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.

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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

Can I have a day off please?

By Jo Ann Dumlao

I am one of the many standing passengers on the MRT from Paya Lebar heading towards the city -Orchard Road in particular. As always, I choose to stand at the adjoining point of the MRT where I can lean back. Undeniably, the noise of chatting of my fellow migrant domestic workers from different races is catching the attention of the other passengers.

I always carry a book with me that I can read while traveling – be it in the bus or the MRT. As I start to read, I notice a conversation close to me.

“I am new here in Singapore, it’s my third month to be exact and my first time to take my day off. I want to go to Orchard – Lucky Plaza, could you please lead me the way, sister? Are you going there too?” I hear a girl ask the girl standing next to her in a Bisaya accent. Then the other girl replies, ‘Oooh I am just like you but you are luckier. You are fresh here and you are already in this MRT looking for your way to the city!’

A “why” comes out of the first girl. As their conversation progresses I can’t stop eavesdropping – out of curiosity. The second girl has been working with a family for a year and it’s her first time to get a day off. Her boss doesn’t allow her to go out because she worries she might get into trouble or will get lost. Both of which are lame reasons in my opinion. When she told her boss that she wanted to study at a certain short course, they finally gave her two days off every month. The first girl says they are both the same, having their two days off now and they happily exchange mobile phone numbers.

From the corner of my eyes, I notice another girl staring and probably – just like me – eavesdropping on the conversation. Her eyes seem cloudy. I make few steps to get near to her and ask if she is okay.

Ate (elder sister),” she replies, “I have been working here for 6 months, and my boss allow me to have some Sundays off. But $20 is to be deducted from my monthly salary whenever I take a day off.’ I was like, whaaat?!

Then, she added she she always has to buy her own toiletries, while we both know those should be provided by her boss.

I really don’t understand why so many employers are very hesitant to give a day off to their domestic workers. It is not even 24 hours in a week!

“Have you eaten your breakfast,” I then ask her.

“Not yet ate, I intended to have brunch for me to save my money on breakfast,” she replies.

Knowing that I have enough money in my pocket, I invite her to join me for brunch. At first she is hesitant, shy, but when I insist she agrees.

We go to Lucky Plaza and straight ahead to one of the stalls and order bulalo- meaty beef knuckles with soup and vegetables plus rice. We enjoy our food together.

While we are eating, she tells me that alternately of the months, she takes her day off. So in October she has two days off, in November one day and December in celebration of Christmas she’ll have 2 days off again. On her day off, she leaves from work at 10 am after cleaning the house and washing the car. She must be back by 9:00 pm to tidy up the house again before retiring to bed.

To us migrant workers, our day off is what we are always looking forward at the end of the week. Some of us are privileged to have Public Holidays off as well. Our days off are when we rest recharge, meet our friends and can improve ourselves with classes.

My point here is, that domestic workers are not robots, they are not commodities— we are Human Beings too, just like employers are. They need to relax and unwind too and they can do that during their day off. Grant them a day off but please, don’t deduct any amount from their salary- that’s too unfair!

I am sure, your bosses at work or the company you are working for, don’t do that to you. Please at least be kind to her, you are depending on her with all kinds of house chores including taking care of your love ones.

Jo Anne Dumlao is a HOME volunteer and one of the contributors to the anthology ‘Our Homes, Our Stories’, a book featuring real-life stories of domestic workers in Singapore. 

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Helper Appreciation

 

By Miriam Empil Escander

Showing APPRECIATION to loved ones, friends or a mentor is an important gesture of gratitude, especially to those who impacted our life or helped us in times of need. Who doesn’t want to get appreciated?

Most of the time appreciation might not given to us, but getting it once in a while makes us more motivated to do our work and run everything smoothly. It also encourages us to do things better, even in the midst of challenging times.

As human beings we all want to be valued and recognized for our effort. I once read a quote from Sam Walton, founder of Walmart: “Appreciate everything your associates do. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise.”

