“FOR A DECENT BURIAL” – A story of dignity, courage and love


For the past 10 years that I’ve been living in Singapore, I’ve heard many very emotional stories about domestic helpers: some that make you cry, some that make you shout and willing to rebel against the system, some about appalling living and working conditions, some about frightening behaviors and many more. All these stories have one thing in common: after I’ve listened to them, I have the same question : WHY? And none of these “WHYs” has an answer yet.

So I’ve decided to tell one of these stories, without any personal judgement, just as it was told to me: facts . Maybe you can answer some “WHYs”? Let me know.

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Carlotta is a 31 year old Filipino lady who has been working as a domestic helper in Singapore for 8 years now. Her story deeply touched  an audience gathered at aidha’s graduation ceremony that my own helper was attending [aidha is a charity in Singapore who is dedicated to empowering women through financial education]. Carlotta wanted to share her story with her peers to warn them “know better what may await you in Singapore” and also with employers “Be aware that we are human beings and as such we do have feelings too; no more “locked and isolated” inflicted, ever, to anyone“. I interviewed Carlotta in December 2012 to get a better understanding of what happened to her, of what conclusions she draw and what messages she’d like to send to her peers based on her experience.

*   *   *   *   *

Carlotta was 23 years old when she first came to Singapore to work as a domestic helper. She had no idea of what her future was; but she had one dream: earning enough money to save her mother.  Her Mum had just been diagnosed with cervix cancer…

She arrived a day of October 2004. It was her first time overseas. Singapore was totally unknown to her. Her English was very fair, with poor understanding and speaking: “I could just say Yes and No” recalls Carlotta. She had no friends, no relatives, no one to talk to or to ask questions to. Carlotta was entirely alone, alone to face her questions, her doubts, her sadness, her loneliness. From a phone interview when she was still in Manilla, she knew that her employer was Chinese and that the household had one elderly and one handicapped person. She spent the first three days in the Lion city going from medical exam to training sessions before she could meet her employer, a 48 year old lady. “When I entered the house, my mind was totally blank: I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to great the grand Ma. They were all speaking in Hokkien. I was very nervous,  always wondering what was to come next“. Surprisingly, she says that she was not sad or anxious: just worried to behave appropriatedly.

It was 5 PM when she arrived there. Her employer showed her to her room and asked her to unpack and get some rest first. At 6 PM, the employer started a tour of  the house and introduce her to the handicapped person. Actually, Carlotta’s surprises and fears didn’t arise from the load of work represented by the elderly and the disabled. No at all. Carlotta was shocked by the number of electrical appliances “I was terrified at the idea of using it!“. Another surprise came up at dinner time: the chopsticks and ceramics. She had never used it before! She was afraid of showing clumsy manners or an awkward attitude. She was afraid of leaving a bad impression to her employer, afraid of being seen as impolite and disrespectful. The first hours were definitely terrible, maybe the worse in her life. The next morning, her new life started with strict rules: a 320 SGD monthly salary but only 20 SGD in cash per month and the remaining 300 SGD were for the loan contracted to pay the agency fee (that was for the first 6 months), no day off, no phone, no mail, no email, no contact with family, friends or relatives. The employer wanted Carlotta to be strong, explaining that any contact would weaken her mind and make her too emotional.  So Carlotta worked hard, never complained, never expressed anything: she felt that good money for her mother was so much better than work harrassment!

After 6 months (April 2005) of harrassing work, very long days and no day off, Carlotta was rewarded: the loan was fully reimbursed and it was only 4 weeks away from the first 300 SGD she could send to her family! At last! And then a few days later, another reward came as a surprise to her: the employer handed over a sheet of paper and a pen, thus giving permission (or instruction?) to write a letter to her family. Carlotta was delighted: at last she could give some news and maybe receive some too. She was so much worried about her mother’s condition: did she get better or worse? Was she able to walk? What about her speaking?  It was now six months since the last contact with her sister and almost one and a half year since she had hug her mother for the last time! One sheet of paper is short but more than enough to say: “Don’t worry, I’m alright here in Singapore. I’m well treated. Everything is fine. But what about you? How are you doing? How is Mummy doing?”. Carlotta didn’t want to alarm her family, she didn’t want to tell the truth about how hard it had been here for the past 6 months. She knew that any negative information would make her mother worried about her daughter thus making her weaker to fight the disease. Carlotta had to keep mum…

