They share our lives and homes, but have you ever wondered what life is likefor 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.
And mark your calendar: on March 11th you can pick up your copy at our launch event, at the Hollandse Club.
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.
If you like to see unique footage from the making of our book, interviews with some of the writers, and listen to them read from their own work, please have a look at this video. With thanks to volunteer Vivian Yu!
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.
Yesterday was an amazing day, that saw the long expected launch of our book ‘Our Homes, Our Stories’. Seeing the emotional and proud looks on the faces of the writers when they unwrapped their copies was more than worth all the hard work that went into the preparation of the book.
The audience could enjoy some of the writers reading from their own work, as well as a Javanese dance performance by one of the writers and her group. Of course afterwards there was time for buying and signing!
If you would like to pick up a copy, please do, we are selling them fast! And remember 100% of the proceeds go to HOME, as all the work was done by volunteers.
The book is for sale at the following addresses:
HOME offices (open to the public):
Helpdesk for Filipino Domestic Workers, 304 Orchard Road, Lucky Plaza #06-22, Singapore 238863
Helpdesk for Indonesian Domestic Workers and other Migrant Workers, 511 Guillemard Road #01-06, Singapore 399849
Juliet Ugay worked in Singapore as a domestic worker for ten years before retiring back to the Philippines. In the book ‘Our Homes, Our Stories’ she reflects on her time in Singapore, what it was like to return to the Philippines after all that time, and of course, on what her future might hold. Juliet has always loved to write, and is an active member of the HOME MyVoice team, both as a writer and an editor.
We asked Juliet what it meant to her to be part of the book project.
My story is just one of the thousand stories that domestic workers in Singapore have to offer. I will take you to where I started, how that went and what it was like, as well as my background and my reasons for leaving. I share some details about my wellbeing during the ten years I worked in Singapore, until the time when I decided to go home for good. Most people think that working abroad is all about earning money. Through my story, readers will hopefully gain a better understanding that my life abroad was not a bed of roses at all.
Being part of this project has given me the opportunity to share my story with the readers. The project also helped me a lot with my writing, thanks to our very patient and hardworking volunteers who made every part of the process easier for us. The whole experience has been a great way for me to spread awareness; the ups and downs of being a domestic worker abroad. We are women from different backgrounds and all have different perspectives on what it is like for us, from the start to finish.
The book will be my treasure for the rest of my life: something that I could be proud of and share with my family and generations to come.
Does your story have a special message, anything you like the reader to learn from it?
I think that this book will serve as an eye opener to everyone, most especially to employers and domestic workers. I am hoping that through this book, lawmakers will have a better understanding of what is the real situation of domestic workers; hopefully it will serve as a guide to them in providing better protection for us.
At the same time I am hoping that through my story, my fellow domestic workers can learn to prepare better when they decide to go home for good. Returning home needs a lot of preparation, good planning as well as emotional and physical adjustment. Saving is one important thing to do, especially for older domestic workers, as age is an important factor when applying to jobs in the Philippines.
With the help of organizations like HOME, other domestic workers can be made aware that there are people who are willing to give them a hand when they are ill-treated or abused. This book can play an important role in that.
What are your own plans for the future now you are back in the Philippines?
At the moment I am still fulfilling the motherly duties to my son, in exchange for all the time with him I lost when I worked abroad. Aside from that, I am preparing myself to join the workforce again, hopefully soon. If I can’t get a job in my country, it will have to be in another country.
Will you continue to write?
Writing played a crucial role in putting things together for me, not only in my story but in my life basically. Writing has always been something I wanted to do. It doesn’t require much pressure and I can do it at any time.
I will continue writing as long as I can. If I get a chance to be part of a project similar to this again, I’ll be more than willing to put my effort in. I did some writing classes a few months ago, and now I intend to write a novel, a short story and a collection of poems. And I am writing any time I want.
You have been part of the MyVoice team as well as editor the MyVoice blog for years. How do you look back on this period?
HOME started doing an online newsletter years ago, and later we had printed copies. During this time, there were many cases of abuse and issues concerning domestic workers. One big issue was domestic workers falling to their death out of windows, and the compulsory weekly day off another. The newsletter served as a voice for us. We gathered signatures and filed a petition for a ban on cleaning windows at a height, and a weekly day off. I think we really made a difference, as there is now new legislation for both.
As technology improved and with the help of volunteers we came up with the MyVoice blog. The blog serves as a platform for domestic workers to share their experiences, stories, talents, trivia et cetera. Writing for MyVoice is not just about me, I am writing with a purpose.
A blog like MyVoice is very important especially for domestic workers who are having a difficult time getting help and information. MyVoice gets domestic workers together, and encourages them to share, be it through their stories, poems, talent or any other form.
Thank you Juliet, and good luck with your further writing!