During a creative writing class at HOME shelter, we decided to write letters. The recipients of our letters are people we are missing, people we love and are not by our sides, people who passed away, or even people we have had arguments with. With these letters, we are telling them things that stayed unsaid, feelings and emotions, love.
To my mother,
Do you remember when you taught me how to write a letter? I never wrote a letter to you ever since. You always taught me how to write letters to my father.
I want you to know that I miss you a lot. I miss when we talked and laughed together. I know you were looking after me all the time. I miss you looking after us. I miss when we had arguments and misunderstandings. I learnt so much from you although we were not so close. But I know you really loved me, loved us… Mother… I miss your voice really. I miss you when I cry and you are not here to hug me. I miss your generosity, your understanding, love, and caring.
I hope you are happy wherever you are. And do not worry about me. I know and you know that I can face any difficulty. In every life struggle, I can stand. I know you will lend your hand and hold me in every way. God will be there for us as you always told me. I Love you so much…
Your loving daughter, Richy.
To my loving son, Jacob Ryll,
I remember the first time I saw you. It has been nine months that I have been carrying you inside my stomach. I cannot explain my feelings the day I saw you: if I cried, laughed, or whatever. But I felt I wan a big price, like a jackpot. You brought happiness in my life… For me you are the best precious treasure I have in my life. Thank you for the moments that we have together and thank you for giving me the chance to be a mother and do my role as your mother.
I am so proud because I know you are a good boy, respectful and smart. I miss our bonding and your hugs, kisses, your laugh and also your cries. I miss you to call me mommy. I know you are just a kid so no need for you to know what is happening to me here in Singapore. Baby you are my strength and inspiration. I love you so much. Thanks for being a part of my life. Get well soon. Mommy is coming home. I love you so much.
Ma’am you were always scolding me. You were always criticizing me, my people, my country. You are naughty. But I loved your big dog and your two daughters. The eldest is fourteen and your young daughter is eleven years old. She loses her mind sometimes. I love her and she loves me so much too. You did not like that the two of us were so close. I was very sad. Your youngest daughter wanted to talk to everybody but they did not want to talk to her because they thought she was a stupid girl. I am different. I don’t see her as a stupid girl. I was taking care of her very well. So she was very happy and loved me a lot. But you did not like that she loved me so much, that we were so close. Now I am very sad because I had no choice than leaving you. You were too bad with me. I had no choice than leaving her because of you. I will never forget your daughter during my entire life.
My dear sisters at HOME shelter,
I hope all of you are always healthy and had a good day. I will always miss you my sisters. I was so happy with all of you. We are a family. When I think about my family at home, I know I must get a job, I must go out of the shelter cause I must find an employer. If I stay at the shelter with all m sisters, enjoying all the activities, what will happen to my family in my country who is waiting for my money?
My dear sisters, thank you for supporting me. I am now more experienced with all the activities. Preparing good meals, yoga, learning English, dancing… I will never forget that during all my life. All these activities made me more experienced. I love you and already miss you so much.
To the special person in my life,
I am sorry sometimes I scold you. Remember I am doing this for your own good. I really miss when I sleep with you, when I prepare your food, iron your uniform, prepare your things for school. When I give you your vitamins everyday. Remember when I tell you to drink more water? I love you my baby and I miss you so much. I know you love me and miss me too. Thank you for coming into my life. Thank you for being a good son for me. I know you want me to go home but I need to work to support all your needs. Don’t worry, I’m ok here. Take care, always.
Love, Mama Kassie .
To my employer,
I really enjoyed looking after your three kids. But you were always giving me your angry face and scolding me. So I became unhappy with you and I decided to go back to my parents. Oh, I am so happy for that. You really did not like me; I don’t know why. Why you were always angry at me? I took care of your kids. But you were showing me your angry face all the time. So I did not want to stay at your place anymore. But your three kids, I really, really love them so much. Now I am missing them more than ever. So, I am not feeling good.
To my parents,
Father, mother, how are you today? Do you remember me everyday? Everyday I am sad because I really miss you. All the time, I am always thinking about you, only you, because you are so special to me.
I don’t know when I can meet with you again. I want to go back home. I don’t want to live in Singapore anymore. Because life in Singapore is not easy; it is very difficult. Before, I thought living in Singapore would be easy but I was wrong. Living in Singapore is very difficult. Everyday I pray to my God. My God please help me. I want to go back to my country. But don’t worry mother, I am fine here.
Your daughter, May
Happiness where are you?
by Rosita Madrid Sanchez
At the age of 16 I am already a mother
People said I was too young to handle
I didn’t experience teenage life
To be free as a bird and to be as me.
