All posts by myvoiceathome

Welcome to the world of arts

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By Jo Ann Dumlao

Not even in my wildest dreams did I ever think that one day I would be one of the Sister Guides at the National Gallery Singapore. But in a blink of an eye, it happened.

The National Gallery Singapore (NGS) is a modern art museum in Singapore that has the largest public collection of Southeast Asian Art in the world. The Sister Guides program is a collaboration between the NGS and HOME (the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics). In the program several volunteers are trained as mentors to lead gallery tours for our fellow migrant workers – in our home language. For me, that is in Filipino (Philippines), other languages in the program are Burmese ( Myanmar) and Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesia). There are 2 HOME volunteer mentors in each team. The great thing about this program is: there is free admission for migrant workers, and it includes refreshments after the tour!

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There are several objectives for NGS and HOME to collaborate in this program, and with these, they hope to develop meaningful engagement of migrant domestic workers in their community.

  1. Develop a deeper understanding of the migrant domestic worker community In Singapore and their connection with the Gallery.
  2. Reduce access barriers for the migrant domestic worker community – become an inclusive museum.
  3. Pilot a self-empowerment/self advocacy model of engagement with a community of need.
  4. Pilot a strategy to reduce the linguistic barrier faced.
  5. Explore meaningful programmatic connections between the Gallery Children’s Biennale and the Gallery permanent exhibitions.

The tours took place on 2 Sundays in November, with different time slots for each language. To make the program successful, we invited participants by giving-out Sister Guides flyers and posting on social media.

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Each group made a journey to six different artworks from the Children’s Biennale and UOB Southeast Asian Gallery. In line with the theme of the tour “Embracing Hidden Stories,” we explored hidden and untold stories through looking at artworks from Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar.

Under the guidance of the Sister Guides, participants thoroughly studied the artworks. The participants then willingly and excitedly shared their thoughts and opinions at the Q&A part of the tour. It was a delight to see how focused and interested they were! The selected artworks are connected to our lives as migrant workers, and they also speak about women, other minorities or indigenous people, about democracy and history. For me, yes, I definitely have this emotional connection to the artworks.

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The feedback of the participants was great: they had fun, they gained knowledge about art and generally found the experience heart-warming and overwhelming. The most asked question afterwards was: “when is the next tour program of NGS? I will come again!” Everyone had an enjoyable experience – very different from what they thought was going to be “a boring art gallery experience.”

To us mentors, what challenged and excited us was that we did not know most of the participants, we met them only during the day of the tour. But gladly we were able to mingle and get to know the participants. Afterwards, all of the Sister Guides happily and willingly signed the volunteer form to make us officially part of the “Best Friends of Gallery “ team.

I want to say a big Thank You to the NGS for giving us – my fellow tour guides and myself this amazing opportunity. My heart is full; to see the Artworks of Juan Luna was a dream come true. He is not just an artist but also a National Hero in the Philippines. We are both from the province of Ilocos Norte.

There is no Right or Wrong in Arts, just enjoy what you are seeing and experiencing!

 

Stealing

STEALING

What is stealing? For me, the word stealing has a lot of definitions. Of course, I understand the most common is, when you take something, an item, that does not belong to you. That is simply stealing.

But what should we call it when people take away someone else’s rights?

Being a domestic helper, we have the right to know what our rights are. The employer should be responsible to let their helper know for instance, that if you are not allowed to take a day off, they must pay you in lieu. Also, they should let them know how much the minimum salary of a domestic helper is, or that the employer is not allowed to ask the domestic helper to clean another house, office, condo – or ask them to do a job that is not part of your everyday task. For me that is stealing too. It is stealing to deny people their rights.

Why do many employers so easily accuse a domestic helper of doing wrong? Is it because to them, we are poor only, and  cannot afford to buy anything? Do these employers try to ask themselves if they are not  stealing too?

Not allowing a domestic worker to know the truth about her rights and not following the government rules that is STEALING.

YOU ARE STEALING WHAT IS RIGHTFULLY THAT OF YOUR DOMESTIC HELPER!

 

By Jofel 

Jofel was accused of stealing by her former employer and has been staying in the HOME shelter for a year and eight months now, whilst her case is being investigated by the authorities. Jofel denies the accusations against her. She has not been convicted, yet she has not been free to leave the country, nor hold a job – and thus has had no means of income for the past  years. Jofel volunteers at the shelter by helping her peers, and developing her skills in crafts and writing. Read her life story here.

