Category Archives: Our Homes, Our Stories

Meet the writers: Thala

This week we interview Thala, who is from Myanmar. In the book Our Homes, Our Stories she describes how she had to take care of elderly people suffering from dementia. One of them behaved aggressively towards her, and threatened her with a knife. As Thala is a teacher, not a professional caregiver, she felt unsafe and eventually ran away. For the book Thala worked with a Burmese speaking volunteer to write down her story. The interview below was conducted in English, via messenger, as Thala is currently back in Myanmar.

The first time I came to Singapore I was worried because I was in a strange country, with strange people; I did not know my employers and I only spoke a little English. I have had four employers in Singapore now, and two of them I loved. They have two ears, two eyes, and one mouth. Just like my family.

My first employer was good, but I did not feel safe working there, as the old grandfather I took care of touched me inappropriately. The problem was, when I first came to Singapore they cut my salary for seven months. And every time I wanted to change employers, I had to pay two more months of salary. But I did not have much of a choice. At the time I had no handphone, no day off. And my family is very poor, so I needed to take any job my agent offered me. But I was very scared every time I started a new job.

My second employer, where I also took care of an old man, gave me an Ang Bao envelope at Chinese New Year. I was so happy as I had not had any money yet in the nine months I worked in Singapore. But my employer’s father was jealous, and threatened me. This is the story I wrote down while I was in HOME shelter. They put my story in the book, so other people can learn what it was like for me. The old man was ill, he had dementia, so he did not know what he did. But he was dangerous. He hit me with a bamboo stick and tried to hurt me with a knife. I felt unsafe; I did not know how to deal with someone like that. In Myanmar, I used to work as a teacher. So I called the police.

After that I stayed in the HOME shelter. HOME is a good organization. They also have classes at their shelter, cooking, English, yoga, and the writing class. I like to write. I wrote several poems when I was there. When I was writing, and when the volunteers interviewed me, sometime tears would come down my face. They were so nice to me, handed me tissues and hugged my body. The people at HOME make you feel safe.

I found another employer after I left the shelter, but they have now left Singapore. I am back in Myanmar. I have not worked for the last three months, and because I am the sole financial supporter of my family, I really need a job. But it is difficult to apply from Myanmar. I don’t have an agent. If I would get an agent, they will charge me so much money again.

A poem by Thala

So many women want to forget about their life

Because life is rarely easy

I try to make my life lovely by thinking

I don’t want to be poor

So every day

I think, and think about a good life

This is my system

This is how I cope

 

Everybody has so many problems.

You cry, or you try

Don’t cry forever

 

 

 

 

Home organisation is very good.so many maid run away home is supports them.

 

Home have so many ladies they go acativy. they learn cooking class. breaking class.Yoga & body message.

yes sister

 

i’m writing sister.

now i’m cooking

 

 

 

i’ve 4 employer.i love 2 family. because they have two eyes & two ear.one mouth.

my first employer is good.but not safely.

 

i come singapore is first time.i’m worry.because is not my family.not my country.then i can speak a little big english.

 

 

i come singapore first time agancy cut my salary. 7 months

first employer no good

i try another employer my agancy find for my job

i’ve second employer.they cut next 2 months my salary.

total 9 months. can’t choice my dear.because i’m not have hand ph. no off day. so sadness this time. my family very poor.i want high salary. so i come singapore. but this agancy cuts my salary 9 months.must be so scare my agancy.

l decided my self. i work second employer.i take care old man.

this house have 3 people.

he is 93 years old.he is crazy man. my duty is take care him.

i work this house 26.5.2016.around 9 months finished chinese new year

His family give chines new year envelope.

He say to me this envelope has some money.

he want this money. his son say is this for yours.(me).

oh.i’m happy. i work nine months. i don’t have money.

i see first time this is my money.

old man jelous to me. this money he want.

next day he say to me again. u go back ur country. he don’t want to see me

later he bring knife.he say to me.he want to die. u kill me.i kill u. die is good.

 

i say old man.l talk very softy old man. please give me this knife.u want this money i give u. he not agree.he want to kill me.so i make careful this hand have kinfe i bring away.

he more than angry. he go kitchen have another knife bring again.he has knife throw my body.

must be so scare & very worry. i call his son phone.

old man very angry & shouting to me.he bring bamboo stick .he beat my back side.

i’m hiding the chair. he shout & shout to me.

he beat my back side. too pain i say him. i call police. i call faster police. later 30 minutes police come this house.

police say to me.not safely this house. they bring police station to me. i say i wait his son. police say to me.ok we wait together. later his son come this house. i say this case. police keep my passport & work permit.

police say to me.u go back myanmar or go back agancy

i’m not have money. i don’t want to go back myanmar.

no good agancy i ‘m not come back.

february last week i’ve police case. so sadness my heart.my tear come out every day. i don’t want problem. i want money but i’ve police case.

police bring to me CDE shalter.no good very bad this shalter.