Carlotta comes from a small village in a northern province of the Philippines. Her family lives there in a simple bamboo house : her mother, her father who is a farmer, one brother and one sister. The village sits beside a highway, not far from the city, but still, it’s a village which means that daily life ins’t easy and money is scarce. However, life was rather peaceful. To make a living, Carlotta was working has a helper in Manilla. But a clap of thunder broke in the sky of the whole family’s life in 2003 when the mother was diagnosed with a cervix cancer at the age of 49. Then they had to travel all the way to Manilla to seek medical treatment and Carlotta had to stop working to provide help and assistance to her mother in hospital. Yes, in the Philippines, in public hospital, there are not enough nurses to take care of patients: so families need to be present to change the bedsheets, to help the sick person to go to the bathroom and even to go out purchase medicines when the hospital has no stock anymore! But no work for Carlotta meant no more income. And the treatments were very expensive: one bottle of chemotheray was 3000 pesos [100 SGD – A school teacher’s monthly salary in the Philippines is about 400 SGD]. After three courses of chemotherapy, the family ran out of money. They seeked help from the government but failed to get subsidised. So despite the doctor’s recommendations to complete up to 7 courses of chemo, the family had to take the painful decision to interrupt the treatment. Meanwhile the mother’s health was getting worse after each course of chemo: vomiting, loosing a lot of weight, unable to eat and walk, intense pain and moreover, worried about money… Was it worth spending these hefty costs? What for?

December 2003 was coming to an end and Carlotta’s mother wanted to go back to her home. She was frightened by hospital, the view of other sick people, this dying lady in the bed next to hers, the terrifying presence of death and the strong feeling that the place and treatments made her worse than she was before. Christmas was around and she felt that a family gathering would have a better impact on her health than all those painful and costly treatments…indeed it was time to head back to the village.

Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and hope. But for Carlotta and her family, it was a time of thinking: what can we do ? How can we find money for more treatment? One of Carlotta’s aunt made a suggestion that had never come to the mind of any one: “Why don’t you go to Singapore Carlotta, and work there as a domestic helper?“. There was no lapse of time before Carlotta gave an answer: “On the spot, I said yes“. Carlotta wanted so much to help her mother! And money had healing properties, she had no doubt about it! So she rushed into the preparation of her departure. No question, no doubt, no hesitation: she had to go!

It took a full year before Carlotta could reach Singapore. She had no passport, neither proper documents and the entire process to get permission to exit the Philippines and to find an employer in Singapore required more than several weeks [up to 2 months today]. Meanwhile, because she needed money for the employment agency and for her mother’s outpatient treatment, she left her village again, her beloved mother, her father and sibblings and went back to Manila to work. That was in early 2004. She didn’t know that she would never see her mother again…The transport between Manilla and her village was too costly : she never had the opportunity to visit her mother during her stay in Manilla. But her efforts were not vain: her mother recovered a little bit, she could talk again, she could walk, she never complained about pain “my Mom was a strong lady” explains Carlotta with a note of admiration. And in October 2004, when the agent called her one morning to say that everything was ready to leave for Singapore, Carlotta had still no doubt: she had to go. But unfortunately, no time for farewell and no details about her destination: listening to the agent, the departure was an emergency: the flight was booked for the same day. About the address and contact details in Singapore? No information. Only after arrival in Singapore. Carlotta had no choice, no time and no money to go back and say goodbye to her family: she could only give a call to inform them of her immediate departure. She managed to reach her younger sister over the phone. But not her mother; she was not at home at the time of the call…And very saddly, Carlotta didn’t hear her mother’s voice before leaving her homeland. She couldn’t tell what was deep in her heart: “Don’t worry for me. I’ll be back soon. Take care of yourself, I’ll get money for your treatment and I’ll save you. I’ll give you a better life”.