 

We might not all be working in a big multi-million company but of all employees we migrant workers also need some appreciation as much, perhaps more than anybody. Due to entrenched poverty in our country, working overseas is the only alternative to escape from debt and hopelessness. We travel to foreign nations, legally or not, just to get out of the dark cloud of poverty. Often we do this without considering the possibility of suffering abuse or getting maltreated by inhumane employers.
Leaving our kids for a very long period of time is the worst sacrifice we’ve ever had to make as a mother. No one can argue that a young child will fully understand why mama wont be reading bed time stories at night, why mama can’t prepare breakfast in the morning before they go to school, why they can’t get a cuddle from their mama when they are sick and why mama is absent on special occasions in their lives. Often the kids who are left behind are the ones who suffer most. No matter how hard we try to believe that Skype, Messenger and Facetime offer some type of communication with them, it still doesn’t fully work to maintain a strong bond. In my case, I can’t count how many times I recieve a “Mama,kailan ka uuwi” [mama, when are you coming home] or “mama,uwi ka na” [mama, please come home].

After all these sacrifices, leaving our family back home to work abroad for their future, we only want one thing; that our employers treat us well and appreciate what we do for them, either big or small. To us that means our sacrifices have paid off well.

We work six or seven days a days a week – sometimes 24/7. I guess it’s just fair enough to at least once in a while hear we are appreciated. It helps us to wipe away our weariness and longing to our family back home.

 


Last September 8th 2018 , as a HOME volunteer, I was given a chance to attend an event HELPER’S APPRECIATION DAY held at Australian International School with over 300 people including helpers, employers and the kids they look after. It was such a tremendous event to witness. There was so much fun going on, activities for kids and helpers, yummylicious foods, a magic show, balloon sculpting and face painting, traditional Filipina and Indonesian dance, free painted portraits for helpers, amazing goodie bags and so on…..
As a migrant worker who got a chance to be there and participate in this event, I was so deeply moved, and we have the SASSY MAMA SINGAPORE TEAM to thank for making such a big effort to put up HELPERS APPRECIATION DAY, as well as of course all the sponsors.

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Who is She?

Who is She?

***

She is the first person to wake up in this house

She prepares your breakfast and packs foods for you to bring

She assist your kids to be ready for school

Who is she?

The maid you call her.

**

She tidies up your crumpled bed so you may rest your tired body

She cleans up your house so you may have a peaceful mind

She takes care of your kids while you are at work so you may not worry

Who is she?

The maid you call her.

**

She cooks food so you may have a sumptuous dinner as you always say

She feeds your kids so they may stay healthy

She secure doors and windows each night for your safety

Who is she?

The maid you call her.

**

Her worth is less than a thousand each month

Her freedom two days each month

Two days with curfew hours each month

She is the maid.

That is what she deserves.

Too much isn’t it?

**

**

#rolinda77

BEING A DOMESTIC HELPER

By: Jean RAGUAL

 

Being a domestic helper

 

My heart is without pain

If they call us only HELPER

The sadness of my will

Who are the educated people of the world?

 

They still lower the real meaning

And the importance of being a HELPER

 

You are a hero and very helpful person

Your blessings will be rewarded

GOD to create you will be praised

 

You are a hero and very helpful person

Your blessings will be rewarded

GOD to create you will be praised

 

Sweaty day and night

Soaked at work

She will remain stable

Because each drop of it

In life it is symbolic

Sacrifice has its rewards

By Jo Ann Dumlao

A mother without a doubt loves her children very much. A mother’s love supposes a willingness to struggle, to work, to suffer and to rejoice. It is a love that brings her satisfaction and ultimate fulfillment even if it means reaching beyond herself. Because giving is more important to her than receiving.

Sometimes this kind of love that a mother has for her children pushes her to leave her family to serve somebody else to be able to provide some, if not all, of their wants and especially all their needs. A mother has to sacrifice herself and suffer in order to provide for the children, be it a necessity or a luxury, their whims or caprice.

The only consolation for such a mother is the thought that she can provide a better life for her children. And this can become an inspiration that gives her the strength to carry on; the thought that you are giving your children financial security, an education and material things.

The decision to go away from my children was the hardest decision I have ever made. I did it because of some unfavourable situations that have significantly affected my family especially my children.

I have 3 children who need my guidance and supervision all the time in their studies and in their difficult growing up years. Most of all, they need my love.

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Janwin Kirby, my only son, was 9 years old – a 3rd grader – when I left him together with his 2 sisters. Shaine was 14 (now 25) and Jilliane was only 7 (now 18). I was aware that at that age, he really needed maternal guidance growing up.

