Shelter life

Every week between 60 and 80 women stay at the HOME shelter. Here they receive what they need in terms of food, clothing and hygiene kits. HOME also assists them with their cases, and listens to their sometimes heartbreaking stories. Every week the women can take part in a wide range of activities and classes. In the writing class last week, the participants wrote about some of their experiences at the shelter.

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Lea:

I am Lea, I have been here for 3 days. During my experience, here, I am learning a lot every day. I do my things and I also join all the activities here. The volunteers are very nice and very good. They teach and explain many things.

At the shelter, I feel comfortable. Here there is no stress, I have a lot of sisters; we share and talk every day. I am so blessed and lucky to be here because the people here are very helpful to each other’s. I am very happy to be here.

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Annalyn:

I arrived here last Sunday at night, I decided to come here for help because I can’t trust my agent and my employer. When I am here, I feel safe and comfortable. I experience a lot of things like attending yoga, cooking and baking class, English. It is so much fun and interesting! I love it because I can relax and also challenge myself.

They treat me like a sister. We stay here like in our home. We have freedom. They help us to improve ourselves, they teach us to respect each other and to help each other.

Ana Marie:

Here at HOME organization, I experience being treated as a real human. The people here have a heart and have patience to listen to your story. And they provide good food so that we can eat properly and not pass the meals. They bring us to activities that we can enjoy; it helps us with forgetting our worries and laugh with friends.

The volunteers here are very nice and have also good hearts. They provide all the needs and make sure we are happy and feel safe. That is why I am so blessed to be here right now.

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Maeya:

I am from the Philippines, I am 35 years old. I ran away because my boss doesn’t want to give me off day and was scolding me all the time. Since I arrived at HOME I feel much safer. I feel peaceful in my mind. I can go out of my problems because I can talk with people, not like before when I was at my employer’s house. Here I sleep well, I learn more English. I am happy here. And I meet some friends from Myanmar, Indonesia, and of course, from the Philippines.

Joy:

The first day at the shelter I was so worried because I didn’t have anything. I only brought a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. I worried about how long I was going to stay here. Suddenly the leader of the shelter found out that I had no clothes, and she gave me a plastic bag full of nice clothes and everything I needed, such as toothpaste, toothbrush, soap and towel. I felt so happy.

The next day I made some friends and we talked about our experiences and why we had run away. It was a relief to talk to them. We always talk, laugh and joke and we do activities together like yoga class, baking, cooking and English. The most unforgettable moment was in the English writing class, where I wrote a poem and a short story about my life. This was the first time I told anyone about my life from I was young until now, I never shared this with anyone.

I feel happy about my everyday life here. I wake up at 5 am to prepare breakfast, but I am never tired because all of us have a different story and we must help each other. I know what it feels like when no one takes care of you. I am going to miss my friends here after my case is finished.

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Catherine:

I feel so comfortable when I stay here and I think of this place as my second home. Sometimes we who live here don’t understand each other because we come from different countries and speak different languages, we have different cultures and so many other things, but we can still relate to each other’s feelings. We all want a better life. I am so happy when I see a friend go home or to another employer, because then I know that they can start again on a new journey of life. Sadness can happen in a life, but we need to continue our lives for our families.

Jessica:

I felt very scared when I first came to the shelter, but HOME made me feel like I was not alone anymore. For almost two months they have taken care of me and helped me to process my case. I feel they are like family, I feel cared for, I feel comfortable. I met a lot of friends from other countries and they made me wake up from the bad dream that was my employer’s house.

HOME helped me to become stronger than I was before, I can eat properly, I sleep well and no one can beat me or make me unhappy anymore. I know how to laugh again and I wake up every morning with a smile.

I want to thank the volunteers also to keep on helping HOME. If they were not there, we couldn’t stay here for so long and they understand our situation.

I thank God now that I can soon go HOME to my family, and I thank HOME for the comfort and care. I will never forget what you have done for me!

The beautiful drawings shown were made during one of HOME writing classes by artist Carla Talopp.

© 2017 Carla Tallopp

My Struggle and Hope

By Michelle T Cain

My Struggle and Hope

Struggle is the best way to describe my life since I started secondary school up until now.

Struggle is my best friend, struggle never leaves my side.

It started when my father found another woman and broke up our family. When he didn’t support us anymore I could see the pain on my mother’s face. I appreciate how my mother supported our everyday needs. I could feel the overflowing love of my mother. Every time I saw her sacrifice, I told myself that I would try to have a better life and a happy and complete family of my own.