After 6 months in Singapore, on the day when Carlotta was writing her first letter, this silent promise was still vibrating intensely in her heart : “Don’t worry for me. I’ll be back soon. Take care of yourself, I’ll get money for your treatment and I’ll save you. I’ll give you a better life”. The employer dropped the letter in a mailbox – Carlotta was still not allowed to go out of the house alone. And daily life resumed as usual with its heavy load of work, its extenuating tasks, its neverending days and its short nights. Carlotta was constantly thinking of her mother, but she had no fear about life or death: she knew her mother was there, in the village, still waiting, patiently waiting for a better life. Maybe her health was worse? Or better? Or the same? Carlotta was wondering…One month later,  the great news arrived in the form a letter from her sister. Carlotta was so excited to read her! “How are you Sis? We were so much worried. Why you gave no news? So long! “. Carlotta was feeling so sorry that she made her family worry about her. She was suffering hiya*. But what to do? What else could she have done? The second part of the letter relieved her, confirming her thoughts: “Don’t worry about Mum. We manage“. Her mother was alive and well! That was indeed the best news ! Her mother was alive and well! And Carlotta was thinking that her next salary (end of May) would be the first one for her family, the one that could change her mother’s life! Carlotta was happy!

A couple of days later, an additional unexpected event enlightened her day: the employer came to her with a prepaid phone card, allowing Carlotta to give a call to her family: with a credit of  3 minutes, she had to make short sentences. But that was not an issue! She wanted so much to hear her mother’s voice again! She managed to reach her beloved ones! First her sister telling Carlotta that everything was fine, that she should not worry. And then very shortly her mother “How are you Mum? Please take care! I’m very worried you know that I’m not there with you to look after you. But hold on! I’m going to give you a better life!”. Carlotta could hear her mother saying “I’m alright. Don’t worry for me. Evreything is fine here. Do take care”. Love and happiness must make you blind, or deaf…Carlotta didn’t notice that her mother’s voice was so weak. She only heard that her mother was happy, very happy to talk to her beloved daughter and relieved to know she was doing well. Making our mother happy: isn’t it the most important to any of us?

And yes, Carlotta’s mother was happy. Hearing her daughter’s voice was such a blessing: she waited for so long! She put all her energy in this long waiting time. Now she could take some rest. She could let life made decisions for her. She had overcome the disease against all odds. She could stop fighting now. She was relieved and happy.

The day following the phone call, Carlotta was doing her chores when “suddenly, a cold wind wrapped me“. She immediatley feared that something wrong was going on. So she asked the Grand Ma “Grand Ma, are you cold?“. And the answer slapped her in the face: “No!”. Carlotta instantly understood what had happened, what the cold wind was: a dear loving soul had just wrapped her. Her mother had passed away, peacefully, the day after she could talk to her daughter.

The terrible feeling became a devastating news the next day: Carlotta’s sister called the employer to inform about her mother’s death. It was actually after many difficulties that she managed to get the employer’s phone number. The agent refused to give any contact details. Why? Privacy? Employer’s instruction?  The family had to force the agency who eventually answered their request. Carlotta talked a few minutes over the phone with her sister, just to hear what she had guessed the day before. “Mother has died yesterday“. After hanging down, Carlotta recalls “I was so emotional, I wasn’t able to speak. The only way I could communicate with my employer was in writing. So I wrote a letter and I put it on her desk. In this letter, I was asking permission to go back home for the burial, promising to come back and even to extend the contract**“.

The relationship with her employer was good explains Carlotta. However good, the communication was poor, partly because of language issues (they were speaking in their Chinese dialect and Carlotta’s English was still fair). So the employer’s decision to her request was totally unexpected : “You better send money than go back” handing over to Carlotta an envelopp with 600 SGD in cash. But don’t be mistaken, that was not a gift; it was only a cash advance to pay for the burial. Carlotta was devastated. She asked a mediation from her agent. There again, the reply was appaling: “Don’t cry. If your employer sees you crying, he doesn’t like it and he will send you back home***“. Repatriated and loosing her job? No way! “I couldn’t go back home because I had to earn my money to send to my family” Carlotta gasps. What could she do? Crying, crying alone, crying in her room. And working, working hard without a single tear that would have upset the employer, thus making sure that she was securing her job. The 600 SGD were sent to her family. This money, the fruit of her hard work, the first that she could remit since she left the Philippines almost 8 months ago, was the only tiny flickering light in the darkness of her thoughts: “We didn’t have to beg our relatives for a loan. With my money, I paid for a decent burial“.

*   *   *   *   *

At the end of the interview, I asked Carlotta a few more questions:

What are your thoughts today about your employer’s attitude?

