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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REFLECTION

Juliet G. Ugay

I am writing this exactly a week after I left Singapore, to go back home for good.

A big step, a big change. I spent 10 years working as a domestic worker in Singapore. They have been years of hard work, patience and a lot of courage. Being in this job has taught me many things, not only about people but also about myself. I’ve become resilient in many ways. Every family I worked with – a total of five over the span of 10 years – was unique. Families with different attitudes, different foods, different languages, and different characters. I learned to adjust depending on their needs. Some were difficult to work with, some not too bad, and some just right. Most of the 10 years were not good times, but I survived. How I admire those domestic workers who can last for 25 years or more.

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Juliet and her son

I hope that, in those years, I have left something in Singapore for people to remember me.Ten years is a long time, especially for someone like me, who has a son back home. Maybe for those who are single, it’s a bit better, as they have less to worry about, except for their parents or siblings. My son is now 11 and he is the main reason why I made this big change.

He is not young anymore. He is more aware now of the things around him, and he is more sensitive. He is beginning to need more care and attention that I, his mother, can only give. He is entering the stage of adolescence, a time where he needs someone to guide him so he’ll grow up responsible, and thinking like a man.

I spent the first few days of my stay here organising our house. The kids are at school during weekdays, so the house is empty and quiet, just nice for cleaning. Our house is old and small, so it took me only a day.

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Fresh local produce

What I like about being here is the fresh air, and cooler temperature. Our house is surrounded by big trees, so the air is fresh all day and night. The local vegetables are fresh and sweet, most of them can be found in the backyard or at the neighbours, much different to Singapore, where almost everything is imported and by the time you cook it, is tasteless and soggy. Local fishes are also abundant and mango season is around the corner. If you like simple living, you can live here. You just need some extra income to keep it going.

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In the ten years since I left, so many things have changed in our town. Roads are getting better, Internet is accessible, houses are popping everywhere and there are more people. Some of them I haven’t seen in a long time, and some were born while I was away. People smile at you, and you wonder who they are, and you realise you’ve not lived in this town for 10 years. It is funny, but nice.

Here, you see kids, as young as 2 years old, holding an Ipad or a cell phone.I remember I got my first cell phone when I was in college, Motorola brand, the size of a land line telephone, and the charger a size of a medium sized rock. Nowadays, technology has changed a lot of things. People have gotten lazier and people complain about a lot of things. Sometimes I think life was better way back then.

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Though my son is still shy to ask me things or tell me things, I know that he is happy I am here. I brought back my guitar, which he plays now and then after school. My son is unsociable, he does not like taking photo’s and things like that. He doesn’t like someone telling him what to do, what to wear, or what to eat. But he knows what he wants, that’s for sure. He is now in his final year in primary and will finish in early April. The education system in the Philippines has changed too over the years. They have added a few years to the usual time of school. Indeed, time flies.

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Juliet and some of her Singapore friends

I must admit I miss Singapore and the people close to my heart. I miss the conveniences of life there, and the hectic lifestyle. I miss the summery weather and the clean surroundings. I miss the kids I was taking care of. I miss my nice neighbours. I miss my friends and our stories, tears and laughter. It is quite difficult to adjust to life in the village after the working routine I’ve been having for 10 years.

At the moment, I have no definite plan what to do next, but I am thinking of going to another country, and look for better opportunities there. All I want at the moment is to spend time with my son and family, and see what happens after my son finishes school. Or when I run out of savings, haha.

My Struggle and Hope

By Michelle T Cain

My Struggle and Hope

Struggle is the best way to describe my life since I started secondary school up until now.

Struggle is my best friend, struggle never leaves my side.

It started when my father found another woman and broke up our family. When he didn’t support us anymore I could see the pain on my mother’s face. I appreciate how my mother supported our everyday needs. I could feel the overflowing love of my mother. Every time I saw her sacrifice, I told myself that I would try to have a better life and a happy and complete family of my own.

Then I started a family on my own. But struggle hugged me again. My husband’s family didn’t like me to be part of them. They said I wasn’t worthy. The feelings and dreams I had imagined fell down again. I felt so alone. I felt hatred inside, that the world could be so unfair.

