All posts by myvoiceathome

Domestic workers fight for themselves

Novia Arluma works for HOME’s Indonesian helpdesk in Grandlink Square, where she volunteers on her Sundays off to help and advise other Indonesian Domestic Workers in Singapore. She wrote this story about a woman she saw there yesterday.

These photographs show some real living conditions of an Indonesian Domestic Worker who came to our HOME office yesterday. The woman told me she was overworked, ate only  leftover food ( which always came very late), and her room was improper – a storage room. From what I see at the helpdesk regularly, all of this are common examples of what employers give to their domestic workers. This domestic worker had to get up @ 5 am in the morning, to start doing her house chores until 11 or 12pm late at night.

Even the regulations of MOM (Ministry of Manpower) say that Domestic Workers should be treated fairly, that she needs reasonable working hours, proper food, and the privacy of a room to rest in.

MOM agrees, you should treat us like other workers. Treat us as human beings
But, most of this rules are  merely written on  paper.
As a domestic worker we can not complain too much about these matters.
Yes, we can complain…
Yes, we can report…
Yes, we have the option to transfer to another employer…
But in the end…
The employer still holds the power.
Because even when they are not treating their domestic worker fairly, employers have the full power to decide either to transfer the domestic worker, or to cancel the work permit and send them home.

We domestic workers have to fight for ourselves. We need to negotiate about a day off, our salary, and our release papers in order to transfer to another employer.

HOME ( the Humanitarian Organization of Migrant Economics) provides shelter and assistance to all migrant workers who need help, and that includes consultations from our helpdesk that is run by volunteers from different sending countries, like Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar. Our volunteers are domestic workers themselves, and have been trained to understand their and your rights. Using volunteers that are domestic workers themselves helps HOME reach out better, and ensure easier communication, where needed in your own language.

Our helpdesks are open every Sunday:

Helpdesk for Filipino domestic workers:

  • 304 Orchard Road, Lucky Plaza #06-22, Singapore 23886

Helpdesk for Burmese workers:

  • 111 North Bridge Road, Peninsula Plaza #05-22, Singapore 179098

Helpdesk for Indonesian domestic workers and other migrant workers:

  • 511 Guillemard Road #01-06, Singapore 399849

 

Telephone hotline for domestic workers:

1800-797 7977 / +65 6341 5525

Who am I?

The writer of this poem, Anna Rose, stayed in HOME shelter for some time after a bad experience with an employer that left her very upset. Anna Rose struggled with her identity, and what to do with her life going forward. She has now returned home to the Philippines. 

 

Who am I?

 

I am a child

Who will never stop believing

I am the dreamer

Who will never stop dreaming

I am the woman

Who will never stop caring

 

They see the finished adult

That they expect me to be

But I don’t know

Who I want to be?

 

So many pressures, do this

Don’t do that

Wear this, don’t wear that

Buy this, don’t buy that

 

Who to believe? Who to trust?

To help me be the person I want to be

Still not sure who that is

Who am I and what will I be?

 

Two different questions

But people expect one answer

 

Which career will I choose?

But really is that the most important?

What about good or bad,

Lazy or hardworking

It depends on the task if I like it or not

 

So the question is not, who am I?

But who will I become?

Are OFW’s our new heroes?

Anna Rose stayed in HOME shelter some time after a bad experience with an employer that left her very upset. In this essay she reflects about her experiences as an Overseas Foreign Worker in Singapore and at HOME shelter. She has now returned to the Philippines to be with her family.

Why do people say that OFWs are our new heroes? Do the OFWs (Overseas Foreign Workers) who try their luck overseas make a big contribution to our country, the Philippines? Many Filipinos want to move away from their motherland and work abroad because they want to turn things around for their families.

The majority of us know the risks of working in another country. We have heard a lot of stories of OFWs who suffered abuse from their foreign employers, there are enough to scare us, or at least make us think twice about working across the border. But still a lot of us Filipinos offer our services in other countries, carrying the desire and optimism that we will give our loved ones a better future.

There are a lot of reasons why people should appreciate what foreign workers do, and that is why they are considered one of today’s modern heroes.

Foreign employers like Filipino workers because they are hard working. Why? We have a strong motivation to take our job seriously. We want to make our employers feel that we deserve every penny that we receive. We have a strong work ethic and are professional, and we should be proud of that. Based on my own experience as an OFW I can also say that we are flexible, and can easily adapt to new environments. OFWs do not only take their job seriously, we also put our heart into it. Since we are thousands of miles away from our families, we divert our attention to the ones we are working for.

Unfortunately some of the OFWs experience maltreatment from their employers. There are many stories about OFWs experiencing abuse, ill-treatment, torture, and bullying, and because of this they decide to run away. We are lucky that there is a non-governmental organization that helps OFWs facing these kind of situations. They are the ones to take care of the OFWs, and comfort us when we come to them. They also have a lot of activities in the shelter that help us develop our self-confidence and self-esteem. They give us free food and safety when we live at the shelter, and they give us counselling, encouraging us to express our emotions, and feelings. They help all individuals with their problems, and give them advice on how to move forward, and face our struggles in life.