And now, Janwin Kirby is 20 years old and a fresh graduate from University with a Bachelor in Secondary Education. He was a Latin Honouree-Cum Laude! Yes, I can say that I am the proudest migrant mother of my son’s accomplishment in his studies.

It was not an easy journey for us. There were times that I asked myself “Can I still make it? Will I be able to support his studies all throughout his course until he graduates?”

I know that he has always been diligent in his studies: the moment he started his first subject in his first year in college, he set himself a goal. He became a College Scholar but his goals were higher still. To be on the stage, receiving medals during his graduation was his ultimate dream. And believe it or not, in his last semester in College, he computed his grades from 1st year to 4th year to see if he could make it or not. And he was confident enough with the computation he made.

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How did I receive the good news? How did I react? I can still remember! It was April 12th, 2018 not so early in the morning. I answered one of my son’s calls (I ignored the first 4 calls actually). So I answered and said: “hmmm what’s up?” And he replied; “Mommy I have something to tell you and please let me talk first.” My heart beat fast waiting for what he was going to say and then he blurted out; “Mommy, I made it, I am a Cum Laude!”

Did I hear it right? I didn’t believe him and I even said: “That’s a big time joke, don’t do that to me!” “Mommy, mommy listen to me, I have fulfilled my promise, my goal I am a Cum Laude! I hope I am making you happy and proud of me!”

Tears were abundantly flowing, from a silent cry to a sob. I was speechless and when I found my tongue “Thank you son, I am so proud of you and I love you” were the words that I said.

The night before his graduation April 28, I came home. I was so excited, so overwhelmed, overjoyed. I needed to give him my tightest hug and kiss him all over his face.

On his graduation day, it was as if I was floating in the air. Standing side by side together with his fellow Honouree graduates and their parents in front of the rest of the graduates as we marched down.

When I heard his name being called up in the stage to receive his medals as a Cum Laude, I was teary-eyed. I still watch the video of it and I think I haven’t absorbed it fully yet.

Being an OFW mom is not easy at all. It never will be. I am just so blessed with my 3 children who are so loving, respectful, God fearing and responsible especially in their studies. Even when we are miles away from each other, they never take for granted my pieces of advice because they understand that it’s for their own good, not mine. Thanks to for the modern technology of video calling, which offers a great way of easing homesickness.

My fellow OFW mom’s (single mom like me or not), it is very important for us to stay positive in every situation we are in because we are away from our love ones. Let us be optimistic, don’t let problems drag us down, let’s keep our faith, pray, for God is our greatest refuge.

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Cinderella’s reality

Cinderella’s reality 
**
Thirty minutes past six
Phone starts ringing
Six times six times six
Cinderella is late
The monster red dot father is in rage
**
She was treated like a real princess
At the castle beside the bay
True smile surfaces on her face
Happiness she longs to embrace
Appreciation she wishes
Dignified and a real bless
**
Thirty minutes past six
Slowly monster shedding her flesh
Cutting her sanity bit by bit
Stepping her dignity to pieces
Rude words suffocate her breath
Now she is drowned in tears
The monster with a mouth like a sword slashed her with words
**
Thirty minutes past six
Doors open, door shut
No one can save her in that shack
Corners hear her cry
Rooms fill her anguish
Home she calls imprisoned her freedom
Family she says cuffs her equality
Thirty minutes past six Cinderella faces reality
She is nothing but a maid.
**
#rolinda77

My First Love

The night I lost my First love

 

The night I lost my First Love

It was a painful time of my life

As I held him in my hands

Lifeless and almost cold as ice

 

I sobbed to death for his passing

I cried a river for he already left me

In this most depressing situation

Tortured by a lot of thoughts

 

He is my teacher, who taught me lessons about life

He is my king, who moulded me to be a warrior

He is the leader of the band, who allowed me to write my heart out

He is my first love, my first kiss and my only one

 

He was breathless, though I tried hard

He left me grieving so much for his death

My greatest critic and my dear debater

Left, without arguing what there is to come

 

The night I lost my first love, will always be remembered

How he fought the battle and won eternal life in heaven.

 

By Beckerbone Millado

 

#CarnivalofPoetry

#Fatherhood

#poetrybleeds

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