Tag Archives: domestic worker


By Juliet Ugay

It was an energy filled day as HOME celebrated its 11th year anniversary with a walkathon held at Garden’s By The Bay on November 29, 2015. Nearly 400 participants comprising of HOME staff, board members, volunteers, and migrant workers attended the event. The “Walk with HOME” event is the organization’s way of symbolizing the journey taken by each migrant worker that chooses to come to Singapore in search of opportunities to provide for their families. Since 2004, Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) has provided assistance, advocacy and social integration services for migrant workers in Singapore. There are approximately 1.1 million migrant workers here. Every year, an estimated 3000 migrant workers received direct assistance from HOME. Their toll-free hotline, emergency shelters, vocational training, legal aid and health education are some of the important support services they are offering to migrant workers. However, HOME, a non-profit organization depends on donations from the public, as they do not receive any funding from the government to run its programs.

The ladies from the shelter rocked the stage with their opening dance number followed by an opening remark from HOME’s director, Jolovan Wham. The event was also graced by the presence of HOME’s founder Bridget Tan, who is now recovering from a stroke early last year. Natalia Goh, HOME’s President led the walkathon. It was a 3km fun walk. The excruciating heat didn’t stopped participants from enjoying the walk. Free lunches and drinks were served to the participants. There were also other activities to make the event more exciting and fun like the giant Jenga, giant snakes and ladders, photo booth, tug of war, balloon sculpting, spectrum art, ice cream and ice sticks booth, popcorn and candyfloss booths and a booth for JC Premier, who is one of the sponsors of the event. The afternoon activities include performances from different HOME groups. The event ended with happiness as HOME staff led by Jolovan Wham entertained the audience with their Hawaiian dance number. It was ended a fun day!


 by: Saturnina “Cute” De Los santos Rotelo (photo below: first row, third from left)


All migrants haves a goal, a dream, or a plan before they leave their loved ones and their beloved country. It’s hard, it’s painful, tears flow from their eyes. They make promises in lieu of their presence, especially to their children. I have been away from home 21 years- almost half of my life I’ve been working in Singapore.

I continue to work for I have a mission. My promise to my beloved father has already been fulfilled, yet I still doubt about going home. I have devoted my time to HOME for 8 years now, and finally the answer has come to me. Filipinos are very family-oriented; closeness and kindness are always there. Love and respect, pride and beliefs are what often pushes Filipinas to migrate and sacrifice their life, love and loneliness, which money can’t replace.

The I.L.O. (International Labor Organization), in partnership with Atikha (a Pilipino organization providing economic and social services to overseas Filipinos and their families in the Philippines) did research to find out why many migrants return to their county a failure and not with innovation. I attended a thorough training by Athika on how to help the migrants, by helping them understand financial matters, and teach them how go back to their home country successfully.


Devoting my Sundays off to training and educating other migrants makes me happy. My parents sent me to a private university, but I still ended up here in Singapore as a Domestic Worker. I have no regrets, but I did miss out on a lot of things in my life. I have learned a lot myself interacting with my students. Now the 3rd batch of students is almost done, memories linger on how very thankful he students are for receiving this course in Financial Literacy. Their testimonies, written or oral, make me cry as they always say that I changed their lives and have made them realize how important it is to understand how to spend your money between the needs and wants, and that savings are important in preparing for all the hazards of life. As the course continued they realized also that by keeping track of their expenses, they can understand why they have lots of debts. Many families of migrants depend on them fully, all money made abroad is sent back, and the migrants go home for good without any money. In our Financial Education course you learn that you have to to help educate your family, and set an honest example how to manage your hard to earned money.


Every migrant has a goal, or shall I say a dream, to achieve. By planning finances carefully, together with your family, and using SMART ways, everything is achievable. Many migrants end up with a broken family because of the prolonged separation, so we are trying to slowly stop this practice. So I’m hoping that through this course migrants, especially women, will realize that leaving the country and living away from their husband and children is not the answer for all their dreams. Our journey continues, and I hope that I.L.O. will discover more to protect the worlds migrants, especially women.