Poverty has led me in this situation, one of the reasons I can blame on
I thought at an early age, getting married to the older man would show me direction
But I was wrong, its all my fault, I’ve been used and abused.
I have decided to work as a domestic helper
To the place far away from my nightmare
Leaving behind my kids in the care of my mother
It felt like I was dying a million times when I stepped in an airplane
Tears flowing, running nose dripping
Heaven showered me with thunderstorms and lightning.
Days, months, even a year moved
Time flew so fast like running
Now my contract is ending
What should I do? I kept thinking.
In the foreign land, I felt love, I felt that I am important and great
I had the freedom that I kept looking for
To gain myself and to be the real me.
Even if I have all of this, why do I still feel incomplete?
Some parts of my body are missing
All I want is to be happy
Why happiness is so hard to get?
Now I need to wake up to reality.
To face my family, to see my own kids
The life that I keep hiding on
Am I scared? I’m scared of my shadow that doesn’t want to leave
All I need is to be happy to find the real me.
Off day- the favourite day of a domestic worker?
The off day can be the favourite day for a domestic worker. It is her time to go out, to meet friends and enjoy herself. But many domestic workers experience different problems with their off days as well. Some might have just one a month, some have to do work this day, some might not even have one. Here are some women staying at the shelter sharing their experiences with the off days.
When I stayed at my last employer, I had one off day from work every month. In the mornings I normally woke up at 5.15am and I went to bed at 11pm, so when it was the end of the month, I felt excited. Soon I could have my rest day. I felt tired during the work days, I had no time to rest. I was supposed to have one off day every week, but the employer just gave me one per month.
All us domestic workers are waiting for Sunday, the off day. I woke up Sunday morning, cleaned the house, made breakfast and waited for my employer to wake up. Because before I could leave, my mam always checked my bag, my pants and my jacket. When she let me out of the house, she always told me:
“You must come back before 5.30, and be back on time.”
When I came out of my employer’s house I felt so fresh and like a butterfly. I felt sick of my work, no time to stop, no time to rest, and now I could go out! I was very happy. I could eat what I want, even rice and chili. I was sick of the food I had at my employer’s house. All the time noodles and sausage, noodles and sausage.
The first place I went on my off day, was to Paya Lebar to send money home. It always takes a long time to queue, sometimes from 11 until 1 or 1.30.
After I sent the money I went out to find another place where there is not so much people. Paya Lebar is a place where all Indonesian domestic workers come. I could see many people there, from a lot of different countries. I had only one friend, a girl who worked for a neighbour, near my employer. We bought newspapers, some clothes, sometimes our food. We sat down under a tree and I enjoyed my off day. I felt that I could finally rest.
As I experienced the off day, I was always rushing. Before my off day, I would always plan where I should go and who I should meet. But before I went I had to do some work, I had to take care of the children, to feed them, shower them even if it is my off day.
Then finally at 10 in the morning I was off. I was rushing. I only had 9 hours to enjoy, to meet friends, to take pictures. If I had my salary, I first needed to send money to my home country. Off days for others is a very happy day, but for me I wanted to go by myself sometimes, to rest, to find a quiet place where I could reminiscence.
Sometimes, when I didn’t have enough money, I would stay in the house on my off day to work, although it was very tiring.
Sometimes on my off days I was scared as well. Outside the house, you don’t know who you can trust. I sometimes went to parties, but I didn’t stay long
When I came back from the off day, there was always some work to be done.
I used to feel so happy when I had my off day. Then I could relax and meet my friends. We would go to the East Coast Park to see the sea. I could go to the library to read a book. I could also eat some food that was different from the food I had at home. My mind felt refreshed, because I could see many places that I hadn’t seen before. If I had a problem, I could meet my friends and share my feelings. After that my heart would feel happy.
Then, with my new employer, I never had an off day. I just worked there for 4 months, but she never gave me a day off. I felt tired and bored, every day doing the same thing, just work and work. The mam was always scolding me. In the end I ran away.
The first six months in my employer’s house, I couldn’t take a day off because I had to finish my salary deduction. After six months, they allowed me to take one day off every month. Before I left the house, I had to do some chores, like cleaning the living room.
I left the house at 8 am and I needed to back at 7pm.
In the morning, I went to church to attend mass. After that I went to remittance to send money home. Then I met my cousins and my friends. We had long conversations to share with each other everything that had happened until the day finished, and it was time to go back.
When I reached my employer’s house, it was time to do some house chores again, before going to bed.
The off day is a happy day because I meet new friends, see many beautiful places outside. I feel free and relaxed from all the stress inside the house. I go to church to pray that all my wishes for my family is granted, especially for my loving son.
