Pride and Joy

By Jho Ann Dhumlao

March 11th 2018 was marked on our calendar for some time. And now,  our book is launched! The event last Sunday was indeed a big success. The book ‘Our Homes, Our Stories’  that contains personal stories by domestic workers who bravely share their true life with the public, is available in Singapore and beyond.


“Have you ever wondered what is life like to us Migrant Workers working abroad?”

Does anyone care about this subject? I hope so, I hope everyone will grab a copy of the book, from employers to migrant workers and government officials alike, especially those working for the Ministry of Manpower. Within every migrant domestic worker story in this book lies a significant lesson; the readers will be able to learn and understand what migrant domestic worker life is like. Their life abroad needs many elements: Motivation, Courage, Strength, Bravery, Perseverance and Faith with God. They need all of this  to keep on facing life’s struggles while away from their families.

May employers realize that migrant domestic workers are just like their “hands and legs”,  that without us most employers would be helpless. The relationship between an employer and a migrant domestic worker should be on a give-and-take basis. The migrant domestic worker needs the salary from the employer to support their family and the employer needs the migrant domestic worker’s service for their family. It seems simple but it is not. Sacrifices, abuse, lack of food, broken trust, salary deductions, salary not being paid, no medical attention or support and love from the family the migrant domestic worker is working with, the employer dictating how the migrant domestic worker spends her day off, all these are things migrant domestic workers are facing; these things are part of our stories.

Last Sunday on stage, you could see migrant domestic worker writers with faces beaming with joy and happiness after they just received their  copy of their book. They come from the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar and India. Those brave migrant domestic workers shared their stories. Sponsors, HOME family, employers, and friends were there to witness the launching of the book. All the proceeds of the book will go to HOME, the home of the homeless, voice of the voiceless and Help to the helpless.


A humongous ‘Thank you’ to Karien who edited the book, and Pleun the project manager. Without them, this book would not have been possible, even if we have so many stories to tell. And it is with  with pride and honor that I can say: I am one of those writers.


Meet the writers: Miriam

We like to introduce you to another one of the writers for the Our Homes, Our Stories book. This week is Miriam Escander’s turn. She shares why she joined this project, and gives us a glimpse about what her story relates: the troubles she encountered when she left her husband behind in the Philippines. 

Writing in the park

I joined this project because writing is my one passion, and I wanted to enhance my writing skills and see how far I can go from here. God doesn’t give us our talents for keeping, they are for us to share, inspire and encourage other people. I want to show people, especially my fellow OFW, that we can be more than domestic helpers only. We can explore things beyond our job, all we need to do is set our goals in life and concentrate on them. The thought that my work – for the first time ever – will be published in a book excites me.

I like the story I wrote for this project because I am the hero of this story. My own story, the one that is featured in Our Homes, Our Stories is a very personal one. I write about how my husband cheated on me thrice after I left to work in Singapore, and how I managed to cope with it. It was difficult to even start to process this, especially since I was far away from him, across an ocean.

My life asks for so much multitasking; I need to make a living, figure out how to fix my problems, secure my children’s emotional well-being, and on top of that face my own emotional issues. I always concentrate on my work and my children first. They are my strength and the reason why I keep fighting.

Miriam with her daughters and niece


One thing I have learned since starting this project is how important it is to share your story with others, knowing that what you write will be read by others, and hoping that by sharing it publicly, someone might be inspired by it.

I’m hoping that my fellow domestic workers and our employers will read this book. For my fellow domestic workers – the stories will inspire you to aim high and reach for your dreams, to be strong for every trial that you will face. And for the employers – I hope that reading it will help them understand our struggles, the pain of leaving our kids behind, becoming a stranger to them, not being able to be on their side for years when they need a mother to care for them, especially when they are sick. The book shows all the things we need to go through in order to come here, escaping the poverty in our country for our kid’s future. We can always earn money but we can never earn back the time we have lost.

Miriam with her brother and his family
Miriam’s family

Words can touch people, so I hope it will make a difference when employers read this in how they treat their domestic workers. It will all depend on how they let the words instill in their minds. My own employers are aware of the project, and they can’t wait to have a copy of it. They are happy for me. They are very supportive and I’m so blessed to have found them.