The unattainable justice

THE UNATTAINABLE JUSTICE

It all started with a dream,
A dream that was taken away,
Away from the expectations that it will fail,
Failure that I now want to break away,
Thinkin’ that justice is not easy, there is a cost to pay
So, at this time, hope is not a good place to stay,
I just want to run away
Leaving my homeland behind
To a country that I was blind
The place that I have known for possibilities
Turned out to be my land of turmoil
and bitterness
How unfortunate I am to be trapped in a misery
of a foreign land
Justice, where are you?
Are you still yet to be found?
Just like the dusk, nearing
the night where the darkness
Starts swallowing my heart and
my dreams shattered,
broken pieces scattered around
Like a flower that blossoms at spring season,
fragrant, thriving in beauty
But when the violent monsoon comes,
They languish, it falls off and the beauty is
destroyed
Life is full of surprises and uncertainties
As much as I wanted to go
through the streams of possibilities
Pain and suffering are toppling me down,
They are the inevitable tidal waves
of after quakes
I am intimidated
Causing me not to swim around
Because my life is like a boat
That is directed by a rudder
that when it breaks and it snaps,
Life will be lost, I don’t know where to go,
Nowhere else to be found
For all I wanted to be is to fulfill
my dreams and change my destiny
Leaving oppression behind, give a
good life to my family,
And kiss goodbye to poverty
But seems like lady luck
is not smiling at me,
For the justice that I simply wanna see,
To triumph over an instance
of mistaken identity is far beyond reach,
I am now in the state of apathy
So, help me God,
You are the Only Reason I see,
To hold on to this land,
To be the justice in every plea,
The Hope to every misery,
My Freedom and My Victory

 

By Emmy Flores

Emmy has been staying at HOME shelter for some time whilst her case is being investigated. She volunteers at the shelter and showcases her many talents in different ways. Recently she was part of an art exhibition for migrant workers. 

 

 

 

 

 

English at HOME

HOME shelter volunteer Puja shares her experience of teaching English at our shelter for domestic workers. We have a team of volunteers running these lessons at different levels,  managed by long time volunteer Stefania.

I started volunteering with HOME six months back, joining a few other motivated ladies in teaching English language to HOME residents (all migrant domestic workers in Singapore). When I started, I had no idea how challenging the classes could be. After a few classes I realized that my well thought out lesson plan had no place here, I had to think on my feet every single class! Our lessons have to be as dynamic and fast evolving as the students of the class – some days we have over 30 enthusiastic students, other days just a handful. Some residents attend lessons for weeks and need structured teaching while others leave after one class. Some residents are confident English speakers and write prose and poetry, while others cannot communicate in English beyond their name.

Despite the challenges, what keeps me and my fellow teachers going is the fact that we are empowering women in the true spirit of the word – little by little, utilizing the limited time they have with us to upgrade their skills and hone their confidence. Our classes are also an opportunity for residents to share stories of struggle, joy and hope. Some classes have emotionally charged moments, like on International Women’s Day when we asked residents to write about a woman in their life who has inspired them; one resident broke down as she described her beautiful relationship with her stepmother, who was in her eyes a “wonder woman.”

Finally, at the end of the day, I hope and pray that we have in some way kindled the joy of learning through our classes, even in those who don’t stay with us for long. For as they say, “A teacher affects eternity; she can never know where her influence stops.”

HOME is grateful to all our amazing volunteers, and we want to extend a big thank you to all in our team of tireless English teachers. Learning the language is very important when living in a foreign country, not only to improve communication with employers, but also express their feelings and ensure these women know their rights and how to ask for assistance when needed.

Are you inspired by Puja’s story and interested to volunteer at HOME? Look here for more information. 