Lemon Cheesecake a la Janeth

By Janeth A. Bullecer

Equipment needed;

8’’ round spring form tin, Greaseproof paper, Foil, Baking tray


For the Crust;

  • 175-200 grams digestive biscuits
  • 80-100 grams softened butter
  • 1 Tablespoon caster sugar (optional)

For the Filling:

  • 750 grams cream cheese, softened
  • 3 large eggs, at room temp.
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 ½ cups sour cream
  • 5 Tablespoons plain flour (only if needed, if batter is runny)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice


  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C
  2. Line the round spring form tin with the greaseproof paper then grease with oil or shortening.
  3. To make the crust; In a food processor, place digestive biscuits and process till very fine, add softened butter and sugar, process till you get a soft dough.
  4. Spread the biscuit dough evenly into the bottom of the baking tin, then refrigerate while preparing the fillings.
  5. To make the filling: beat the cream cheese into a large bowl, with a handheld mixer or stand mixer until smooth
  6. Add the eggs 1 at a time, incorporate well
  7. Add the vanilla extract, milk, sour cream and lemon juice, and beat well until smooth and well combined.
  8. If batter is runny add the flour, 1 Tablespoon at a time until it becomes thicker but still pourable.
  9. Pour batter into the prepared chilled crust, spread evenly.
  10. Wrap the sides and bottom of the tin with foil making sure it is high enough to avoid getting the water in.
  11. In a deep baking tray, place the tin with the batter then pour water into the tray, fill up to half of the tin.
  12. Bake into the preheated oven for about 1 hour or so.
  13. Cheesecake is baked when the sides are firm and center is just wobbly
  14. When it’s baked, leave the cake in the oven for at least 45 minutes with the door ajar.
  15. Take it out then cool completely then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.


Good things come to those who bake.

A super DW – By Juliet Ugay

advanced bakingWhile most Domestic Workers enjoy their Sundays off, Chef Janeth, or teacher Janeth as her students call her, is busy teaching baking to her fellow DW at HOME Academy.

janet with her advanced baking students

Janeth Abrias Bullecer, is 40 years old, and hails from Nueva Vizcaya in Northern Philippines. Janeth is one of the gems of HOME Academy. Her 23 years of working in Singapore gave her a lot of experience, and the courage to do something to help her fellow Domestic Workers. Her passion for baking landed her spot as one of the teachers of HOME Academy. Janeth started volunteering for HOME in 2012. She came to know about HOME when she read articles about the organization, its work and of course the founder, Bridget Tan. Bridget created a Facebook page called Gabriela, of which Janeth became a member. After Janeth met Bridget during a workshop, she started her journey with HOME.

At first, Janeth’s dream was to become a make up artist, so she took up Cosmetology classes at Bayanihan Center. When she started volunteering at the organization, she and her best friend Ningsih did fundraising by making cakes and cupcakes, which was what she enjoyed most. She fell in love with baking.

janet with her basic baking last batch

Janeth started basic baking classes with 14 students, then 30, to 40, and reached 50 plus on her 5th batch. She taught cake making, cake decorating, baking different types of bread, etc. She was overwhelmed by the student’s enthusiasm and that inspired her to improve her teaching. Her signature cheesecake was always a hit, and she baked for Bridget Tan and MP Halimah Yacob during an HOME event. Due to overwhelming response, she started an advanced baking class and has 10 enrolees so far. Two of her former students, Sarah and Rhoda are now teaching in HOME Academy 2 and 3.

janet with her basic baking class first batch

Janeth’s work for HOME made her well known for her creations, and due to the encouragement from HOME staff and friends, she was given an opportunity to study first module in baking under a scholarship program at the Baking Industry Training College (BITC). She is currently taking up the second module, which she is paying by herself and she is hoping to continue to gain a diploma. Her main inspirations are her family, especially her mother, who sacrificed a lot for her family. Janeth hopes to have her own bakery shop in the future.

janet with her employer and kids

At present, Janeth is taking care of two boys. She studies two nights weekly, teaches baking on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of every month and attends computer classes on the 1st and 3rd Sunday. It might be a tiring routine but she manages to pull it all off, thanks to her very supportive employer Ms Nadine Mains. Since Janeth started volunteering, she gained confidence and made lots of friends. She said that the best part of all is to be able to share her knowledge and skill. Seeing her students happy makes it all worth it. Indeed Janeth is one extraordinary Domestic Worker – a SUPER DW!