The most important message that I want to share with others in my story, especially for those in difficult circumstances is: don’t walk away from God, have faith in him. As a Christian, my religion has helped me a lot in overcoming my problems in my personal life. No woman would want to experience what I did, but my journey was worth it in the end, as I came out stronger. There was a purpose behind the pain.


Our Homes, Our Stories will be launched by HOME on March 11th 2018. You can find more information on the book, and how to obtain a copy here:

First Moments

During a creative writing workshop residents of the HOME shelter, all migrant domestic workers, were asked to reminisce about their first moments in Singapore.


When I arrived in Singapore, I thought it was very different from my country, the Philippines. I arrived on June 23rd at 10.30pm. I did not understand how Changi Airport worked, and I prayed to God; I was confident that he would guide me. I asked a lot of people where the exit was, and what I should I do, but nobody had the answer. Finally somebody came to fetch me at 2 am. He took me to an accommodation, but I did not understand where I was in Singapore until they took me to my first employer. I experienced a very difficult situation there. I became tired, depressed and very homesick. I had to do a lot of work, and lacked rest. Until I got sick and could not continue. Fortunately, I managed to change employers.


When I first came in Singapore, I felt dizzy and hungry while waiting at the airport for someone to fetch me. I was so nervous. Then, unexpectedly, I saw two celebrities from the Philippines, Kean Ciprianno of Collalily Band and his wife Chynna Ortaleza. I was so ecstatic!! I took a photo with them. After that, I bought a coffee, and I was in shock; it was so small but it costed so much.

During my stay at my employer’s house, I had mixed emotions. I did not have enough rest and food. They kept my phone, and there was no way for me to communicate with my family. When I ate, the daughter of my family told me I ate too much while I was only eating bread and worked very hard.


When I arrived in Singapore, I was so excited but I also felt nervous. It was the first time that I was traveling abroad to work. I thought that Singapore was a nice place because my friend talked a lot about Singapore. But with my first employer I was very upset because she did not understand me. We were always arguing about the proper way to speak English. My ma’am did not know how to speak English, which is why we had so many misunderstandings. She was always screaming and angry and really did not appreciate me. I was so disappointed.


When I arrived in Singapore, I was very timid and I needed to control my emotions to prevent homesickness. It was all very overwhelming;  I thought my dreams in life would finally come true, after 5 years.

But when I stepped into my first employer’s house, I was surprised and disappointed. Inside the house lives seven adults and three kids. It was a 4-storey private house with a swimming pool. There was no MRT station nearby. I needed to wake up at 4 am and always went to bed very late. I could not eat when I was very hungry, I needed to wait for them to finish eating first. And they always had their dinner very late.

The most difficult thing was that I needed to adjust to each and every one of them. Many times, when they knew that they were wrong,  they wanted me to say sorry to them; even if I did not do anything wrong.


When I first saw Singapore, I told myself; it is so beautiful. All you see is buildings. I could not see any tricycles; only cars and motorcycles, unlike in my country. And all the people here have different languages and religions.

When I went to my employer’s house I was amazed at how big the house was, and how  many things there were inside. Then my Indonesian friend told me  how to clean the house. I was shocked because when I thought the house was already very clean (compared to what I was used to in my country), we still had to clean it more! Working here in Singapore is not easy, because we must clean all the time. And the children are so spoiled. We must do what they want. Sometimes, they shout, they kick our legs, slap our face, but we cannot say anything because they are the children of our employers.


My first days in Singapore were unforgettable and amazing. For the first time, I could see the places that I had dreamed of when I saw them on television and paintings. When I arrived at Singapore Changi airport, I felt nervous and happy at the same time. Nervous, because I did not know anything about the place where I would work and live for 2 years. Happy, because I would see my sister again, who I had not seen for the past seven years. She hugged me and said “Welcome to Singapore; be strong and be a fighter”. I never forgot those words. They were so true.


Before arriving in Singapore, I imagined that I would be able to go to places that I really wanted to go to like Sentosa, Gardens by the Bay, etc… That I would eat different kinds of food from different countries and take pictures of all the places I would go to. But this was only a dream.

My beginning in Singapore was very difficult. I had to adjust to so many things. I had to learn so much. The day I arrived at my employer’s house, I was very excited but also nervous. Very soon, I got disappointed. In the one year and two months that I worked there, I did not get a single day off. I could not visit a single place.