Superwomen that wear aprons

Every time you hear the word “hero” or “superhero”,  who comes to your mind first?
Can you picture what they look like?
Heroes are  persons admired for their brave and noble deeds. Usually, we hear about heroes wearing capes in fairy tales or legends and increasingly we see them in the movies. These days however, there are other heroes and they wear aprons; these are truly the modern heroes.
These superheroes sweat their guts out to provide for two families with grim determination. They are heroes not only to their own family but also to their employer’s family. Yes, they are heroes because they are willing to execute the duties which they should be doing for their own family, for another family. Without these heroes in their homes, their employers would be having a more difficult time in their daily lives. They may have the means and the money, but this money can’t do the chores. They can’t send their money to do errands or to look after their loved ones: It’ these heroes that do those chores diligently. An employer’s wealth can’t help them the way their heroes do.
And even in their home country, these women are superheroes – because of the money they are sending home from the foreign country they work in. They are helping their government and are significant contributors to the improvement of their nation’s economy.
Most importantly, they are heroes to their own families. Unwavering, they do everything to give to their families a firmly supported way of life. They are sacrificing a great deal to support the needs and wants of their loved ones, especially the schooling of their children.
It’s undeniable that it’s a great sacrifice to leave your own family, it is heart-breaking to be serving others, particularly when they are taking care of children not their own.
The daily tasks that these superheroes are doing for other people are not easy, not only physically but emotionally as well. The longing to be with their own family, the desire to hug, kiss and embrace their own children makes their heart feel heavy. While they love and care for the children in their care, they often think: “I wish I was doing this for my own children.” At night, instead of being happy with their children, exchanging stories and opinions, watching their favorite tv shows, playing games and laughing together -these superheroes are ALONE in their own room. They are battling unwanted emotions, wiping their tears away as homesickness is attacking them, flooding and swamping their whole being, as they fall into countless sleepless nights.
Migrant Domestic Workers are the modern day superheroes. They are the superheroes in their own life story, superheroes in their own “true-life” movie of which they are also the director. They are the artists who are  indefatigably playing their roles to give their story, their movie a happy and meaningful ending.
Am I one of those superheroes?
Without hesitation, I am proud to say “Yes,I am!”
Are you?
By Jo Ann Dumlao

Here I am

Here I am

 

In your Eyes

I am your slave.

No matter what you think

I don’t feel or see myself that way.

To satisfy your ego

You made me suffer

I cried in the dark

But never did I utter.

You thought I was your puppet

You held the string of my life

You made me go round in circles

Despite everything you did to me

I will never give up

For I know

I am not the person you see

I will live my dreams

Stay strong,

Go far

I can achieve it all

Positive and determined.

 

Here I am……………..

 

 

By Jofel Dosano Villaruel

Jofel is a domestic worker in Singapore that has been staying at HOME shelter for some time whilst her case is being investigated by the police..

Her full story van be read here: https://myvoiceathome.org/2018/11/22/my-story-my-life/

It’s a Merry Christmas after all

By Jo Ann Dumlao

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It’s a Merry Christmas after all

And we’ve got all the feels!
Are you ready?

I just so love all the multicolored or white, twinkling or steady lights that illuminate the streets, buildings, even trees everywhere. They look so beautiful at night!
Christmas trees standing everywhere, decorated gorgeously with wrapped gifts underneath for everyone.

Yes it’s Christmas time again, and I feel a cool breeze of air touching my skin. It is the grandest festival of the year for many people, the most awaited one – especially for the kids. It is when family, loved ones, gather all together. A festive reunion for everyone. Time to spread love and peace, forgive and forget.

Smiling faces, happy looks, lively laughter, everybody is delighted this festive season. The Christmas crazy train – list making, shopping, eating, gift-wrapping and back to list making again, everybody is on this train!

How about you? And me? Me, I am away from my loved ones, from my mom, my siblings most especially my children.  I should be smiling too, but I can’t fight back the tears. It’s not my first time to be away from them in this festive season. But still a part of my heart is aching.

Especially this year, as this December my strength is being tested again. I have to find a new family to work with. After 6 plus long years with my current boss, I have to move and run from one agency to another, signing up biodata and having interviews. It’s very stressful, one day – one interview. Why did this have to happen in this festive season?

In spite of this situation, my faith, my positive thoughts, my strong will and determination always stand by me. The good Lord didn’t leave me alone, He didn’t let me go wandering in this time of the year. I finally found one family (after 17 days of searching) and I will be joining them next January. I hope and pray that everything will go well with them.

Let the spirit of Christmas reign in our hearts. It is true that Christmas is never the same for us, without our loved ones but as Migrant Domestic Workers, we can’t do it any other way. We have no choice, we don’t own our time.

This Christmas I will for sure miss my siblings, my mom, and most especially my children, but I am determined to enjoy this festive season with friends and relatives here in Singapore. Christmas parties and picnics are everywhere – it’s unending. We will exchange gifts, share foods that delights our hearts.

Always thankful for how good God is, my Christmas will still be a Merry one. Having found a new work place is already a precious gift to me. As an migrant domestic worker, I have had a lot of struggles but more beautiful things have covered those.

For me, the most important thing in celebrating Christmas is not missing the midnight Christmas mass. Let’s simply enjoy this festive season,may our hearts be filled with love and gratitude.

Have a great and blessed Holiday season to one and all!

Merry Christmas 🎄

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