Check out the recipe for Janeth’s famous cheesecake here!

advance baking

HOME, an inspiration


During our last HOME Academy graduation day one of HOME’s students, Indonesian Domestic Worker Maria Handayani, made a speech to all  graduates. During this speech she recited a poem. HOME likes to thank Maria for her wonderful words, which we like to share  with you all, hoping she will inspire many others like her. 

HOME, A Masterpiece of Inspirations

I remember the days, when I was not able,
To stand up.
I remember the days, when I was not able,
To speak up.
I remember the days, when I had nothing,
To offer.
I remember the days, when I could not make,
My own, decisions.

With your gentle care,
You lifted me up high.
With your gentle care,
You taught me, through learning.
With your gentle care,
You helped me, to be strong.

Now, I am able to to stand up,
Because of you.
I am able to speak up,
Because of you.
And, I, have something to share.

I can do, what I always wanted to do.
I can be, what I always wanted to be.
I can stand strong, and defend myself.
All this I can do, because of you.
And this is, what I share with you.
Because, this is, what I am, today.

I am beautiful.
I am strong.
I am smart.

I know, that, I am special.
I know, that, I am unique.
And I know, that, you, are special too.

I found, a masterpiece, in you.
You, inspire me, to be,  what I am today.
And I treasure you.
Dear HOME.
You are, a masterpiece of inspirations.

Writen by
Sri Handayani Sutarno.


More information about HOME Academy and current courses on offer can be found on HOME website: http://www.home.org.sg/what-we-do/public-education/

When to call it a day?

By Juliet Ugay

“Twenty two years!” This is what Marie Coloma answered when I asked her how long she has been working as a Domestic Worker in Singapore. Marie, who is 46 years old and a native of Tabuk Kalinga, Philippines, is mother to a 23 year –old. Her son is in his third year of school, taking up Hotel and Restaurant Management.

Marie and her son

Marie is planning to retire when she reaches the age of 50. When she returns home for good, the petite and cheerful lady plans to set up a business together with her close friends. She thinks of starting a shop that sells school supplies and has a photocopying machine. She also plans to put up a canteen near a school, which her son will manage in time – if he wants to. She said that it will be good to be home because she can make up for those times she wasn’t with her son, and she’ll be able to take care of her ageing parents as well.

Saturina as an Aidha volunteer

Another Domestic Worker, Saturnina Rivera, 47 and single, plans to retire when she turns 50 or when her 2-year contract with her present employer is up. She has been working in Singapore for 21 years. She hopes to develop land that she bought a few years back to put up a massage parlour and piggery. A portion of her property includes a vegetable farm her brother is managing at the moment. Because Saturnina has no family of her own, she has been able to save most of her salary. Despite being single, she says she is happy and contented with what she has now and that soon she will be her own boss.

Retirement- I had never really thought about it until I interviewed these ladies.

There are some Domestic Workers here who have stayed longer than 22 years and when I asked them about when are they going back for good, many of them said they will stay as long as they are fit to work. The thought of a very slow phase of life in their home country made them stay here for as long as someone still wants to hire them. Others are choosing to continue to work because they have difficulties getting a job in their home country, where most companies and employers prefer fresh graduates and competition is high.

Retirement may still be a long way off for many of us, but proper planning for it can lead a more secure, less stressful life in the future. I have heard that a lot of Domestic Workers who worked in Singapore for more than 20 years and no savings, because they sent all their earnings to their families back home. Sometimes, they go back to their countries with just a little money. It’s a sad truth.

Domestic Workers in Singapore have no access to formal retirement funds so it is important to plan something that can benefit them when they decide to retire. Saving some of the salary every month is a good thing to do. You can use this money if you plan to put up a business when you retire, like Marina and Saturnina did. For Filipino DWs, monthly contributions to government institutions like Social Security System (SSS), PAG-IBIG and PHILHEALTH is also a way of preparing for retirement as you can benefit from them in the long run.