My experience here in Singapore has been very special. At my employer, there were a lot of tasks inside the house; we were working non-stop. The only moment we could rest was  sleeping time. If I made mistakes, my employer always asked the questions and gave the answers himself, not letting me defend myself. I was physically tired but just as much mentally. The kids were sometimes fine but sometimes, they kicked me or punched me. I felt miserable. After a full day of work but I would have additional physical pain due to what the kids were doing to me.

But one day I decided to leave my employer. I will now go outside and see how beautiful Singapore is. Hopefully I can visit the Singapore zoo, the Gardens by the Bay, the Merlion and the Marina Bay Sands towers. I really feel happy now in Singapore.

*name changed for privacy purposes

Meet the writers: Jo Ann

To whet your appetite for the ‘Our Homes, Our Stories’ book we take you behind the scenes of the publication. Whilst the editors and proofreaders are working hard to get the manuscript ready for the printer, we interview domestic worker and HOME MyVoice writer Jo Ann Dumlao about her experiences whilst writing her story for the book.

The moment I heard about the HOME book project, I didn’t give it a second thought: I knew I wanted to join. I am not a professional writer but I can push my pen. I love writing and I knew that with this book one of my ultimate dreams would come true. Seeing my name in a book as a contributor, to me, it’s such and achievement. This is not the first time that I wrote my story. I also joined the HOME MyVoice Writing Workshop with OFW Pinoy Star Founding Editor Clement Mesenas in 2015, and my story was featured in the HOME section of the OFW Pinoy Star magazine.

Writing a personal story like this is somehow both hard and easy. It was especially hard when I remembered the difficult times, and I would pity myself and ended up crying. I’d have to put myself back together, not let my emotions overtake, to be able to put words together smoothly. How did I do this? I reminded myself of the positive outcome of my struggles; that through these struggles I have been able to prove to myself that I am strong. In spite of being alone in this foreign land, I was able to survive and conquer my fears. The complex part of story telling is that it tests how sharp your memory is. Remembering the sad, fun, easy and adventurous sides of the story, I was surprised by my still sharp memory!

Do you know the feeling of having a burden on your chest? Writing helps to release it. I felt unburdened when I finished my story. My family – far away in the Philippines- did not know about my struggles. They never knew that I was once on the edge of giving up, of losing hope.

Jo Ann, Novia, Gilda
My Voice book writing workshop (Jo Ann, Karien, Gilda, Novia)

We domestic worker writers all have different stories to tell and yet, we understand each other. We have different dreams to share, but we comprehend what each one of us wants to convey to the readers. We enjoyed the group sessions we had, as if we were just sharing chitchat over a cup of coffee.

I am hoping that many people will grab a copy of our book, especially employers in Singapore and their families, the officers from government agencies like MOM (Ministry of Manpower) and also that they will take their time to read it. From our book, they can learn what ‘our world’ – that of a domestic worker – is like in reality. Maybe it will make them reflect; think about whether they are a reasonable employer to their own domestic worker. Do they treat her fair and just?

We are working hard to earn a living for our families, just like our employers do themselves, in their offices. An employer and a domestic worker are the same like that. After reading the book, I hope the employer’s hearts will soften, as they gain a better understanding of a domestic workers’ situation, knowing that they are away in a strange country, far from their own family.

The relationship between an employer and a domestic worker should be on a give and take basis. If the employer is kind to her domestic worker, she will be more diligent in her work, and happy in doing her chores. They will have a harmonious relationship and live peacefully and happily under one roof.

My employers know that I am an active member of HOME, and that I wrote my story for this book – also that they are a part of my story. They were happy to hear about it, and their two children even shared some thoughts about me that they wanted included in my story.

Writing this story made me realise that I have learned many life-lessons that had a great impact on me. They made me the person I am today. In my journey I have faced lots of ups and downs, it was a rocky road. I have cried buckets of tears, questioned myself and even God, asking why I needed to suffer and carry such burdens.

An organization like HOME is very important to migrant workers who have no one to turn to for help. They offer a shelter to stay safe, and medical, legal or financial assistance to those in need. I am happy to be a member of HOME – the voice of the voiceless, the helper of the helpless, the home for the homeless.