Then I started a family on my own. But struggle hugged me again. My husband’s family didn’t like me to be part of them. They said I wasn’t worthy. The feelings and dreams I had imagined fell down again. I felt so alone. I felt hatred inside, that the world could be so unfair.

That is why I decided to work abroad. I felt that everything would change if I could earn well, even if I had to leave my family. I always thought that my husband’s family would accept me if I had a lot of money and went abroad.

I went abroad and found work in Singapore, and I felt so happy and hopeful. But then struggle hit me again. I experienced abuse from my employer. She shouted at me and I felt so nervous that I couldn’t handle the shaking anymore. Without anyone I felt so alone. I even blamed God for giving me this kind of problem. I always asked God: What have I done?

But I am not going to give up. I try to fight this struggle in me. I never lose hope. I am still praying that I can overcome this struggling life of mine.

 

Michelle is staying at HOME shelter, where she wrote this piece during a creative writing workshop run by volunteers

My Mother

By Michelle T Cain

Ever since I was young, I have idolized my mother. I could see she was always taking care of us. When I was young, she supported me in every way she could. When I joined a kids’ contest she was always there for me. I come from a broken family. My father left us when I was in secondary school and my mother was the one who had to feed us and provide for our needs, since my father was not supporting us anymore.

I know that my mother did her best just to make us finish school and to give us a good life – even though I could see that she always felt so tired. And now that I have my own family, my mother is the one who takes care of my daughter while I’m away working in a foreign country. My mother never leaves me, especially on my hardest days. And now she is also teaching my daughter good values. There is no other person that can be as inspiring as my mother.

Michelle is staying at HOME shelter, where she wrote this piece during a creative writing workshop run by volunteers

My Life in a Foreign Land

My Life in a Foreign Land

By Rea Maac

It’s midnight and yet I’m still awake
It will be my last night in my own bed
We will not be together for 2 years
As I have a journey to seek.

I know in the days ahead
Everything will really change
Just hoping I can overcome
And always stay calm.

While my mind can’t rest, my eyes have given up
Until my alarm clock sounds so loud
Time to wake up and get ready
For my first flight to a foreign country.

I head to the airport with my family
I smile at them as if I’m fine
Just wave my hand as a sign of goodbye
Coz I don’t like to show them that I cry.

Inside the airplane I let it go
I cry as if there is no tomorrow
My family I will truly miss
Coz they are my life and my happiness.

After a few hours, the airplane lands
My heart is trembling like an earthquake
Honestly I am totally scared
“Oh God help me,” I pray.

My new life is about to begin
Not sure what will happen
A life so different from what it used to be
I have to accept it will never be easy.

Yes it’s tough from the very start
A big adjustment on my part
To be able to adopt their ways of living
Totally different in everything.

Every night, pain moves into my eyes
I don’t even know how I can survive
It’s so hard to set aside
The loneliness I feel inside.

I know I shouldn’t be in depression
Because it may destroy my ambition
Thinking of my family as inspiration
To be strong is a good decision.

As the days pass, I’m slowly getting used to it
Though sometimes sadness still comes
I just keep reminding myself to be strong
Soon I’ll go back to the place where I belong.

Being in a foreign land is a big risk
You will encounter a lot of hindrances
But don’t give up, keep moving instead
You must be a fighter if you want to succeed.

Never involve yourself in any trouble
Remember to be kind and humble
Respect all the people around you
So in return, they will respect you too.

And now it’s been 7 years
I’m fully adjusted and there’s no more fear
There are times sadness is still a trigger
But that is normal, it won’t last longer.

Let me give you some advice
Just always pray and do your best
God is watching, he will do the rest.

 

CHRISTMAS IN OUR HEARTS

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By: Jho Ann Dumlao

“People making lists, buying special gifts, taking time to be kind to one and all. Everywhere there’s an air of Christmas joy…”

This song I heard playing in the shop reminds me always of the time of festivity in my place in the Philippines. Yes, it’s Christmas time, the most awaited and most festive celebration every year. And we can call it “stress season” for some as well, I think. 
The Christmas spirit makes people selfless, more friendly, more kind and nicer, and more forgiving (reconciliation). It’s about spreading love and peace. Us, Foreign Domestic Workers, how do we cope up in celebrating this season?

