Category Archives: HOME shelter

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!

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.

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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.

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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 .

 

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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

 

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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

 

A day off

Off day- the favourite day of a domestic worker?

The off day can be the favourite day for a domestic worker. It is her time to go out, to meet friends and enjoy herself. But many domestic workers experience different problems with their off days as well. Some might have just one a month, some have to do work this day, some might not even have one. Here are some women staying at the shelter sharing their experiences with the off days.

Emi:

When I stayed at my last employer, I had one off day from work every month. In the mornings I normally woke up at 5.15am and I went to bed at 11pm, so when it was the end of the month, I felt excited. Soon I could have my rest day. I felt tired during the work days, I had no time to rest. I was supposed to have one off day every week, but the employer just gave me one per month.

All us domestic workers are waiting for Sunday, the off day. I woke up Sunday morning, cleaned the house, made breakfast and waited for my employer to wake up. Because before I could leave, my mam always checked my bag, my pants and my jacket. When she let me out of the house, she always told me:

“You must come back before 5.30, and be back on time.”

When I came out of my employer’s house I felt so fresh and like a butterfly. I felt sick of my work, no time to stop, no time to rest, and now I could go out! I was very happy. I could eat what I want, even rice and chili. I was sick of the food I had at my employer’s house. All the time noodles and sausage, noodles and sausage.

The first place I went on my off day, was to Paya Lebar to send money home. It always takes a long time to queue, sometimes from 11 until 1 or 1.30.

After I sent the money I went out to find another place where there is not so much people. Paya Lebar is a place where all Indonesian domestic workers come. I could see many people there, from a lot of different countries. I had only one friend, a girl who worked for a neighbour, near my employer. We bought newspapers, some clothes, sometimes our food. We sat down under a tree and I enjoyed my off day. I felt that I could finally rest.

Richy:

As I experienced the off day, I was always rushing. Before my off day, I would always plan where I should go and who I should meet. But before I went I had to do some work, I had to take care of the children, to feed them, shower them even if it is my off day.

Then finally at 10 in the morning I was off. I was rushing. I only had 9 hours to enjoy, to meet friends, to take pictures. If I had my salary, I first needed to send money to my home country. Off days for others is a very happy day, but for me I wanted to go by myself sometimes, to rest, to find a quiet place where I could reminiscence.

Sometimes, when I didn’t have enough money, I would stay in the house on my off day to work, although it was very tiring.

Sometimes on my off days I was scared as well. Outside the house, you don’t know who you can trust. I sometimes went to parties, but I didn’t stay long

When I came back from the off day, there was always some work to be done.

 

Sumarni:

I used to feel so happy when I had my off day. Then I could relax and meet my friends. We would go to the East Coast Park to see the sea. I could go to the library to read a book. I could also eat some food that was different from the food I had at home. My mind felt refreshed, because I could see many places that I hadn’t seen before. If I had a problem, I could meet my friends and share my feelings. After that my heart would feel happy.

Then, with my new employer, I never had an off day. I just worked there for 4 months, but she never gave me a day off. I felt tired and bored, every day doing the same thing, just work and work. The mam was always scolding me. In the end I ran away.

 

“Annalyn”:

The first six months in my employer’s house, I couldn’t take a day off because I had to finish my salary deduction. After six months, they allowed me to take one day off every month. Before I left the house, I had to do some chores, like cleaning the living room.

I left the house at 8 am and I needed to back at 7pm.

In the morning, I went to church to attend mass. After that I went to remittance to send money home. Then I met my cousins and my friends. We had long conversations to share with each other everything that had happened until the day finished, and it was time to go back.

When I reached my employer’s house, it was time to do some house chores again, before going to bed.

 

Leny:

The off day is a happy day because I meet new friends, see many beautiful places outside. I feel free and relaxed from all the stress inside the house. I go to church to pray that all my wishes for my family is granted, especially for my loving son.