“I understand her”. And she clarifies: “her decision was good and bad. Good because I could pay for a decent burial. Bad because I never had the chance to see my mother again, even on her death bed. I’m still sad today and I’ll always be”.

What advice would you give to employers in a similar situation?

“Give rest to your helper. Allow her to meet friends. Allow her to talk to friends and relatives. We shouldn’t be left alone when we mourn a loved one”.

What advice would you give to a newcoming helper?

“She must know her rights because sometimes employers take advantage of the situation “.

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Today, at the age of 31, Carlotta has decided to go back for good to the Philippines in 2013. She has built up a project for a future: she will open her own restaurant “my own eatery” as she calls it. She has been trained at aidha, the world micro business school in Singapore; her business plan is ready. She will never ever leave her family alone again.

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Some clarifications for Westerners not used to local wording and behavior:

*Hiya: it’s a very Philipino feeling that is quite hard to explain to Westerners. It’s a sense of pain, of shame which controls all behaviors in Philipino society. Imagine that it’s a sort of internal balloon that every Philipino must have and which inflates with shame. A Philipino may suffer hiya (his / her balloon gets bigger). He/ she will also fear making someone else hiya (making someone else’s balloon bigger) through a bad word or wrong behavior: that is considered the most unacceptable attitude. But don’t think they can live without a hiya! Having no hiya is considered a sin!

** “Promising to come back“: a helper’s life is so hard in Singapore that it’s not uncommon (but not so frequent though) that she doesn’t come back to Singapore after a trip or holiday to her homeland, hence breaching the contract and loosing her job. It’s not a matter of cowardice. It’s just that some can’t find the strength to say good by again. In some cases, going back is like stepping out of heaven to enter hell. Some helpers are denied the possibility to go back home because their employer fear that she won’t come back.

***“He will send you back home”: it means that the contract is stopped, work permit cancelled and the helper repatriated to her country, thus loosing her job.

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Processing Philipino contract at the Embassy of the Philippines


Any Philipino helper working in Singapore must be registered with her embassy. Going to the embassy requires to make an appointment online for many document processing but not always! There is 1 situation where  no appointment is needed. How to make the distinction?  Here are the explanations and details.

Registering with the Embassy means: “getting an authenticated Philipino contract”.

This registration allows the helper to get protection and assistance from her consular authorities. But that is not all. It also allows her to apply for a new passport when it has expired, to purchase an exit certificate when she goes back to the Philippines on home leave and to process any official documentation (notarial, legal, etc).

This registration may be done through 2 different channels:

> For those helpers who have been with their employer for less than 2 years, processing MUST be done through an agency accredited wih the Embassy. See the list here.

> For those helpers who have been for more than 2 years with their employer, processing MAY be done directly by the helper and her employer.

To obtain an authenticated  contract (see the list of documents at the bottom of this page), the helper can come to the embassy WITHOUT an appointment: she must go to the reception area to request a queue number and then wait for her number to be called at window 1. This is the only situation where NO APPOINTMENT is needed.

ATTENTION: for those helpers going back on home leave and who already have their authenticated contract, they must purchase an OEC (overseas exit certificate) . This can be done through the following channels:

  1. At the Embassy in Singapore, WITH AN APPOINTMENT made online here. No walk-in is allowed to purchase an OEC.
  2. In the Philippines, at any POEA office. For those going to major cities, they need to secure an appointment: click here to book this POEA appointment. For those going to provinces, they can walk in at any POEA regional office without an appointment.

Please note that purchasing an OEC in Singapore or in the Philippines requires that the helper presents her valid WP together with the authenticated contract.

For those helpers who are in this situation:

  • more than 2 year with their present employer;
  • AND no authenticated contract yet;
  • AND they need to purchase OEC for their homeleave,
  • then they MUST make an appointment online; click here.

Documents required to process the authentication of the contract (direct processing):

  • 2 original copies of duly completed Philipino contract signed by the employer; click here to download the contract.
  • 2 original copies of undertaking of an employer (last page of Standard contract);
  • Original copy of S$7000 performance bond (from any insurance company offering “maid packages”);
  • Original OWWA membership renewal;
  • Receipt of Pag-Ibig contribution
  • 1 copy of compulsory medical insurance taken for MOM (the one paid with renewal of WP);
  • 1 copy of employer’s ID
  • 2 copies of helper’s work permi

The fees for processing the authentication of standard contract are as follows:

  • Authentication of Contract – $ 42.50
  • Verification of Contract – S$17.00
  • OWWA Membership – S$42.00
  • Overseas Employment Certificate – S$3.00
  • Pag-IBIG Monthly Contribution – S$5.50
  • Total – $110.00

The S$ 7000 performance bond costs approximately 70 SGD.