 

this time my heart too pain. this shalter have so many myanmar ladies.i asked her.they live this shalter in 10 months plus.i’m afraid.i don’t want to live in this shalter.

i want to see this shalter leader. not have.they live other house.

so i’m shouting & crying. how to supports my daddy. money months i work maid life agancy cut all. i’m not have money. my heart too pain. who help to me ples

who contact shalter leader.i don’t know. later 50 minutes Mr mi

Mikle come this shalter.

i don’t want to live in this shalter. he say why?

this shalter have leader not warmly.she say to me first time my smelling have presion.

u know Mr.Mikle. my heart to pain. i don’t want problem. but i’ve police case .who help to me. is this not dream. R

he say to me. where want to live u? l want to live in home. he say again.home is where? i hear city hall have home.

how to konw u? i use fb. i see ever home page.

 

he promise to me.next 3 day he bring home. un belive Mr Mikle.i told him.he say again. i’m gentle man. not lie.he request again.please patient lady. i help u.i say again may be 3 days u not come i make this shalter is fire burning. his eye brightness.(O my Godness).

one day 3 times they give food.morning water & bread.lunch hot dog.dinner rice & meat.

 

around 3 days he bring to me home office.city hall

 

l live in home around 5 months. they contact MOM for my special pass.home have runner.translate.so many volounteer.

Home have leader very good heart.ever smile & warmly. one week one time come to doctor.cooking class breaking class.Eng speaking & care givers.painting & drawing class. sometimes hand make.

important is a good lawer. very patient staff. they asked my interview time my tear come out they give tissue & wave my body.so kindness

Your story will be part of the book coming out. Do you remember writing it with the volunteer?

Do you like writing?

 

sometimes go to acativy.

yes. i’m very like writing.

You like writing your own story?

Who do you hope will read it?

i want to new job. in singapore.but not easy.

Do you have agent?

 

not have sister

i’m not have job 3 months

please help me sister. i want to work in singapore. because my supports my daddy alone.

Let me ask around

 

yes sister.

i go china.CHENG DU

not safely.

i can’t speak chinesse

 

i come back myanmar

Meet the writers: Miriam

We like to introduce you to another one of the writers for the Our Homes, Our Stories book. This week is Miriam Escander’s turn. She shares why she joined this project, and gives us a glimpse about what her story relates: the troubles she encountered when she left her husband behind in the Philippines. 

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Writing in the park

I joined this project because writing is my one passion, and I wanted to enhance my writing skills and see how far I can go from here. God doesn’t give us our talents for keeping, they are for us to share, inspire and encourage other people. I want to show people, especially my fellow OFW, that we can be more than domestic helpers only. We can explore things beyond our job, all we need to do is set our goals in life and concentrate on them. The thought that my work – for the first time ever – will be published in a book excites me.

I like the story I wrote for this project because I am the hero of this story. My own story, the one that is featured in Our Homes, Our Stories is a very personal one. I write about how my husband cheated on me thrice after I left to work in Singapore, and how I managed to cope with it. It was difficult to even start to process this, especially since I was far away from him, across an ocean.

My life asks for so much multitasking; I need to make a living, figure out how to fix my problems, secure my children’s emotional well-being, and on top of that face my own emotional issues. I always concentrate on my work and my children first. They are my strength and the reason why I keep fighting.

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Miriam with her daughters and niece

 

One thing I have learned since starting this project is how important it is to share your story with others, knowing that what you write will be read by others, and hoping that by sharing it publicly, someone might be inspired by it.

I’m hoping that my fellow domestic workers and our employers will read this book. For my fellow domestic workers – the stories will inspire you to aim high and reach for your dreams, to be strong for every trial that you will face. And for the employers – I hope that reading it will help them understand our struggles, the pain of leaving our kids behind, becoming a stranger to them, not being able to be on their side for years when they need a mother to care for them, especially when they are sick. The book shows all the things we need to go through in order to come here, escaping the poverty in our country for our kid’s future. We can always earn money but we can never earn back the time we have lost.

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Miriam with her brother and his family
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Miriam’s family

Words can touch people, so I hope it will make a difference when employers read this in how they treat their domestic workers. It will all depend on how they let the words instill in their minds. My own employers are aware of the project, and they can’t wait to have a copy of it. They are happy for me. They are very supportive and I’m so blessed to have found them.

The most important message that I want to share with others in my story, especially for those in difficult circumstances is: don’t walk away from God, have faith in him. As a Christian, my religion has helped me a lot in overcoming my problems in my personal life. No woman would want to experience what I did, but my journey was worth it in the end, as I came out stronger. There was a purpose behind the pain.

 

Our Homes, Our Stories will be launched by HOME on March 11th 2018. You can find more information on the book, and how to obtain a copy here: https://myvoiceathome.org/our-homes-our-stories/

Meet the writers: Jo Ann

To whet your appetite for the ‘Our Homes, Our Stories’ book we take you behind the scenes of the publication. Whilst the editors and proofreaders are working hard to get the manuscript ready for the printer, we interview domestic worker and HOME MyVoice writer Jo Ann Dumlao about her experiences whilst writing her story for the book.