By Juliet Ugay

If you are an employer and you found out that your domestic worker wore your bikini or your personal belongings on one of her days off, what would you do?

This is the question that one of my friends, who employes a domestic worker, asked me when I bumped into her in a mall one day. She then asked me what I, since I am a domestic worker myself, would do if my employer found out I had been wearing her personal things?

For a moment I stared at her while absorbing what she asked. My initial response was, that it is a bit crazy. She told me that her friend’s helper posted a photograph on her Facebook page of herself wearing her employer’s bikini. She had found it out through a domestic worker of another friend, who happened to be a mutual friend on Facebook. She was so shocked to learn about it, and asked her friends around what would be the best thing to do with her domestic worker. Most of her friends advised her to talk to the domestic worker first. Some of her friends told her to terminate the domestic worker’s work permit because they thought that her actions were a bit over the top. It can be considered stealing, as well as breaking her trust.

I have asked some of my fellow domestic worker what their thoughts are about the matter. All of them said that it is really inappropriate to use your employer’s belongings without their permission. Some of them said that the domestic worker must apologise to her employer, and ask them to give her another chance, while some said it’s better to look for another employer, because it will be very awkward to work with them after what happened.

I also asked Jolovan Wham, executive director of HOME if this would be enough reason to terminate the domestic worker’s work permit. He said he does not personally think it should be. But then again, in Singapore an employer has the right to terminate the domestic worker’s work permit for whatever reason there is.

To my fellow domestic workers; please refrain from posting similar situations like this on any social media, especially when you know there’s a not pleasant story behind the photos or statuses. We should think a few times before we do something, because we’ll never know whether our actions might create a long-term regret.

A prolonged, bitter revenge

Employers don’t like it when their foreign domestic workers file a complaint against them with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Many will repatriate their domestic workers to punish them for their actions. Others go a step further and seek revenge by filing their own complaints, often by accusing them of theft. In most cases it is the employer’s word against that of the domestic worker. Investigations take a long time, in which the domestic worker is not allowed to work, nor leave the country. She is punished whether the claim is substantiated or not.

This is the story of Ellaine, who’s employers were dedicated to get their revenge, and punish Ellaine ‘to the end of her days’ for filing a salary complaint. For them, one unsupported accusation was not enough.

Ellaine had been working for her employer for three months when ‘madam’ lost a golden ring. She asked Ellaine whether she had seen it, and they searched the house together. The ring wasn’t found, and madam left it at that.

Four months later, Ellaine approached her employer, as her passport required renewing. She needed money to pay the associated fees. The employer insisted Ellaine pay for it herself, but Ellaine did not have much cash, as her employer was withholding her salary. Ellaine decided to run away and approach HOME for help. HOME referred her to MOM, who settled Elaine’s salary claim swiftly. When the employer met Ellaine at MOM, she demanded to search her belongings. She found nothing.

That was not the end of the story. Ellaine’s employer now accused her of stealing the golden ring. Since there was no evidence to support this, the case was closed by the police. Still, that was not the end of the story. The employer subsequently accused Ellaine of molesting their eight-year-old son – in the bathroom. Again, for lack of evidence, the police closed the case. Ellaine was told she would be able to go home within a few days, as soon as her former employer had bought her a ticket.

And the employer refused to buy the ticket. Instead, seven months after Ellaine ran away to settle her salary complaint, her employer once again accused her with theft of the ring. Ellaine was interviewed once more by the police, by a different, less friendly officer this time. Afterwards, Ellaine was notified by letter that her case was under investigation, and that she had to remain in Singapore on a special pass for the time being.

By then, it had been eight months since Ellaine had been able to work, and make money. She wanted to go home and spend time with her family, especially her young son and ailing father.

But her former employer was tenacious. In a text message to Ellaine’s cousin, he stated: ‘I will not cancel her work permit for the rest of her days. I am prepared to pay levy, she will be stuck here for another 18mths without salary.’