That is why I decided to work abroad. I felt that everything would change if I could earn well, even if I had to leave my family. I always thought that my husband’s family would accept me if I had a lot of money and went abroad.

I went abroad and found work in Singapore, and I felt so happy and hopeful. But then struggle hit me again. I experienced abuse from my employer. She shouted at me and I felt so nervous that I couldn’t handle the shaking anymore. Without anyone I felt so alone. I even blamed God for giving me this kind of problem. I always asked God: What have I done?

But I am not going to give up. I try to fight this struggle in me. I never lose hope. I am still praying that I can overcome this struggling life of mine.

 

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

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

My Life in a Foreign Land

My Life in a Foreign Land

By Rea Maac

It’s midnight and yet I’m still awake
It will be my last night in my own bed
We will not be together for 2 years
As I have a journey to seek.

I know in the days ahead
Everything will really change
Just hoping I can overcome
And always stay calm.

While my mind can’t rest, my eyes have given up
Until my alarm clock sounds so loud
Time to wake up and get ready
For my first flight to a foreign country.

I head to the airport with my family
I smile at them as if I’m fine
Just wave my hand as a sign of goodbye
Coz I don’t like to show them that I cry.

Inside the airplane I let it go
I cry as if there is no tomorrow
My family I will truly miss
Coz they are my life and my happiness.

After a few hours, the airplane lands
My heart is trembling like an earthquake
Honestly I am totally scared
“Oh God help me,” I pray.

My new life is about to begin
Not sure what will happen
A life so different from what it used to be
I have to accept it will never be easy.

Yes it’s tough from the very start
A big adjustment on my part
To be able to adopt their ways of living
Totally different in everything.

Every night, pain moves into my eyes
I don’t even know how I can survive
It’s so hard to set aside
The loneliness I feel inside.

I know I shouldn’t be in depression
Because it may destroy my ambition
Thinking of my family as inspiration
To be strong is a good decision.

As the days pass, I’m slowly getting used to it
Though sometimes sadness still comes
I just keep reminding myself to be strong
Soon I’ll go back to the place where I belong.

Being in a foreign land is a big risk
You will encounter a lot of hindrances
But don’t give up, keep moving instead
You must be a fighter if you want to succeed.

Never involve yourself in any trouble
Remember to be kind and humble
Respect all the people around you
So in return, they will respect you too.

And now it’s been 7 years
I’m fully adjusted and there’s no more fear
There are times sadness is still a trigger
But that is normal, it won’t last longer.

Let me give you some advice
Just always pray and do your best
God is watching, he will do the rest.

 

CHRISTMAS IN OUR HEARTS

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By: Jho Ann Dumlao

“People making lists, buying special gifts, taking time to be kind to one and all. Everywhere there’s an air of Christmas joy…”

This song I heard playing in the shop reminds me always of the time of festivity in my place in the Philippines. Yes, it’s Christmas time, the most awaited and most festive celebration every year. And we can call it “stress season” for some as well, I think. 
The Christmas spirit makes people selfless, more friendly, more kind and nicer, and more forgiving (reconciliation). It’s about spreading love and peace. Us, Foreign Domestic Workers, how do we cope up in celebrating this season?

Lucky are those who are going home in this season to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones. While others will just fill up a “balik bayan” box with goodies and send back home; a way for some to make their loved ones happy despite their absence. 
Christmas away from home is not that easy. We miss attending the early morning masses (simbang gabi) that starts every 16th of December and ends at Christmas Eve. Some people especially Catholics believe that if someone has completed the whole phase of “simbang gabi”, whatever they wished and prayed for will come true. The so-called caroling or singing Christmas songs from house to house and in return the household will give something like money or in any kind. And of course, the Noche Buena in which the family members get together over dinner full of chats and celebration. This is after the Misa de Gallo or Midnight Mass.
Christmas is also a good time for reunions.

We are doing so many sacrifices abroad that we missed a lot of grand celebrations or happenings back home. We can’t do otherwise; we don’t own our time either. 
Some of us just stay in the four corners of our employer’s house during Christmas. However, let’s just think that we are doing this not for ourselves but for our loved ones, for their better living situation.

Far away from home, we can still make our Christmas a merry one together with our friends, our family away from home. And may the spirit of Christmas reign in our hearts.

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