Our book has been launched!

Yesterday was an amazing day, that saw the long expected launch of our book ‘Our Homes, Our Stories’. Seeing the emotional and proud looks on the faces of the writers when they unwrapped their copies was more than worth all the hard work that went into the preparation of the book.

The audience could enjoy some of the writers reading from their own work, as well as a Javanese dance performance by one of the writers and her group. Of course afterwards there was time for buying and signing!

If you would like to pick up a copy, please do, we are selling them fast! And remember 100% of the proceeds go to HOME, as all the work was done by volunteers.

The book is for sale at the following addresses:

HOME offices (open to the public):
Helpdesk for Filipino Domestic Workers, 304 Orchard Road, Lucky Plaza #06-22, Singapore 238863

Helpdesk for Indonesian Domestic Workers and other Migrant Workers, 511 Guillemard Road #01-06, Singapore 399849

Bookstores:
Books Actually, 9 Yong Siak Street, Singapore 168645 (Tiong Bahru)

First Draft, #B2-63 Marina Bay Link Mall, Singapore 018984 (CBD)

Kinokuniya, Ngee Ann City, Orchard Road

Tango Mango at #03-11A in Tanglin Mall

Cat Socrates, 448 Joo Chiat Road, Katong

Fairs

upcoming: Boutiques Fair (16-17-18 March) – at the HOME booth as well as the NCA.

Ebook:

The ebook is for sale at international retailers like Amazon, Kobo, E-Sentral.

 

If you like to get  book delivered to your home, please donate to our campaign on giving.sg.  (20 dollar for book delivery in Singapore, 25 for oversees) and notify publisher@home.org.sg

More sale addresses will follow later this week. If you know of a book store that you think should sell these books, please send a message to publisher@home.org.sg.

Disco

By Rosita Madrid Sanchez

DISCO
The lights are on
The music is loud
Every one screaming
Shouting it out

Too dark to see
Smoke in my eyes
What is that smell?
Perfume or ghee?

I walking inside
Everyone is smiling
Singing and dancing
A happiness you never see

The music plays (despacito)
I find myself at the middle too
Laughing screaming as in shouting too

The time runs so fast
My day gone so quick
Change back my clothes
From dress to pants
Remove my heels and put my slipper one

Looking at he mirror
Smiling telling to myself
See you again the place where I belong

Our Homes, Our Stories

They share our lives and homes, but have you ever wondered what life is like for a migrant domestic worker in Singapore?

Our Homes, Our Stories offers a look through their eyes as they share real-life stories, from childhoods in mountain villages to rogue agents and difficult employers, and that one thing they all suffer from the most: homesickness, and the pain of leaving their families behind – in Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar and India.

The women write frankly about sacrifice, broken trust, exploitation, lack of food, and salary deductions. But there are also tales to lift the heart, of supportive employers, the love they have for the families they take care of, and how they use their time in Singapore to realise their dreams for the future.

The stories explore different facets of the theme ‘home.’ All proceeds of this book go to HOME, to support their important work. All the writers in Our Homes, Our Stories are part of the HOME community, either as volunteers on their one day off, or as residents at
HOME shelter for domestic workers.

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If you want to support this project, you 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.

And mark your calendar: on March 11th you can pick up your copy at our launch event, at the Hollandse Club.

Invite launch

The book will be available at the HOME offices and select bookstores in Singapore. Watch this site for further details on how to order or purchase your copy after Match 11th.  An ebook version will be published in March 2018 as well, available with all major international retailers.

To get regular updates on the book, please ‘like’ our Facebook page: https://web.facebook.com/ourhomesourstories

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

Meet the writers: Juliet

Juliet Ugay worked in Singapore as a domestic worker for ten years before retiring back to the Philippines. In the book ‘Our Homes, Our Stories’ she reflects on her time in Singapore, what it was like to return to the Philippines after all that time, and of course, on what her future might hold. Juliet has always loved to write, and is an active member of the HOME MyVoice team, both as a writer and an editor.

We asked Juliet what it meant to her to be part of the book project.

 

My story is just one of the thousand stories that domestic workers in Singapore have to offer. I will take you to where I started, how that went and what it was like, as well as my background and my reasons for leaving. I share some details about my wellbeing during the ten years I worked in Singapore, until the time when I decided to go home for good. Most people think that working abroad is all about earning money. Through my story, readers will hopefully gain a better understanding that my life abroad was not a bed of roses at all.

Being part of this project has given me the opportunity to share my story with the readers. The project also helped me a lot with my writing, thanks to our very patient and hardworking volunteers who made every part of the process easier for us. The whole experience has been a great way for me to spread awareness; the ups and downs of being a domestic worker abroad. We are women from different backgrounds and all have different perspectives on what it is like for us, from the start to finish.

The book will be my treasure for the rest of my life: something that I could be proud of and share with my family and generations to come.

Does your story have a special message, anything you like the reader to learn from it?

I think that this book will serve as an eye opener to everyone, most especially to employers and domestic workers. I am hoping that through this book, lawmakers will have a better understanding of what is the real situation of domestic workers; hopefully it will serve as a guide to them in providing better protection for us.

At the same time I am hoping that through my story, my fellow domestic workers can learn to prepare better when they decide to go home for good. Returning home needs a lot of preparation, good planning as well as emotional and physical adjustment. Saving is one important thing to do, especially for older domestic workers, as age is an important factor when applying to jobs in the Philippines.

