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.
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: https://www.giving.sg/humanitarian-organisation-for-migration-economics/our_homes_our_stories