Shelter life

Every week between 60 and 80 women stay at the HOME shelter. Here they receive what they need in terms of food, clothing and hygiene kits. HOME also assists them with their cases, and listens to their sometimes heartbreaking stories. Every week the women can take part in a wide range of activities and classes. In the writing class last week, the participants wrote about some of their experiences at the shelter.

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Lea:

I am Lea, I have been here for 3 days. During my experience, here, I am learning a lot every day. I do my things and I also join all the activities here. The volunteers are very nice and very good. They teach and explain many things.

At the shelter, I feel comfortable. Here there is no stress, I have a lot of sisters; we share and talk every day. I am so blessed and lucky to be here because the people here are very helpful to each other’s. I am very happy to be here.

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Annalyn:

I arrived here last Sunday at night, I decided to come here for help because I can’t trust my agent and my employer. When I am here, I feel safe and comfortable. I experience a lot of things like attending yoga, cooking and baking class, English. It is so much fun and interesting! I love it because I can relax and also challenge myself.

They treat me like a sister. We stay here like in our home. We have freedom. They help us to improve ourselves, they teach us to respect each other and to help each other.

Ana Marie:

Here at HOME organization, I experience being treated as a real human. The people here have a heart and have patience to listen to your story. And they provide good food so that we can eat properly and not pass the meals. They bring us to activities that we can enjoy; it helps us with forgetting our worries and laugh with friends.

The volunteers here are very nice and have also good hearts. They provide all the needs and make sure we are happy and feel safe. That is why I am so blessed to be here right now.

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Maeya:

I am from the Philippines, I am 35 years old. I ran away because my boss doesn’t want to give me off day and was scolding me all the time. Since I arrived at HOME I feel much safer. I feel peaceful in my mind. I can go out of my problems because I can talk with people, not like before when I was at my employer’s house. Here I sleep well, I learn more English. I am happy here. And I meet some friends from Myanmar, Indonesia, and of course, from the Philippines.

Joy:

The first day at the shelter I was so worried because I didn’t have anything. I only brought a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. I worried about how long I was going to stay here. Suddenly the leader of the shelter found out that I had no clothes, and she gave me a plastic bag full of nice clothes and everything I needed, such as toothpaste, toothbrush, soap and towel. I felt so happy.

The next day I made some friends and we talked about our experiences and why we had run away. It was a relief to talk to them. We always talk, laugh and joke and we do activities together like yoga class, baking, cooking and English. The most unforgettable moment was in the English writing class, where I wrote a poem and a short story about my life. This was the first time I told anyone about my life from I was young until now, I never shared this with anyone.

I feel happy about my everyday life here. I wake up at 5 am to prepare breakfast, but I am never tired because all of us have a different story and we must help each other. I know what it feels like when no one takes care of you. I am going to miss my friends here after my case is finished.

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Catherine:

I feel so comfortable when I stay here and I think of this place as my second home. Sometimes we who live here don’t understand each other because we come from different countries and speak different languages, we have different cultures and so many other things, but we can still relate to each other’s feelings. We all want a better life. I am so happy when I see a friend go home or to another employer, because then I know that they can start again on a new journey of life. Sadness can happen in a life, but we need to continue our lives for our families.

Jessica:

I felt very scared when I first came to the shelter, but HOME made me feel like I was not alone anymore. For almost two months they have taken care of me and helped me to process my case. I feel they are like family, I feel cared for, I feel comfortable. I met a lot of friends from other countries and they made me wake up from the bad dream that was my employer’s house.

HOME helped me to become stronger than I was before, I can eat properly, I sleep well and no one can beat me or make me unhappy anymore. I know how to laugh again and I wake up every morning with a smile.

I want to thank the volunteers also to keep on helping HOME. If they were not there, we couldn’t stay here for so long and they understand our situation.

I thank God now that I can soon go HOME to my family, and I thank HOME for the comfort and care. I will never forget what you have done for me!