HOME assisted Ellaine with legal support, and nine months after she left employer, Ellaine’s case has finally been resolved. She is happy to go home.

HOME hopes the Singapore police will be just when employers try to seek revenge on their domestic workers by accusing them of crimes, look at the facts, and not allow a single employer to ruin a domestic worker’s life simply by piling up unsupported claims ‘to the end of her days.’ Not only does the domestic worker lose months of time and income, as she has to remain in Singapore without the opportunity to work during the investigations, but it also wastes valuable police time, that is better spent at investigating crimes that in fact have been committed.

Ellaine’s name has been changed for privacy reasons

Give a Good Gift this Christmas

Give a Good Gift this Christmas: Support a migrant worker!


Christmas is coming and at this time of giving we ask you to consider those who work so hard during the year and are spending the festive season away from their families. Singapore depends on the migrant workers who come here to clean, build and maintain our country. Show your appreciation for them this festive season by giving a ‘Good Gift’ via HOME.

For a small amount you can make a crucial difference to the lives of migrant workers in Singapore. You can support domestic workers in our shelter, enable a domestic worker to participate in a vocational or educational course or make a general donation to the work of HOME.

Christmas Gift Options:


HOME Shelter

– $50 will pay for a domestic worker to stay in our shelter for a week.
– $200 will pay for a domestic worker to stay in our shelter for a month.

Sponsor a domestic worker in HOME shelter here, and mention in the comment field how you would like your gift spend.


HOME Academy – become a sponsor!

Support domestic workers who use their time off to attend vocational and educational courses at the HOME Academy.
– $20 buys an English course book for a student. These are urgently needed for next semester!
– $50 helps support a student attending a sewing or baking course
– $100 helps support students attending elderly care and beauty therapy courses.

Sponsor HOME Academy here, and mention in the comment field how you would like your donation spend.

Make a recurring Donation

HOME depends on the generous support of members of the public in order to carry out our work and provide support services for migrant workers. If you would like to make a longer-term contribution, please make a recurring donation  here .


Thank you for your support! A little goes a long a way and the migrant workers of Singapore appreciate your kindness. Have a happy festive season and best wishes for 2015 from the team at HOME.


Running for HOME


Last Sunday, Jeanilyn Bermudez laced up her running shoes to take on the 42.195km of the 2014 Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore. And as she has done for the past few years, she dedicated her run to the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME).

With her winsome smile and wrinkle-free face, Bermudez’s youthful and energetic appearance belies her almost 50 years. Originally from the Nueva Vizcaya province in the Philippines, she arrived in Singapore in 1984 at the age of 19 to work as a Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW). Economic hardship forced her to shelve dreams of going to study at university. As the second eldest of six siblings living in poverty and a single mother to three children, her family has long looked to her to help provide for them.

I never kept a penny for myself,” she says. “Everything I made I sent straight back home to the Philippines.”

Bermudez’s desire to give back to the community extends to her adopted home in Singapore. She has been volunteering to help other foreign workers since 1990 and has been working with HOME for almost six years. At HOME, she has listened and been moved by workers’ stories of physical and emotional abuse, salary withholdings and interminable working hours. Stories rife with suffering and alienation.

My heart aches listening to such horrible treatment,” she explains. “But HOME is a blessing for them.”

So to increase awareness for the organization, Bermudez is dedicating this year’s marathon run to HOME. In 2012, her second marathon, Bermudez used her run to fundraise for HOME. She proudly handed over to the money raised in an official celebration ceremony upon completion of the race. That year, she also managed to improve her time from just over seven hours the year before to an impressive five and a half.

To train for the marathon, Bermudez builds her endurance by running, biking and even just taking the dog for very long walks. She is a little nervous for the run this year as she concedes she hasn’t trained quite as much for this race as she has in previous years.

After she finished her race on Sunday, Bermudez headed to the Harbourfront to perform a musical in commemoration of HOME’s ten year anniversary.

Bermudez pledges to continue supporting those who need her help and hopes that her success will serve as inspiration.

All my dreams are coming true and all my goals are being achieved. It can be done,” she says with a smile that lights up the room.