On my behalf, I was given a chance to write this essay, just to express my thoughts and give thanks to the HUMANITARIAN ORGANISATION OF MIGRANT ECONOMICS (HOME), to salute them, and all the volunteers, and the people who are part of HOME and serve all the OFWs by making a difference in the lives of people in Singapore.

Thank you, and more power to HOME!

Who cares?

Who cares if we are a helper
Who cares if we have a bad employer
Who cares if we have a problem
Who cares if we can’t dance with the rhythm
Can you feel us?
 Who cares
When we’re being maltreated inside the house
When we’re being abused and scared like a mouse
When we’re being locked up and no one to turn to
When we don’t have enough food yet too much work to do.
Can you see us?
 We’re not perfect but we are doing our best
We always  wanted to satisfy your needs
We’re working hard to accomplish the tasks on your list
We follow everything as you say so
But you are not content with everything we do
Why must you say we’re stupid
Why must you say we’re a lazy and idiot maid.
 Who cares?
Who washes your dirty clothes
Who does the cleaning of your house
Who cooks your everyday meal
Who does the marketing and budgeting
Who washes your cars
Who looks after your kids or your sick parents
No other than this idiot maid you are referring to
And who cares?
You’re a manager and I am a maid
But we still both earn money
You eat pizza, I eat noodles
But we still both eat to our satisfaction
You drive your car, I ride a bus
But we still both reach our destination
You wear branded clothes, I wear simple one
But we still both cover our nakedness
We’re both human but don’t have the same way of living
You were treated highly
We were treated lowly
We’re both human but are treated differently.
And who cares?
Can you feel us? Please hear us
Don’t treat us like a prisoners
Don’t treat us like a robot
Don’t treat us as if you own us
Yes you pay, but we work so hard
You pay for the service
but you don’t own our life.
We respect you
Hoping you will respect us too.
By Rea Maac

What is the mental health of your domestic worker like?

Did you see the video of the girl from Myanmar that jumped from a high building?
What went through your mind after you saw that?

Are you:

Sad?
Angry?
Or just confused, and don’t know what to feel & say?

Dear employers,

As a Domestic worker I just want to say
Please take a look at this case
Which does not stand alone here
There were many more cases like her out there
This is a chance for you to learn about Domestic Worker’s rights
We are workers
We are humans
You hire us to work, and you pay us for that
But,
We have the right to communicate with our family & friends
We have the right to get a day off
We have the right to meet with our community

If we make a mistake
Of course you have the right to admonish us and tell us what we did wrong
But what you have to know
Is that before we came here to work with you
We already struggled to learn
Learn about your culture
Learn how to do the house chores as you order
Or even your language

Because of lack of education of domestic workers, including my own, this work is more difficult than you can imagine
And we are told that, if your employer is angry over a small mistake, even if you did not do it on purpose
The first thing you have to do is
Apologize or say sorry
We do already know how to respect the employer
We have already been told that we can’t demand too much
As a worker

We know this

But at least…
Treat us like a human
We need to be able to communicate with our family and friends
And give us a chance, to talk to you, when we find our work difficult
Please be aware about the risk for mental health issues
Which many domestic workers struggle with, when we don’t have anyone to talk to
If we have a problem,  we need someone to share it with, and help us find the solution

Being able to talk to other people, our friends, our family, will keep us healthy

We all know that we are here to work
And we are paid for that
And if you give us limited time to use phone, only after we finish our job
That is not too bad
We can still accept it
But,
Please treat us as a human being
Respect us,
Just like you would want to be respected

 This piece was written by Novia, one of HOME helpdesk volunteers, who works as a domestic worker in Singapore herself.

Letters full of feelings

During a creative writing class at HOME shelter, we decided to write letters. The recipients of our letters are people we are missing, people we love and are not by our sides, people who passed away, or even people we have had arguments with. With these letters, we are telling them things that stayed unsaid, feelings and emotions, love.

Fichier_000

To my mother,

Do you remember when you taught me how to write a letter? I never wrote a letter to you ever since. You always taught me how to write letters to my father.

I want you to know that I miss you a lot. I miss when we talked and laughed together. I know you were looking after me all the time. I miss you looking after us. I miss when we had arguments and misunderstandings. I learnt so much from you although we were not so close. But I know you really loved me, loved us… Mother… I miss your voice really. I miss you when I cry and you are not here to hug me. I miss your generosity, your understanding, love, and caring.

I hope you are happy wherever you are. And do not worry about me. I know and you know that I can face any difficulty. In every life struggle, I can stand. I know you will lend your hand and hold me in every way. God will be there for us as you always told me. I Love you so much…

Your loving daughter, Richy.