The beautiful drawings shown were made during one of HOME writing classes by artist Carla Talopp.

© 2017 Carla Tallopp

True story

This January HOME shelter hosted a workshop by Writing Through, a charity teaching language fluency, conceptual thought and self-esteem through creative writing. Over the course of the week the students took part in brainstorming sessions with images and song lyrics to create their own poems and short stories.

Rhea: True Story

By Realyn, Age 26, (Philippines)

There is a girl name Rhea, she is 26 years old now, she is a happy person now and has a lot of friends. She is still single until now because in her mind she is focussing to achieve her dreams for herself and her family.

Rhea was living in her grandparents’ house near the mountains since she was a 6 months old baby because her mother needed to find a job to raise her and support her needs. But Rhea don’t know that was why her mother left her, and when Rhea grew up and asked her grandparents about her mother and father her grandparents only told her about her mother.

When Rhea started to go to primary school when she was 6 years old she always got bullied by her classmates.

They always said “Ha ha ha ha, Rhea doesn’t have parents because when we have parent’s meetings only your grandparents attend.”

She asked her grandparents again that day, ‘Where is my mother and father?” But her grandfather said, “Your mother has a new family now and your father, we don’t know him since your mother came back from the city where she worked”.

That time Rhea realised and understood that’s why she always bullied not only by her classmates but the other kids too because they know that Rhea doesn’t have a father.

She is always thinking to run and to hide from everyone because of her situation, she feels like she is alone in a desert but Rhea doesn’t give up, she keeps fighting for herself and for her grandparents.

 

But when she was in a high school her grandfather passed away, she was sad and crying in the rain asking to God why this is happening to her, “I am a good girl, why God? Why?”

After Rhea graduated from high school she always kept fighting to live not only for her, but for her grandmother. But sometimes she thinks about her biological father, she wishes that one day she will find him and know him, hug him and tell him that she loves him, even though he left and didn’t find her and her mother. Until now she is still wishing to find her father because she’s so thankful even though she grew up without her father.

Writing Through

This January HOME shelter hosted a workshop by Writing Through, a charity teaching language fluency, conceptual thought and self-esteem through creative writing. Over the course of the week the students took part in brainstorming sessions with images and song lyrics to create their own poems and short stories, a selection of poetry written by shelter residents is shown below.

New Beginnings

A group poem

HOME is a safe place and gives you peace of mind. HOME is comfort
HOME is like a family,
Enjoy friends and share different experiences, Teaching and comforting.

Asking for help and security
Crying, too much thinking…
Freedom and NEW beginnings?
Happy and smiling together while relaxing.

 

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Shelter

by Jessica, Age 25, (Philippines)

Here in shelter, I feel the comfort.
I refresh my mind and am hoping to recover.
I feel the emotion.
I always keep on praying
I miss my parents and family,
and hoping for a new beginning on my journey.

 

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What is life all about?

by Joy, Age 26, (Philippines)

Life is not about money.
you become happy if you have friends, become united, place to stay with comfortable, silence, prayer
hard work and peaceful place that
make you relax. life is colourful,
is not about religion

it’s about what life take you and how you react on that. life is so magical that like a rainbow
that gave new beginning.

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My Mother

By Michelle T Cain

Ever since I was young, I have idolized my mother. I could see she was always taking care of us. When I was young, she supported me in every way she could. When I joined a kids’ contest she was always there for me. I come from a broken family. My father left us when I was in secondary school and my mother was the one who had to feed us and provide for our needs, since my father was not supporting us anymore.

I know that my mother did her best just to make us finish school and to give us a good life – even though I could see that she always felt so tired. And now that I have my own family, my mother is the one who takes care of my daughter while I’m away working in a foreign country. My mother never leaves me, especially on my hardest days. And now she is also teaching my daughter good values. There is no other person that can be as inspiring as my mother.

Michelle is staying at HOME shelter, where she wrote this piece during a creative writing workshop run by volunteers