What must be paid by employer and what must be paid by helper?

> Employer must pay:

  • the performance bond;
  • the verification of the contract;
  • the authentication of the contract;

> The helper must pay:

  • the OWWA membership;
  • the Pag-Ibig conribution;
  • her OEC;

So now you know how it works!

> if you want to get an authenticated contract: NO APPOINTMENT!

> if you want to purchase an OEC: APPOINTMENT REQUIRED (very long delay)

> if you want to renew a passport: APPOINTMENT REQUIRED (very long delay)

Posted in Hiring a domestic helper | Tagged | 82 Comments

Direct hire of a Philipino helper: process and costs


I found this blog “Just sharing” where a Singapore PR gives all details of the process and costs involved with a direct hire of a Philipino helper very helpful.

 

There are more than 300 comments but read through as some comments give updates on fees.

Do note that according to Philipino law on overseas work (which is controled by “POEA”), the full cost of direct hire should be born by the employer: NO SALARY DEDUCTION is allowed.

On the Singapore side, the salary deduction is capped at 1 month salary per year of contract which means that 2 months salary can be deducted when a 2 year contract is signed (most cases). However, do note that this deduction covers the costs involved on the Singapore side only: again, all fees involved on the Philipino side have to be paid by the employer.

The cost for the employer starts at around 1300 SGD and can go up to 3000 SGD (for the Philipino paperwork + 1 way ticket to Singapore) + cost of Singapore paperwork.

  • if Singapore paperwork is done directly by employer, add another 300 SGD
  • if Singapore paperwork is done by an agency, add another 900 SGD

So do compare the prices of agencies and negotiate!

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RENEWAL of WP: what is new?


Renewing a domestic helper’s Work Permit is easy and has been recently simplified.

1. All documents can be signed a home by the employer and sent to MOM via their website WPOL (work permit online)

2. When MOM has verified all documents,  a sms is sent to the employer

3. The WP is card is sent directly to the employer’s home EXCEPT when the helper hasn’t been to MOM for more than 5 years: MOM will notify such helpers to come over to MOM’s office to collect their WP card and register their fingerprints again.

Employer doesn’t need to go through the services of an agency! Just follow the steps:

Step 1: about 2 months prior to the expiry of the WP, MOM sends a Renewal Notice to the employer.

Step 2: employer purchases an insurance package with his/ her prefered insurance company. Most insurances offer this service online; employer needs to provide the reference number of the renewal notice. The insurance company will inform MOM that the employer has purchased the insurances.

Step 3: employer logs on to WPOL with his / her Singpass (Work Permit Online for employers: see here) . Please note that to log on, the employer needs to provide the helper’s WP number (it’s written on top of page 1 of the renewal notice). In the menu, the employer clicks on “renewal of WP” and then follow the indications.

Step 4: the employer receives the new WP card at home OR the helper has to collect it at MOM if her fingerprints with MOM date back to more than 5 years. Read the information transmitted by MOM and respect EXACTLY the date of collection written!

Prerequesites for WP renewal:

1. The helper needs a passport valid for more than 2 months on the date o application or renewal. Do note that the new WP will be approved for no more than the validity of the passport. So if the passport has only 3 months left before expiry, the WP will be given for 3 months only.

2. The last 6-monthly medical examination has to be done less than 5 months ago.

 

 

 

 

 

Renewal notice – June 2014

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A touching story from FB


I picked up this touching story from the FB group “People in Singapore”. The link is here.

I thought it might interest employers to understand better the reasons why 216000 domestic workers come to  Singapore. Keep in mind that each story is different from another one: don’t assume that all Indonesians ladies want to escape a forced marriage!

Another lesson from this story is that some courses for helpers are a fantastic step towards a better future. See HOME and aidha. I’m talking about a step, not a miracle…though it may happen sometimes. Employers can be here supportive and hopefully make a dream come true.

