I am from mainland China, and there should be a respect amongst our people, Sometimes there is, but often I am very depressed or made to feel inferior. I don’t think that most people mean this to happen, it is just an attitude that starts unconsciously. I must support my father. At the time when we were feeling utterly helpless, he was the one who offered us the warmest home and greatest help.
It is as if because I am foreign I can be dehumanised, I could be seen as just a service or object. Also because I cannot always communicate clearly a barrier comes down, and I think it seems like I am not intelligent because I cannot speak. I am seen as quiet and docile as I am unconfident. But I speak three languages. My english is only poor.
I am a construction worker. I make the buildings and the pavements, working very long hours which are not legal. I used to earn only a few dollars a day, now I earn 18 dollars. I save it and send to my son who I love more than anything. People here do not understand my existence, I am just part of the machinery. It hurts when others cannot look me in the eye. I am a moral dilemma they cannot address. I feel like I am not myself anymore, all my personality and life has drained away, all I do is work, and that is all others see too.
I am an electrical engineer, but my agent tricked me into a ship cleaning job. There is too much work. Sometimes the bricks we are transporting fall on our backs. We eat dinner but we do not get lunchtime or tea breaks. Mine is a not rich country but it has a rich culture. Myanmar people are friendly. Things like water are free in my home. Here we have no money so we cannot buy it. I love my mum so much, so I came here to work. When my mum calls me, I tell her everything is OK, I am not tired, everything is OK. Every time I lie.
I arrived in Singapore to work on the ships. I work 21 hours a day, sleeping is not possible, we get 45 minutes break only after the work is finished, so in total in we get 3 hours of sleep a day. I now cannot see from my right eye. The injury happened last year, I reported to my supervisor, but they did not make arrangements. Although I still cannot see I am happy because Myanmar Embassy have tried to help me, and they have seen that my company is no good, they took my passport.
We’re not perfect but we are doing our best. We’re working hard to accomplish the tasks on your list. Why must you call us stupid, lazy and idiot. We are both human but are treated differently. Do not treat us like a prisoners. Do not treat us like a robot. Do not treat us as if you own us. Yes you pay, but we work so hard. You pay for the service but you do not own our life.
My heart breaks when I see my fellow workers being scolded in public by their employers. They cannot ask for help because their phone has been confiscated. They give me that Do not talk to me look, because they are not allowed to talk to others. There are so many of them here, domestic workers that suffer.
He told me, go back to your country. He doesn’t want to see me. Later he brings a knife, he says to me he wants to die, you kill me, I kill you, death is good. I talked very softly to the old man. Please give me this knife. I took it but he was angry. I was so scared. Eventually I called for police. But police keep my passport and work permit, telling me to go back to Myanmar or go back to my agency. There is so much sadness in my heart. How do I support my daddy? Many months I have worked as a maid, but the agency cut all my pay. I cannot afford to go back.
I never have a whole Sunday off to go church, unwind with friends. I must first do my work before I leave the house. I should be happy, some of my friends are not allowed to have a day off. Freedom for a domestic worker is limited, if it exists at all. Everyone loves freedom, but a lot of people don’t understand the meaning. They let other people suffer, just so they have more freedom themselves. The secret of happiness is freedom, and the secret of freedom is courage.
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 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.
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 this new country 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.
We were working non-stop. The only moment we could rest was sleeping time. If I made mistakes, my employer always asked the questions and gave the answers himself, not letting me defend myself. I was physically tired but just as much mentally. The kids were sometimes fine but sometimes, they kicked me or punched me. I felt miserable. After a full day of work but I would have additional physical pain due to what the kids were doing to me.
My beginning in Hong Kong was very difficult. I had to adjust to so many things. I had to learn so much. The day I arrived at my employer’s house, I was very excited but also nervous. Very soon, I got disappointed. In the one year and two months that I worked there, I did not get a single day off. I could not visit a single place.
Working here is not easy, because we must clean all the time. And the children are so spoiled. We must do what they want. Sometimes, they shout, they kick our legs, slap our face, but we cannot say anything because they are the children of our employers. I was very timid and I needed to control my emotions to prevent homesickness.
When I first came to this country I felt dizzy and hungry while waiting at the airport for someone to fetch me. I was so nervous. After that, I bought a coffee, and I was in shock; it was so small but it cost so much. During my stay at my employer’s house, I did not have enough rest and food. They kept my phone, and there was no way for me to communicate with my family. When I ate, the daughter of my family told me I ate too much while I was only eating bread and worked very hard.
If only 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 though 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 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 for being my friend. Until we meet again.
For those in difficult circumstances I say do not walk away from God, have faith in him. 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.
I am the hero of this story. My husband cheated on me thrice after I left to work in a foreign country. It was difficult to even start to process this, especially since I was far away from him, across an ocean. The people I work for do not understand our struggles, the pain of leaving our kids behind, becoming a stranger to them, not being able to be by their side for years when they need a mother to care for them, especially when they are sick. Through these struggles I have been able to prove to myself that I am strong. In spite of being alone in this foreign land, I was able to survive and conquer my fears. My family are far away in the Philippines, they do not know about my troubles. They never knew that I was once on the edge of giving up, of losing hope.
I am thankful to God that I now work with a good family. I previously worked as a caregiver to an elderly lady. At first I thought I was blessed, I was working with a christian family. He is a Pastor. I loved my work even though it was tiring and I did not have my own room. I was disappointed that they treated us as a slave. We cannot eat their food even grapes it seems they are counting. They gave us rotten fruit. After the husband started to touch me inappropriately I looked for another family.
I work in a local Hawker centre. I am a proud, breadwinner who loves his family. Recently I collapsed with a stroke. My employer was quite supportive, however, insurance could not cover my care because a stroke is a stress related condition not a work related injury. Physiotherapy is the only way to regain use of my paralysed body. I know my stress is work related, because all I do is work. My monthly wage including as much overtime as possible is $700. Every day I lied to my family that life was good, so as not to worry them. Eventually the physical and emotional stress led to this stroke.