What lies beneath is unknown.
Nobody can see you, you are on your own.
Worries and fear will surface without realizing it,
No matter how you pretend that you are not beat
Life is hard for some of us here.
Difficulties to others, abuse that is severe.
Forbidden to communicate with the people we love
I feel like a prisoner, photos are all I have.
I start before sunrise, end before midnight
Long hours of work, it does not seems right.
There are times that I wake up in my sleep in pain
Leg cramps that are unbearable are acting up again.
The food they give is not enough for me.
Leftover in a week, they give for free
But if there is nothing, I need to sit and wait
For them to finish dinner, I can have something on my plate.
I tried to reach out to others to let them know,
But their blank stares tell me, just go with the flow.
They listen with their eyes, not with their ears
Words they tell me, they bring me to tears
Life is hard for some of us here
Difficulties to others, some live in fear
We need a heart that listens and empathises
To feel our woes and hear our cries.
By Bhing Navato
Better late than never
Last Sunday, the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) celebrated International Women’s Day. We celebrated on March 12th instead of March 8th, because most of our HOME Family members are domestic workers, who need to work on weekdays.
The celebration started with Christian, Buddhist and Muslim prayers respectively. In the said celebration, members and audience hand in hand sang a song that delivers “If we hold on together, our dreams will never die.”
Then, it was time for dance, and each HOME Family group was represented. The best three Dance Groups were chosen by a jury of volunteers. The HOME shelter group was selected as the winner.
A jury chose 20 women from the audience to join in an on-the-spot cat walk on the stage in a competition for Best Dress. The criteria were the dress should suit with the theme, be carried well, and fashionable as well as elegant. All candidates in the top 10 were asked a question regarding the day’s theme (Empowerment of Women), and from there the judges picked the Top 5. All winners in each categories were given prizes.
HOME Roses group gave a demonstration on HIV/AIDS awareness, a video sharing and a great condom demonstration, a quiz, and prizes were given as well.
International Women’s day is an important day for HOME, for domestic workers, and for all women. We are proud to promote women’s rights!
All the HOME Family leaders (I represented My Voice Family) gave a short message to the audience about International Women’s Day–Empowerment of Women, as this year’s theme.
A Petition from HOME members/foreign domestic workers in the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar and India was read-out-loud, in which they expressed what they are going through in their employers home. It all summed up into one important point: The rights and dignity of foreign domestic workers should be given the utmost attention by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). To formalise the Petition, foreign doemstic workers and guests present signed the Petition letter to be passed on to MOM.
Respect our rights, respect our dignity as workers.
By Jo Ann Dumlao
By Maria Allen Cellan
I’ve always been scared of making decisions for myself. Sometimes I just want my family to make decisions for me because I am afraid that my decision will be wrong. But I’ve realized that you have to trust yourself and your plans.
It’s been 6 months now since I made a huge decision for myself and left Singapore. Working as a domestic worker for four years was a big challenge for me. From office employee to domestic worker, that seemed like a big shift in my career. From ledger to mop, computer to vacuum, bookkeeping to cleaning windows. But hey, I don’t have any regrets at all. It was a good experience for me. Working away from home has taught me a lot of things, especially how to be independent.
It took me a year before I decided to not renew my contract. I made a long list of pros and cons, talking things out with friends and making choices and sleeping on it. But in many situations, there is no clear “right” answer or even a best one. I kept asking myself: “Who do I want to be?” I lingered on that question for a while. I needed change. I was tired of being discriminated because of the job I was in. And yes it’s important to know and think about all of the practical pros and cons of any given option. I had to consider the benefits of leaving my job as a domestic worker. Asking myself “Who do I want to be” is not easy. But it’s the question that brought me closer to the right decision and to the life that I really want to live.
Six months have now passed and I am perfectly happy with my decision. I admit that I miss my friends in Singapore, the church that I normally go to every Sunday, the kway teow noodles, fried carrot cake, the local coffee shop, and of course the easy transportation. Having a good memory with good friends in Singapore has changed my life.
Now that I am in the next chapter of my life I believe that something exciting is waiting for me as long as I am open to opportunities. As for now I am enjoying my jobless life, discovering myself in paints and canvas while waiting for my next visa from the Australian government.
I would say that if we are not happy where we are, if we want more in life, if we want to pursue our dreams, then it is time to move and make a decision. A decision that can make us happy and satisfy our soul. Let us not be afraid to make a decision for our dreams, let us trust our guts and our heart, and discover who we really want to be. As the saying goes: “The world is a place to explore, and it will embrace you if you embrace it.”