With the help of organizations like HOME, other domestic workers can be made aware that there are people who are willing to give them a hand when they are ill-treated or abused. This book can play an important role in that.

What are your own plans for the future now you are back in the Philippines?

At the moment I am still fulfilling the motherly duties to my son, in exchange for all the time with him I lost when I worked abroad. Aside from that, I am preparing myself to join the workforce again, hopefully soon. If I can’t get a job in my country, it will have to be in another country.

Will you continue to write?

Writing played a crucial role in putting things together for me, not only in my story but in my life basically. Writing has always been something I wanted to do. It doesn’t require much pressure and I can do it at any time.

I will continue writing as long as I can. If I get a chance to be part of a project similar to this again, I’ll be more than willing to put my effort in. I did some writing classes a few months ago, and now I intend to write a novel, a short story and a collection of poems. And I am writing any time I want.

You have been part of the MyVoice team as well as editor the MyVoice blog for years. How do you look back on this period?

HOME started doing an online newsletter years ago, and later we had printed copies. During this time, there were many cases of abuse and issues concerning domestic workers. One big issue was domestic workers falling to their death out of windows, and the compulsory weekly day off another. The newsletter served as a voice for us. We gathered signatures and filed a petition for a ban on cleaning windows at a height, and a weekly day off. I think we really made a difference, as there is now new legislation for both.

As technology improved and with the help of volunteers we came up with the MyVoice blog. The blog serves as a platform for domestic workers to share their experiences, stories, talents, trivia et cetera. Writing for MyVoice is not just about me, I am writing with a purpose.

A blog like MyVoice is very important especially for domestic workers who are having a difficult time getting help and information. MyVoice gets domestic workers together, and encourages them to share, be it through their stories, poems, talent or any other form.

Thank you Juliet, and good luck with your further writing!

For a video where Juliet introduces herself, and tells us about her great passion, join the Our Homes, Our Stories Facebook page.

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Juliet in the Philippines

If Juliet’s story inspired you, and you would like to join the MyVoice team, please send Karien a message at Karien@home.org.sg

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

If I could turn back the clock

By Rosita Madrid Sanchez

I would like to share with you the true story of my friend Cecil. Cecil and I met in the HOME Academy where we were both studying in a cooking class.
Cecil is a typical Pinay lady; not so tall, curly hair, and a loud voice as if she is always angry with someone. It sounds like she is shouting even when she is just talking naturally. I found this strange, so I talked to her, saying: ‘Ssssh lower your voice, we are in the classroom, not at the market.’ Cecil just gave me a smile in return.
Days past, and when we were in final grading, the teacher put us in the same group. We were in charge of making Thai food. They asked me to be the leader of the group, and Cecil was assigned vice-president. While I was giving tasks to everyone and we discussed all the dishes, Cecil was very interested. After that, we became friends.  True friends; we talked, we laughed, and finally graduation came but even after we finished the course our friendship kept rolling until now.

One day my phone rang at 9:30 am, it was an unregistered number. I hesitated to answer because if the number was not in my contacts. But that day I had the courage to answer the unfamiliar number.

‘Hello? Hello?’ I heard.
‘Rose?’  It was a voice from a lady, and she was crying
‘Cecil?’ I answered. I knew her instantly even though she was whispering.
‘What’s wrong? What’s going on?’
‘I’m going home,’ she answered finally.
I was in shock, what had happened? I needed an explanation.
That morning, Cecil and her employer went to the doctor for a check up because she had some rashes on her skin, and had not been able to sleep well. The doctor told her employer: ‘Please send her home now.’
I did not get any more answers that day, but I suggested my friend to runaway and ask for help. The next morning she called me again.

‘Rose, I am at the airport. My employer is with me, and I have some money to use for medication.’
What could I say? I only said: ‘Please keep in touch. I love you.’

Cecil answered: ‘I will miss you.’

Two days later I noticed she was online, so I sent her a message:
‘Hey Cecil, how are you?’ This is the answer I got.
‘Rose, my eyesight is getting dark, I can’t see properly anymore. My body has started shaking, and I am not able to stand or to walk without any help from others. Both my kidneys have failed to function, the only answer is a transplant and dialysis, so my life can be extended for a year, for a month, for a week, nobody knows. You know what, my own silence killed me. Until I started crying, and I did not even care anymore whether my employer was around. I just felt as if one part of my body was totally gone, it was so painful. Why is this happening so fast, why?

Rose, if I could turn back the time, to when I first started to get headaches, and could not sleep well. To when I first noticed my stomach bloating, even tough my appetite had disappeared. This was the time that I should have told my employer I needed to see a doctor. But I ignored my body. It is all my own fault, I was only thinking about the need to earn money, I was only thinking of others, I never thought about myself. I had never thought I was already so sick. Now I am already at the last chapter of my life. Thank you Rose, for being my friend. And till we meet again!’

I think it is important at this point to emphasize to my fellow domestic workers that we only have one body, and one life. I know we always like to think that we are strong, and that we can’t afford to feel anything when we are working. But what about our future? We need to be sensitive and pay attention to our health and our body. Because we can never turn back the clock.

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To my friend Cecil, I have no words to express how sad I am that I cannot be on your side right now, the moment that you really need me. But I am happy that you are with your family and loved ones. From the moment I met you until forever, I won’t forget you. I love you.

 

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/

The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) is an anti-human trafficking organisation advocating empowerment and justice for all migrant workers in Singapore