 

“I first came to Singapore 30 years ago after I was tricked into marriage. I was a teenager and a boy from my village who really liked me kept charming my parents with presents and kind words. I wasn’t interested but eventually they agreed to have me go over to meet his parents for dinner. I still remember the last thing they said to him as we went off to dinner was, “Be sure to bring our daughter back!”

Well he didn’t. After dinner, they wouldn’t let me go home. His parents had prepared a room for me. There was no phone so I had no way to call for help. So I stayed alone in that room and they sent me home in the morning. He never touched me, but his parents said my reputation was ruined because I spent the night. They told my family: “She’s ruined so she may as well marry our son.”

My parents and grandparents agreed. I was furious but had no choice. That’s how it was then. So fine I married him. But right after the ceremony, I went off to Manila where a friend of mine had an employment agency and soon I was on a plane to Singapore to become a domestic worker. He never had his honeymoon with me.

My parents kept asking me to come home and give him a chance. They said if only I would have a baby with him, we would fall in love. So when my contract ended I went back. But I couldn’t stand for him to touch me – how to have a baby? So I adopted. I loved her very much. But it did nothing for my feelings for him. I still despised him. There are many stories of how I tried and failed to love him. But after many ups and downs, I went back to Singapore to continue to support my family. My salary supports over 20 people back home.

These days, besides my full time job as a domestic worker, I remotely run a recycling business in The Philippines. Every morning we lend workers $15 to buy all the recyclable materials they can gather and at the end of the day they sell us what they gathered deducting the amount of the loan. This provides jobs to 20 people. It has been a very successful social enterprise and I’ve even won an award for my business plans. I also do lots of social work in Singapore working with HOME Singapore and have trained with aidha. And I’ve run three Stanchart marathons.”

“How did you find time to train for them?”

“I’ve never trained. The marathons are always on a Sunday, my day off. So I signed up and ran. I’ve complete all three that way: I just show up and start running.”

— avec Neljean Hermitanio.

 

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WORK PERMIT CARDS LOST or DAMAGED: what to do?


MOM has recently changed the rules. They explain it here.

Replacing a card has a high cost now:

  • Replacing a damaged card is 60 SGD
  • Replacing a lost or stolen card is 100 SGD (for 1st loss) and 300 SGD for subsequent losses

It’s the duty of the employer (or an employment agency) to report to MOM and to apply for a new card. The domestic worker can’t apply on her own.

Here are the steps to follow (explained here by MOM):

  1. It has to be done within 7 days of damage or loss.
  2. Requests should be submitted through MOM’s website “WPOL” see here
  3. Police report is compulsory for lost card
  4. After submitting the request online, employer must pay the fees (online)
  5. The employer receives (online too) a “card replacement notification letter”
  6. New card is to be collected 4 days later but do note that for stolen card, the domestic worker has to retrieve her card in person.
  7. Documents to bring to MOM on day of collection are:
  • Original passport
  • Completed declaration form
  • Card replacement notification letter
  • Police report for stolen card

Now you may wonder who should pay the fees ?

There is no rules about that.

I think that it really depends on what happened. If inadvertedly, the employer placed the WP card in the washing machine or if the house was robbed, then employer should bear the costs. But I guess that sounds obvious to most employers!

My recommendation is that employers should highlight to their helpers upon first day of contract the fees incured. In the case where it is the full responsibility of the helper, she should be aware that she may be requested to pay for the fees.

So ladies, don’t lose or damage your WP card: it’s a precious document! May be you can ask your employer to make a copy that you carry with you at all times, leaving the original at home.

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A NEW BATCH of HELPERS got their CERTIFICATE in FIRST AID!


1st Aid Helper - Janvier 2014 01Congratulations to May, Teresa, Lenie, Librada, Agnes, Virgie, Rebeca, Melisa and Kenny!

They attended the First Aid course designed for domestic helpers: 5 hours of class with practical exercises, lots of learning and 2 evaluations: and they all passed with scores above 70%!

Next courses open for enrollment are in February (full), March 12 and 28 ( 2 seats left) and April 4 and 11 (6 seats left).

Please visit the website http://www.help-agency.org for information and inquiries.

 

 

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HELPERS on their OFF DAYS: REST NEEDED!


My attention was recently raised by a discussion on a facebook group of French ladies living in Singapore. Some of them were asking advice on what to do on Chinese New Year with their helper: give 3 days off? Give less days, maybe only 2 ? Pay extra money if she works on an off day?

