Tag Archives: HOME Academy

Law and You: Legal education starts at HOME

 By Sneha Gupta

In 2014, I was part of a team of dedicated NUS Law students who worked closely with HOME to develop a series of workshops aimed at educating foreign domestic workers about their rights under Singapore law. Focusing particularly on employment and criminal law, the workshops sparked a dialogue between the NUS team and the workers about the difference between law on the books, and law in practice.

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The aim of the workshops was to empower foreign domestic workers by improving their understanding of the Singapore legal framework. We wanted to give workers a platform to discuss issues that they confront in their work and lives order to help the workers feel more confident about their position in Singapore. One of the big challenges for us was to explain the relevant law in a manner that was both simple and engaging and to take into account the divide that sometimes arises between law in theory and law in practice in Singapore.

Over four sessions, we talked with a group of around 20 domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia about employment issues like contracts, illegal deployment, salary deductions, rest days, safety issues, transfer and repatriation. We also discussed criminal law and procedure with the guidance of Josephus Tan, Associate Director at Fortis Law. What was especially noteworthy was the fact that the information flowed both ways— we learned a lot from the workers and were impressed by their creative ways of resolving the issues that had arisen for them.

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The NUS team felt gratified with the positive feedback after the sessions and an email from one participant thanking us for our passionate involvement. This project widened our perception of FDWs and their problems. It entailed a steep learning curve, as we were involved in all stages of preparation and presentation of the course. We came to appreciate the close relationship between law and society and how a little knowledge conveyed over a few sessions can go a long distance in making workers feel more secure in their workplaces.

Moving forward, we have realised that there is a need to reach out to foreign domestic workers who cannot take a day off to attend these sessions, as well as those who speak other languages. We plan to create an online portal to allow workers to access the answers to commonly asked questions about their rights and responsibilities living and working in Singapore.

To support HOME and NUS’s project to expand the reach of the Law & You course, please get in touch or make a donation here (www.sggives.org/home), specifying “Law & You” in the comment field.

HOME would like to thank NUS Law students Sneha, Jude, Daniel, Zhi Ying, Amelia, Sanjana and Yi Zhen and Professors Jaclyn and Sheila for their commitment and contribution to the project.

The power of education

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HOME could not do the work it does without a large number of volunteers, many of whom are migrant workers in Singapore themselves. Volunteer Cute, who was a teacher in the Philippines before starting work as a domestic worker in Singapore, spends much of her Sunday off helping and training migrant workers less fortunate than herself. We asked Cute to share her inspiring story.

Migration is not as easy as some people think. Being away from your home and your loved ones is hard, and not even money can cure the loneliness many migrants endure. Every migrant worker has a special story. This is mine.

In the Philippines my teacher salary was not enough for my family of eight siblings to survive, and life got even worse after my father got sick. Most of my siblings were still studying, so I decided to find work in Singapore.

Being a domestic worker is a really tough job, and during my first few years I had no day off. I had to pay eight months of salary to my recruitment agency, work 18 to 20 hours a day, and did not have adequate food. My faith in God as well as my determination to let my siblings finish their degrees made me strong, sacrificing even my own love life. My father always told us that the only wealth that he could give us was our education, and that no one could ever take that away from us. I took that lesson to heart.

It’s been 21 years since I left my beloved country, the Philippines, and the house I call home, where my siblings live and my father passed away. I miss him dearly. I did not get to see his face one final time, because my employer told me it would not give him his life back if I went home.

Having a day off is important for migrant workers. We can rest, unwind with friends, or learn new skills that help us prepare for our reintegration in our home countries. I believe my own involvement in HOME was the will of God. My feet brought me to the 6th floor of Lucky Plaza, where I met Sister Bridget, the founder of HOME. She welcomed me heartily, and told me about the mission of HOME. HOME gave me the opportunity to attend trainings, and teach seminars myself where I can share what I have learned. I had some great experiences though HOME. I even escorted Sister Bridget to Geneva, Switzerland, to witness the adoption of the International Labor Organisation’s Convention concerning decent work for domestic workers, an achievement that I’m very proud of.

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My contribution to HOME has the full support of my American employers. I have led the HOME ROSES group for 6 years. The HOME ROSES team is a group of domestic workers that assists HOME with migrant health issues, and gives training and workshops on HIV/ AIDS. I have also contributed to HOME’s newsletter ‘My voice’.

When Sister Bridget opened the HOME Academy, a Sunday school for migrant workers, I was keen to get involved. This year, I attended a special training given by the Philippine organization ATIKA, where I was trained to teach other migrants about financial planning. Attending this class will prepare them for a successful reintegration in their home country, so that they will live happily ever after.

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HOME gives a shelter, a hope and a home to unfortunate migrants, whether it is a woman or a man, regardless of their job, religion and nationality. I pray that HOME will exist forever, and can continue to help us.

GOD BLESS HOME and all the volunteers who devote their precious time, their talents & kindness.

WE LOVE YOU ALL

Sincerely

S.S. Rotelo (better know as Cute)

A visit to HOME Academy

Academy1  Devi Malarvanan reports from her visit to HOME Academy. 

Peek into the International School Singapore (ISS) campus on a regular Sunday afternoon and you will be both surprised and impressed. Ladies boasting different nationalities and who, in Singapore, go by the blanket term ‘domestic workers’ fill the campus. Sporting the HOME Academy uniform, they eagerly await the commencement of classes for the day.

The HOME Academy programme, has benefitted over 5000 domestic workers since 2009 and has a wide range of courses – including English language, computer training, baking, cooking, cosmetology, aromatherapy and caregiving. Either experts and professionals teach these courses or ‘domestic workers’ with the relevant experience to teach their peers. A chat with Ms Jacyntha England, one of the pioneers of the project, reveals that the primary objective of the project is to offer relevant training to domestic workers looking to expand their skill set or learn something new. She explains that the programme aims to empower these ladies, help them invest in their future and be more than a ‘domestic worker,’.

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Through HOME Academy these ladies’ many talents are highlighted and celebrated. The Masterchef-esque cooking contests and forum theatre sessions held to conclude the term are proof of this. As the ladies proudly display and cheer the dishes they have whipped up, it is clear to see they are enjoying this opportunity and the chance to share their experiences. On a similar note, one of the ladies enrolled in the English class, Ms Yanti, takes the forum theatre session as an opportunity to share stories she has written based on her real life experiences. She says, “I want to share what I have experienced. Life is easier after I share experiences with people…life is lighter.” Another student in the class, Ms Brianna, reflects on the classes, “We speak and act and it is a lot of fun. So far it is helpful for my communication.”

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Both ladies then continue their conversation with friends in the classroom as they munch on doughnut treats brought in by a guest. With their gestures and words it is clear the group are thankful for the respite from their weekly duties and the chance to develop their skills. It is even more heart-warming that some of their employers encourage them to do so and sponsor them for these classes.

To find out more check out our website or email Sisi Sukiato, migrants.home@gmail.com