Lucky are those who are going home in this season to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones. While others will just fill up a “balik bayan” box with goodies and send back home; a way for some to make their loved ones happy despite their absence. 
Christmas away from home is not that easy. We miss attending the early morning masses (simbang gabi) that starts every 16th of December and ends at Christmas Eve. Some people especially Catholics believe that if someone has completed the whole phase of “simbang gabi”, whatever they wished and prayed for will come true. The so-called caroling or singing Christmas songs from house to house and in return the household will give something like money or in any kind. And of course, the Noche Buena in which the family members get together over dinner full of chats and celebration. This is after the Misa de Gallo or Midnight Mass.
Christmas is also a good time for reunions.

We are doing so many sacrifices abroad that we missed a lot of grand celebrations or happenings back home. We can’t do otherwise; we don’t own our time either. 
Some of us just stay in the four corners of our employer’s house during Christmas. However, let’s just think that we are doing this not for ourselves but for our loved ones, for their better living situation.

Far away from home, we can still make our Christmas a merry one together with our friends, our family away from home. And may the spirit of Christmas reign in our hearts.

Memories of Christmas

This sad festive poem was written by Rea Maac, who has worked as a domestic worker  in Singapore for 7 years, and was a finalist of the recent Singapore Migrant Poetry competition.

 

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Memories of Christmas

 

Christmas is coming
Long wait is over soon
But the sadness in my heart
Can’t measure even up to the moon

Still in my mind
How it used to be
Way back with my family
Celebration of festivity

Going to the church to attend the mass
Feeding our soul with God’s love
While waiting for the stroke of 12 o’clock
Sign that Dear Jesus born alive.

After church, heading back home
Across the street we can hear the music
With all the shining Christmas light
We really can feel the yuletide spirit

With a simple meal on the table
Everybody seems excited and happy
What’s more important
Loving each other wholeheartedly.

Remembering those old memories
It has been 7 years I’m away
My whole family, I truly miss
To be with them, is all I wish.

My Favorite Christmas

To celebrate this festive season, four HOME shelter residents share their favorite memories of Christmas. They are all members of HOME’s creative writing workshop.

Jessiebel Pinkihan

I love reminiscing back to a time 20 years ago, when I was just at my sweet 16. Every 16th of December, my friends and I would go caroling from one barangay (neighborhood) to another, and after that we attended the midnight mass in church. We would go back home carrying the gifts that people had given us for our caroling: ducks, chickens, cash, and even camote (sweet potato) and bibingka (rice cake). We would do this every night until the 24th of December. During daytime, when our classes were finished, my friends and I started decorating the church with Christmas lanterns and Christmas trees, and putting Santa’s picture on the main door. On December 25, we used everything we had collected during our caroling to buy food to be shared during our Christmas party. We also exchanged gifts and played games. It is so sweet remembering my childhood Christmas; sharing what you have is such a great feeling. As I grow older, I will keep on remembering these times, wishing I could bring them back.

Sandra Vergara

Christmas is coming. I remember when I was around 6 or 7 years old, I used to write to Santa to tell him what I wanted for Christmas. I would put this short list in a sock, and hang it on the door in the belief that Santa would see it. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. We used to go to church for Christmas Eve Mass – or Simbang Gabi as we say in Tagalog. My family and I made it a habit to go every year. As for our food, spaghetti was always present; my mother cooked it, and it was the best spaghetti ever. My sisters and I also played games during Christmas, and we stayed up until the next morning. I remember that one time, my sister and I were out caroling at a neighbor’s, and it was funny because a dog chased us back home, so we couldn’t get any coins! When I remember that Christmas it still makes me smile.

Roselyn de Guzman

I want to share the best Christmas I ever had. Usually I celebrate Christmas with my family, but my best Christmas was when my beautiful daughter was born. She was born in the month of October. She is the best Christmas gift I have ever received. Even though I wasn’t with my family, since they were in Manila, it was still the best Christmas because of my daughter. In the Philippines, Christmas is important because it is the day that Jesus Christ was born. We usually cook for Christmas Eve, and celebrate together with family and other relatives. During our Christmas party, we have a lot of food – fruit salad, spaghetti, ham, wine, beer, queso de bola (Edam cheese) – and we go to church at midnight. That’s how we celebrate our Christmas.

Rose Ann Somera

Christmas is about sharing and celebrating the birth of Jesus. The best Christmas I had was when all my relatives came to our home to celebrate with us. I have a lot of happy memories of that time: we exchanged gifts, did some Christmas caroling, and watched the fireworks. When we celebrated the New Year, all of my relatives also came to our house, and we had a lot of fun.

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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