All posts by myvoiceathome

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

xmas

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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My Story, my life

By Jofel Dosano Villaruel

I came to Singapore because of my mother. Why ? Because my mother told me I was a useless daughter. So I said to myself that I would prove to my mother that I am not. At a very young age, I started to be an independent person, I supported myself in finishing my studies. And thanks to GOD, I graduated after two years in a course in computer secretarial.

I arrived in Singapore in 2006 at the age of 26. I suffered a lot for my first employer, my salary was very low and I had to pay seven months of salary deductions. I had no off-day for two years, I was not allowed also to use a phone and not allowed to talk with my neighbor helpers. It was not easy for me at first but being always positive helped me to finish my two-year contract. After a few months I received bad news from my family- my brother had passed away. He was a diabetic. I wanted to go back home to see my brother for the last time, but my employer never allowed me to back home and that hurt me a lot.

Being far away from family in not easy, especially when our employers treat us badly, some talk so much if they are not satisfied with you, they just throw hurting words at you like you are stupid, very slow, no brain and useless. Sometimes they do not give us not enough food. Once I had to take food from the dustbin because I was so hungry.

How can we do our job if our stomach is empty? I always hoped employers would realise that they need to give enough food to their helper, until I realized that I need to communicate to my employer myself, I need to make her understand my situation as a helper and my needs.

Why do a lot of helpers suffer? I always asked myself, why? Some employers treat their dog like a human but their helper like an animal. They feed the dog nice food like salmon fish, fresh milk and sometimes sausage, and they feed helper left over food only, sometimes  just the bones of a fish. As a helper we don’t have a choice, we just need to accept this, even if it is not acceptable. Its very unfair. Why Because we are just a helper?

Being a domestic helper you need to be very brave and strong. You need to be deaf for those hurting words coming from the employer’s mouth. You need to be patient and not give up during those trials: you need to find a way to communicate with your employer. In my own experience, since I wanted to continue working with employer, I tried my best and did not give up easily.  And then one day my employer’s heart melted for me after I tried to cook nice food for them everyday. Every time I saw them in the morning I always greeted them, good morning sir and ma’am, and I asked them if they wanted me to make coffee with a happy face. After that I receive a gift from them, not an expensive gift but it’s very valuable to me. They wrote me an appreciation letter and gave me a mug that has my photo on it. And that is how my good relationship with them started.

Good communication with an employer can help to let them understand our situation but some of them still treat us badly. In their mind they pay us just to do our duties. Every time I hear of a helper being abused by employer my heart cries for them. Sometimes I ask myself why Singapore government is blind and deaf for this issue.

My 12 years in Singapore as a domestic helper were not easy. I needed to adjust myself. I made a sacrifice because I love my family and I became very brave because of them. I give everything just to make sure that they are happy and I don’t want them to think that I am useless person. Being alone, far away from family and friends is not easy. I hope employers can also see that what we are sacrificing. We are human beings and have feelings. My life for the past 38 years has been like a wheel: sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down. I experienced a lot of trials in my life that made me very brave and strong. God has a reason why we are in difficult situation sometimes.

After a year I proved to myself and my mother that I am not a useless daughter.  The first time I heard her say “That is my daughter who supported us for our needs” I felt happy and knew our mother and daughter relationship had turned into a good relationship. I am very proud of myself being a domestic helper. If you too are one of the domestic helpers, be proud!!!!

But after 10 years of working for one employer, I got accused……

Jofel has been staying at HOME shelter for some time whilst her case is being investigated by the police. She likes to write to clear her mind. Jofel won a special award in the writing competition HOME hosted together with the National Museum of Singapore last June.