‘Our Homes, Our Stories’ is an anthology of real-life stories written by migrant domestic workers in Singapore. It will be launched on March 8th, International Women’s Day, by HOME.

Did you pre-order your copy yet? You can do so here:




The long wait is over. The cool breeze of air is making us feel that Christmas is here. The shining, shimmering lights and decorations accros every corner of the roads, in shopping malls or buildings, Santa Claus and his reindeers all along. Christmas trees were put-up with the star symbol on top of it and lots of wrapped gifts underneath.
As FDW’s are away from home, how do we celebrate Christmas? Everyone of us wishes to be back home in this festive, grandest season of the year but we don’t own our own time. We can’t just decide that at anytime we wish to go home, we can. We surely miss the traditional Christmas Dinner, the Noche Buena.
Lucky are those fellow FDW’s who are going home and are celebrating Christmas with their loved ones.
But away from home doesn’t mean we can’t make our Christmas a merry one,of course we can! Attending Christmas parties or gatherings with our friends or relatives is one way of celebrating. We prepare Filipino dishes to share, there are some games to play and prizes to be won and gift giving makes a happy and most awaited part of the party. Aside from this, we like to go walking at night and enjoy the beautiful decorations that symbolize Christmas or hop to the nearest island is what others do. And yes, do your favorite things to do, sleep as long as you want and eat delicious food and of course, buying yourself a few presents, wrap them and look surprised when you open them! Don’t forget to attend mass to feel the real essence of Christmas.
The joy that you feel may not be as heartfelt as when you are at home with your loved ones. But, wherever we are,we should have a great Christmas. Let’s feel the spirit of Christmas within us!


by Jo Ann Dhumlao

Our Homes, Our Stories

We are excited to announce the making of a new HOME MyVoice publication! As we speak we are working hard writing, editing and designing the book, which HOME plans to publish and  launch in March 2018: Our Homes, Our Stories.

Domestic workers can be seen everywhere in Singapore’s streetscape, in our parks, our shopping centres, and most importantly, inside our houses. But who are they really? Although these women form an integral part of our society, their voices are not often heard in Singapore literature. This book is an anthology of non-fiction stories written by migrant domestic workers in Singapore, and gives them a voice and a face. The book aims to create awareness of the issues domestic workers face, both in Singapore and in their home countries.

The stories explore different facets of the theme ‘home.’ All writers are either part of HOME’s network of domestic worker volunteers, or residents of HOME shelter for run away domestic workers. They come from different backgrounds and countries, and cover a variety of subjects relating to the lives of migrant domestic workers; positive as well as negative experiences. Their stories are compelling, insightful, and at times horrifying. They are important and need to be read.

In order to get this book published and printed, we need funds, please donate to our campaign at to support publication:

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. An ebook version will be published in March 2018 as well.

We will update you here on the MyVoice blog on the progress of the book, get you special behind the scenes reports, and interviews with the writers, so watch this space! To get regular updates on the book, please also ‘like’ our Facebook page:

For more information about the book, please contact Karien at

Tears In My Eyes

By Rosita Sanchez


Tears In My Eyes

It started one day

When I fell in love with you

My days were filled with laughter and happiness

I was content and I felt complete


My life has changed because of you.

I am not the same girl as before.

My days, my time, changing so fast.

Even the sun and the moon are competing with each other.


But what happened one day?

Where are you? Why can’t I see you?

Is there something wrong my love?

Please tell me, I’m dying to be with you.


Days, months and even years have passed us by.

I feel a deep sadness and my tears keep flowing.

Have you forgotten me? Have you left me?


You just walk away like the wind.

What I feel will never be seen.


A gift from you makes me feel strong.

A life with you makes my life continue on.

It feels like yesterday that we were together.


I thank God for the son that we have.

I trust Him and surrender my questions because right now I am happy with our son.


Tears keep falling from my eyes, that one day you will wipe them off and make them dry.

Now the time has come and this little voice says to me, “Mama, stop crying, I’m here, I love you.”

This sweet voice makes my heart calm.


Where ever you are, where ever you go,

Thank you for the day that made me feel a woman. It made my dreams come true to be a mother and to have a son with the man I love so much.


I have these tears in my eyes but now the tears are flowing because of the happiness that our son gives me.

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