Surprisingly to me (surprinsgly yes, because in our country, France, the general rule is a week end with 2 days off and nobody complains in the month of May when we have up to 4 days off in a row! And no employer there would dare to request their nanny or their “femme de ménage” or housecleaner to come on a Public Holiday  for work), some of them said that they would ask their helper from time to time to work on an off day explaining that this was the only way for them as parents, to have a good break.

Waouhhh! Have a good break while the helper is at work? Really?  Then what about the helper guys? When do you think she can have a good break too? Do you really think that she can do a good job when she works 7 days in a row without any off day? Frankly speaking, what about you? Would you be at your top performance in your job on a Monday morning if you had been continuously working on saturday and sunday? I really doubt.

For me, I know that I would be doing a poor work. And I know what I’m talking about: as a medical student , I’ve been asked to work 36 hours in a row, or 7 days in a row without rest. That was when I was  on call overnight, working all night in the Emergency Room and the next morning at 8AM, back to my department with my patients. And I can tell that this next day after a night in ER felt like an eternity and I was desperatly craving for rest and sleep. Hopefully, I was not a surgeon with patients’ life in my hands!

So to me, it’s no different from a helper’s situation: she has a physically and mentally demanding job. She needs rest. For her, for you, for your family, she needs rest. It’s not even a matter of deserving rest; no, just a matter of body and brain needs instead.

 

And for those who still doubt about giving all 3 days off for CNY and consider paying extra money for extra work, this was posted in the Straits Times on January 16th , 2014:

  • Pay maids double for working on rest days

    A RECENT media report claimed that more maids are being given rest days.

    However, I still hear of employers who deduct the maid’s salary when she takes a day off, or refuse to provide rest days at all and do not pay her the day’s salary in lieu.

    One errant employer even sent her maid to her sister’s home in Malaysia to do chores on her day off, and paid her less than a day’s salary.

    A maid’s salary is around $450 for 26 working days a month, or $17.30 per day.

    Employers who pay the salary in lieu of a rest day tend to round down the amount to $17. This is akin to short-changing the maid. Why should they round down when the maid’s pay is already so paltry? Why not round up to $20 instead?

    Maids who work on their rest days should be paid double instead, as is the case for workers claiming payment for work done on a rest day.

    Most employers of maids are employees themselves. Don’t they demand to be paid extra when their employers require them to work on their rest days?

    Raymund Koh Joo Guan

Posted in Management of a domestic helper | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

TYPHOON YOLANDA: HOW EMPLOYERS CAN HELP


Dear Helpers and dear Employers,

TWC2 has published here a very important message. The title is: “Be sympathetic to your workers needs”. In a nutshell, it says:

> Please, dear employer, let your helper call NOW to check if her family has survived. Don’t hold her mobile phone. How would you feel if you didn’t know whether your beloved ones are dead or not?

> Please, dear employer, accept to give a salary advance to your helper. It may help to give a decent burial. Wouldn’t you like to give proper burial to your beloved family members?

> Please, dear employer, accept the request of your helper to temporarily go back home to support her family in this calamity situation. How would you feel if you couldn’t attend your beloved ones’ burial?

> Please, dear employer, let your helper go out, chat with people from the same home area as her or with other victims. How would you feel if you had to be abroad, isolated from all your fellow nationals during a country tragedy?

> Please, dear employer, have an understanding attitude towards your helper if her performance at work is weakening. It won’t last but it has to be so for a while. Do accept it.

> Please, dear employer, be human, show the best of what a human being can give to others. You’ll get back so much in return! At least, try. At least, spread this message.

Posted in True stories | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HELP for TYPHOON VICTIMS


Dear helpers in Singapore,

You’re looking for a person? Check here the person online finder (from Rappler.com).

A list of survivors can be found here.

You wish to donate money or goods? Please be very careful while providing help to your loved ones who have been victims of the typhoon: sharks are around the corner.

Prefer the official channels to send money or supplies: see your embassy website here.

DO NOT send money to people you don’t know. Even to the friend of your friend of your friend…

Check here the complete list of official donations centers (from Rappler.com)

You can follow up the situation about donations and instructions from your government on the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council here with regular updates on donation centers, needs and coming tropical storm ZORAIDA (will hit the same affected area wednesday evening)

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