 

 ********************************************

 

To my loving son, Jacob Ryll,

I remember the first time I saw you. It has been nine months that I have been carrying you inside my stomach. I cannot explain my feelings the day I saw you: if I cried, laughed, or whatever. But I felt I wan a big price, like a jackpot. You brought happiness in my life… For me you are the best precious treasure I have in my life. Thank you for the moments that we have together and thank you for giving me the chance to be a mother and do my role as your mother.

I am so proud because I know you are a good boy, respectful and smart. I miss our bonding and your hugs, kisses, your laugh and also your cries. I miss you to call me mommy. I know you are just a kid so no need for you to know what is happening to me here in Singapore. Baby you are my strength and inspiration. I love you so much. Thanks for being a part of my life. Get well soon. Mommy is coming home. I love you so much.

                                                                                                            Mommy Yin

 

 ********************************************

 

Dear employer,

Ma’am you were always scolding me. You were always criticizing me, my people, my country. You are naughty. But I loved your big dog and your two daughters. The eldest is fourteen and your young daughter is eleven years old. She loses her mind sometimes. I love her and she loves me so much too. You did not like that the two of us were so close. I was very sad. Your youngest daughter wanted to talk to everybody but they did not want to talk to her because they thought she was a stupid girl. I am different. I don’t see her as a stupid girl. I was taking care of her very well. So she was very happy and loved me a lot. But you did not like that she loved me so much, that we were so close. Now I am very sad because I had no choice than leaving you. You were too bad with me. I had no choice than leaving her because of you. I will never forget your daughter during my entire life.

Sincerely, KTW

 

 ********************************************

 

My dear sisters at HOME shelter,

I hope all of you are always healthy and had a good day. I will always miss you my sisters. I was so happy with all of you. We are a family. When I think about my family at home, I know I must get a job, I must go out of the shelter cause I must find an employer. If I stay at the shelter with all m sisters, enjoying all the activities, what will happen to my family in my country who is waiting for my money?

My dear sisters, thank you for supporting me. I am now more experienced with all the activities. Preparing good meals, yoga, learning English, dancing… I will never forget that during all my life. All these activities made me more experienced. I love you and already miss you so much.

Arni

 

 ********************************************

 

To the special person in my life,

I am sorry sometimes I scold you. Remember I am doing this for your own good. I really miss when I sleep with you, when I prepare your food, iron your uniform, prepare your things for school. When I give you your vitamins everyday. Remember when I tell you to drink more water? I love you my baby and I miss you so much. I know you love me and miss me too. Thank you for coming into my life. Thank you for being a good son for me. I know you want me to go home but I need to work to support all your needs. Don’t worry, I’m ok here. Take care, always.

Love, Mama Kassie .

 

 ********************************************

To my employer,

I really enjoyed looking after your three kids. But you were always giving me your angry face and scolding me. So I became unhappy with you and I decided to go back to my parents. Oh, I am so happy for that. You really did not like me; I don’t know why. Why you were always angry at me? I took care of your kids. But you were showing me your angry face all the time. So I did not want to stay at your place anymore. But your three kids, I really, really love them so much. Now I am missing them more than ever. So, I am not feeling good.

TSM

 

 ********************************************

 

To my parents,

Father, mother, how are you today? Do you remember me everyday? Everyday I am sad because I really miss you. All the time, I am always thinking about you, only you, because you are so special to me.

I don’t know when I can meet with you again. I want to go back home. I don’t want to live in Singapore anymore. Because life in Singapore is not easy; it is very difficult. Before, I thought living in Singapore would be easy but I was wrong. Living in Singapore is very difficult. Everyday I pray to my God. My God please help me. I want to go back to my country. But don’t worry mother, I am fine here.

Your daughter, May

 

Happiness where are you?

Happiness where are you?

by Rosita Madrid Sanchez

 

At the age of 16 I am already a mother

People said I was too young to handle

I didn’t experience teenage life

To be free as a bird and to be as me.

 

Poverty has led me in this situation, one of the reasons I can blame on

I thought at an early age, getting married to the older man would show me direction

But I was wrong, its all my fault, I’ve been used and abused.

 

I have decided to work as a domestic helper

To the place far away from my nightmare

Leaving behind my kids in the care of my mother

It felt like I was dying a million times when I stepped in an airplane

Tears flowing, running nose dripping

Heaven showered me with thunderstorms and lightning.

 

Days, months, even a year moved

Time flew so fast like running

Now my contract is ending

What should I do? I kept thinking.

 

In the foreign land, I felt love, I felt that I am important and great

I had the freedom that I kept looking for

To gain myself and to be the real me.

 

Even if I have all of this, why do I still feel incomplete?

Some parts of my body are missing

All I want is to be happy

Why happiness is so hard to get?

Now I need to wake up to reality.

 

To face my family, to see my own kids

The life that I keep hiding on

Am I scared? I’m scared of my shadow that doesn’t want to leave

All I need is to be happy to find the real me.