On Sunday the 31st of January, I, together with other volunteers from HOME, attended the screening of “ In my Helper’s Shoes”, 4 episodes by On the Red Dot, a TV programme on Channel 5 which first aired on Jan 15 at 9:45 pm. The last episode will be shown on February 5 at 9:30pm. The show documents the journey and challenge of three personalities Benjamin Heng, Daphne Khoo and Paul Foster as they visit their Domestic Worker’s hometown and live in their helper’s shoes for a few days. If you missed them, episodes can still be seen via the toggle.sg website. The screening was at Library@esplanade and was attended by the Philippine and Indonesia Consuls, the people behind the show and Domestic Workers (DWs).
Actor Benjamin Heng went to Ponorogo, East Java Indonesia, where his DW Yasinta lives. Yasinta, 35 years old and married with a son, has been working with the family for over four years. She started working when she was 19 years old. According to Yasinta, Benjamin’s family treated her like a family member. She said that she has learned a lot while working with them. Benjamin was surprised to see the well-organized house of Yasinta, and admired the fact that she owns a business, a chicken farm that will provide her family a good income in the long run.
Daphne Khoo, a Radio DJ and Singer/Songwriter went to Sorsogon Philippines. Her DW Yolly Dogillo, 47 years old and single, is the eldest of eight children in her family. She went abroad to work as a Domestic Worker because her work as a teacher payed so little compared to what she can earn abroad. She used her earnings to send her siblings to school. Yolly has been with Daphne’s family for 20 years. She has been living with her aunt in the Philippines. Yolly now owns a piggery. According to Yolly, her relationship with Daphne is the same as that of a sister, and they get along very well. They had supported each other since.
TV Host and Actor Paul Foster took the challenge to go all the way to Capiz Philippines, to spend a few days living with her DW Bel Baltazar. Bel started working with Paul’s family when he was in his mid twenties. She was hired to take care of Paul’s niece. Bel, who has two sons, lost her husband 10 years ago and shortly after that she left her country to work abroad. Her family are farmers. Though it is tough to be apart from her family, she managed to pull things up for her sons.
These three personalities experienced so many things that they never seen in their lives. They were so caught up with their busy life in Singapore, that they don’t take notice of the other stuff regarding their helpers; their lives back in their country, their background, their statuses and their reasons for leaving their country. The experience was a mixture of emotions for Daphne, Benjamin and Paul. They got to know their helper’s family and even their friends and extended families. They took the challenge of planting rice, fed chickens, gathered grass for goats, visited the school of their DW’s kids, played with their kids, swam, bathed pigs and many other things. They even got to cook for their DW’s family.
According to Ben and Paul, the experience of being able to visit their DW’s hometown, and meeting their families made a huge impact in their lives, and as a person. They get to know their DWs better, and that brought them closer than before. The opportunity was humbling, and the feedback they got from people has been overwhelming and positive. The biggest challenge that they experienced was the long travel hours, the slow Internet connection and for Benjamin, the slaughtering of the chicken.
The trip also served as an eye opener for them. Knowing their DWs in their own environment has made them understand their situation more. As for DWs Yolly and Yasinta, the visit has made them closer to their employers and their relationship has become better. They are very proud and happy to have had their employers visit their hometown. The biggest challenge for Yolly, Yasinta and Bel was that they were worried their employers might not like their place, the food, the people and that they might be uncomfortable being there.
If you will be given a chance to do the same, will you take the challenge?