 10th 2018.

If you don’t have much experience writing, or find the English language a challenge, don’t worry. We have experienced editors and translators to help with your work. If your story is selected, you will work directly with them to get it in a good shape.

Please send your stories, poems and photographs to karien@home.org.sg

Deadline: May 21st 2018

If you’d like some more inspiration, you may visit the ongoing exhibition at the National Museum. Admission is free for everyone! More information here on the exhibition:

The More We Get Together: Singapore’s Playgrounds 1930 – 2030.

From the iconic dragon playgrounds of the 1970s to today’s modern, inclusive and community-built versions, playgrounds have played a part in our collective experience of growing up in Singapore.

Explore different playground surfaces, examine the original blueprints of the iconic mosaic playgrounds, and discover how we have defined our playgrounds, not only in terms of physical boundaries and equipment but also in terms of their place and meaning in society. You can also hear from people who have built (and are building) these playgrounds, design your own, and contribute to the building of the National Museum of Singapore’s very own playground!

The More We Get Together is an exhibition developed by the National Museum of Singapore in collaboration with the Housing and Development Board.

Follow our hashtag #OurSGPlaygrounds!

 

Sister, brother, love

During an English class at HOME shelter the residents were given the homework to write about their family, and specifically the relationship and the love between siblings. This resulted in some beautiful writing that we are happy to share with you today.

From Ana Barzo

To My Younger Sister.
I chose to write about her among our siblings because she is the one closest to me.
We are not only sisters, we are also best friends… even if in life we can’t avoid some arguments, has we had mostly when we were teenagers.
We have never competed, but she always thought I was mum’s favourite!
We are very different, in our way of thinking as well as in our physical appearance, but i really love her so much!
Even if I am older she is more mature than me.
She is a very talented person; she accomplished her studies in BS Agriculture and she is now working as supervisor in an agriculture company.
I admire her because even if I am far away she always remembers me and recalls special, funny moments of our life, as we had a shower or played together, to make me smile. I am so thankful and blessed to have a sister like her, because mostly now, being stocked without working, she takes care of all the responsibilities instead of me, gives financial support to my two kids and most of all she gives them her affection!
I love you so much sister, you are in my heart now and forever… I miss you so much
Love&Care
Ana

From Myra Pedronan

I have a very good relationship both with my sister and my brother.
I am the second child, very close to my sister and I am her big fan. I like all about her, except the way she handles her temper, but we are best friends.
When I was still young though we had a good relationship we weren’t so close as today. Now our bond is very strong.
When i came to Singapore, she was already here, and every time we buy dresses which are the kind of clothing we both are obsessed with, we buy the same shoes/sandals and we wear them the same day and everyone asks if we are twins!
She is a very caring, loving, approchable and responsible sister and daughter.
She gives more than what she takes, she is very hardworking and she is always thinking how to payback the sacrifice my parents made for her, for us.
She supports me whatever decision I make, so I can tell her even my secrets and so can she. I love her with all my heart, together with my brother!

From May Joy

“A woman without a sister is like a bird without wings”
When we were young my second sister was my worst enemy: she was convinced that my parents loved me more than her.
But the we grew up that feeling of rivalry turned into the strongest relationship ever.
Now she is always there to help me and I can rely on her either financially or emotionally.
Although my mother in law is taking car of my son, my sister always finds time to visit him and provide to his needs.It is particularly important now that I am away to work to know that she is there showing her love to him!
When I was pregnant she provided me with all my needs, including babies clothes, shampoo, cream even cotton puds when I was in the hospital!
That’s why I can say that having a sister in your life is like having a very best friend. Because a sister will always be there you, always stand by you no matter what will happen!

From Roda S. Misasa

Out of my eight siblings there are especially two I am very attached to. Tough we all has a very good relationship I feel so thankful for having Myra and Leah as sisters.
actually they are not really my own sisters, they are my 1st cousins, but we grew up together, we shared the same house, we shared the same room, the same bed…
My parents took care of them since they were babies, because both their parents passed away.
Myla and Leah are more than sisters, they are my best friends, my biggest supporters and defenders. I can tell them everything and they are always there for me especially when I am down they know how to cheer me up giving me good advices, courage and strength. I am the oldest but they are more mature than me. They changed my life, I can say that they both are the answers to my prayers… I have always asked my parents for a sister, but no… all boys… Until one day Mayla and Leah came into our home, my life!

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