The moment I heard about the HOME book project, I didn’t give it a second thought: I knew I wanted to join. I am not a professional writer but I can push my pen. I love writing and I knew that with this book one of my ultimate dreams would come true. Seeing my name in a book as a contributor, to me, it’s such and achievement. This is not the first time that I wrote my story. I also joined the HOME MyVoice Writing Workshop with OFW Pinoy Star Founding Editor Clement Mesenas in 2015, and my story was featured in the HOME section of the OFW Pinoy Star magazine.

Writing a personal story like this is somehow both hard and easy. It was especially hard when I remembered the difficult times, and I would pity myself and ended up crying. I’d have to put myself back together, not let my emotions overtake, to be able to put words together smoothly. How did I do this? I reminded myself of the positive outcome of my struggles; that through these struggles I have been able to prove to myself that I am strong. In spite of being alone in this foreign land, I was able to survive and conquer my fears. The complex part of story telling is that it tests how sharp your memory is. Remembering the sad, fun, easy and adventurous sides of the story, I was surprised by my still sharp memory!

Do you know the feeling of having a burden on your chest? Writing helps to release it. I felt unburdened when I finished my story. My family – far away in the Philippines- did not know about my struggles. They never knew that I was once on the edge of giving up, of losing hope.

Jo Ann, Novia, Gilda
My Voice book writing workshop (Jo Ann, Karien, Gilda, Novia)

We domestic worker writers all have different stories to tell and yet, we understand each other. We have different dreams to share, but we comprehend what each one of us wants to convey to the readers. We enjoyed the group sessions we had, as if we were just sharing chitchat over a cup of coffee.

I am hoping that many people will grab a copy of our book, especially employers in Singapore and their families, the officers from government agencies like MOM (Ministry of Manpower) and also that they will take their time to read it. From our book, they can learn what ‘our world’ – that of a domestic worker – is like in reality. Maybe it will make them reflect; think about whether they are a reasonable employer to their own domestic worker. Do they treat her fair and just?

We are working hard to earn a living for our families, just like our employers do themselves, in their offices. An employer and a domestic worker are the same like that. After reading the book, I hope the employer’s hearts will soften, as they gain a better understanding of a domestic workers’ situation, knowing that they are away in a strange country, far from their own family.

The relationship between an employer and a domestic worker should be on a give and take basis. If the employer is kind to her domestic worker, she will be more diligent in her work, and happy in doing her chores. They will have a harmonious relationship and live peacefully and happily under one roof.

My employers know that I am an active member of HOME, and that I wrote my story for this book – also that they are a part of my story. They were happy to hear about it, and their two children even shared some thoughts about me that they wanted included in my story.

Writing this story made me realise that I have learned many life-lessons that had a great impact on me. They made me the person I am today. In my journey I have faced lots of ups and downs, it was a rocky road. I have cried buckets of tears, questioned myself and even God, asking why I needed to suffer and carry such burdens.

An organization like HOME is very important to migrant workers who have no one to turn to for help. They offer a shelter to stay safe, and medical, legal or financial assistance to those in need. I am happy to be a member of HOME – the voice of the voiceless, the helper of the helpless, the home for the homeless.

‘Our Homes, Our Stories’ is an anthology of real-life stories written by migrant domestic workers in Singapore. It will be launched on March 8th, International Women’s Day, by HOME.

Did you pre-order your copy yet? You can do so here: https://www.giving.sg/humanitarian-organisation-for-migration-economics/our_homes_our_stories

 

 

 

Our Homes, Our Stories

We are excited to announce the making of a new HOME MyVoice publication! As we speak we are working hard writing, editing and designing the book, which HOME plans to publish and  launch in March 2018: Our Homes, Our Stories.

Domestic workers can be seen everywhere in Singapore’s streetscape, in our parks, our shopping centres, and most importantly, inside our houses. But who are they really? Although these women form an integral part of our society, their voices are not often heard in Singapore literature. This book is an anthology of non-fiction stories written by migrant domestic workers in Singapore, and gives them a voice and a face. The book aims to create awareness of the issues domestic workers face, both in Singapore and in their home countries.

The stories explore different facets of the theme ‘home.’ All writers are either part of HOME’s network of domestic worker volunteers, or residents of HOME shelter for run away domestic workers. They come from different backgrounds and countries, and cover a variety of subjects relating to the lives of migrant domestic workers; positive as well as negative experiences. Their stories are compelling, insightful, and at times horrifying. They are important and need to be read.

In order to get this book published and printed, we need funds, please donate to our campaign at http://www.giving.sg to support publication: https://www.giving.sg/humanitarian-organisation-for-migration-economics/our_homes_our_stories

You can choose to pre-order the book, buy a VIP package with access to the launch party, or of course simply donate as much as you like to support this amazing project. An ebook version will be published in March 2018 as well.

We will update you here on the MyVoice blog on the progress of the book, get you special behind the scenes reports, and interviews with the writers, so watch this space! To get regular updates on the book, please also ‘like’ our Facebook page: https://web.facebook.com/ourhomesourstories

For more information about the book, please contact Karien at karien@home.org.sg