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24 November 2014

Foreign Domestic Worker Day - Celebrating Mutual Care and Respect!

24 November 2014

Do you hire a Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW)?

Have you ever wondered about how other households get along with their FDWs?

Are you sceptical about feel-good stories about families that treat their FDWs as one of theirs?

Well, we hope that this year’s FDW Day, which will be held on Sunday, 30 November 2014 at the Grandstand, Turf City, will warm your hearts about how 22 families epitomise the cherished values of mutual care and respect between them and their FDWs.  The FDW Day is already into its 5th year, thanks to the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST) and the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) for organising it together with their partners, sponsors and supporters.

This annual event gives recognition and appreciation to all FDWs working in Singapore, and showcases how our support and encouragement go a long way in making them feel respected, in a home away from home.

Many Families that Care

No one ever found it easy to build strong bonds within a household. We all know that the ties that bind must be built on mutual care and respect - what more if it involves integrating a stranger into the family.  We have all heard our fair share of unfortunate stories about families falling out with their FDWs due to misunderstandings and the lack of communication. 

But the understated caring Singaporean family tends to pleasantly surprise us from time to time.  You’d be surprised at how far some families have gone for their FDWs.  Before the FDW of the Year and FDW Employer of the Year awards are announced at this year’s FDW Day, let’s take a look at four nominated families here who are all fine examples of what many of us should strive to be!

‘Learning on the Job’

Mr Muhammad Tahir enrolled Ms Abdul Hadee Nona Noorul Kairiya, or Nona, as they affectionately call her, in various courses after recognising her passion for continuous learning. Nona comes from Sri Lanka and has been working for the family for six years. Mr Tahir’s daughter sees Nona as her close friend, and spends her weekends helping with Nona’s finance course assignments. “In the course of helping with her projects, and finetuning her public speaking skills, our friendship just blossomed,” said his daughter. Nona undoubtedly shares the sentiment, “I don’t feel homesick because they treat me like their own relative!” 

The award judging panel and organisers, and the Tahir family were treated to Pakistani snacks made specially by Nona (third from the right). 
With the leadership and IT courses, along with the financial literacy course offered by the NGO Aidha, Nona hopes to start a food business when she returns to her country. Her employers have even joked that she could easily set up a restaurant serving Pakistani cuisine, having received much training from them over the years.

‘Speaking a Common Language’

Ms Eva Dewi Susanti Kodri from Indonesia has been working for Mdm Lim Hai Yen for 15 years. Over her years of work here, Eva has gained weight and eating has become her pastime. When Mdm Lim was asked about this, she let out a hearty laugh and revealed, “In this family, no one is deprived of any basic necessity. You eat whatever you want because you are part of this family!” Mdm Lim is used to seeing Eva have larger portions but reminds her to stay fit and healthy. 

Eva (far left) shares a close bond with all three generations of the Lim family, having looked after the younger ones since they were infants, and picked up Hainanese to converse with the senior members of the household. 
Eva now converses in Hainanese, English and Mandarin, and is the family translator, bridging the communication gap between the senior and junior members of the multi-generation household. Eva misses the family terribly when she’s taking her annual break back home, and will call the family just to know how they are doing. Mdm Lim shared, “Eva always cries when she is on holiday, she cries when she’s at the airport and she cries during the phone calls home. We always tease her about it!”

‘Part of the Extended Family’                               
                                 
While some FDWs watch over three children, or three members in a family, Ms Chona Bandejas Balisme has worked for three generations of the Che family! Chona, who is from the Philippines, can say she has her roots planted in Mr Che Kuan Yau’s family tree the past 22 years. Chona has seen Mr Che’s father live to a ripe old age of 106 years, and cared for Mr Che’s late wife who suffered from leukaemia, as well as his three children.

Mr Che feels such a unique relationship calls for a unique arrangement, and hence Chona has the freedom to plan her work schedule and leisure time. “No one has helped me like my employer has. Back in 1994, Mr Che and his wife paid for an urgent operation which my mother needed. And I will never forget how the family let me recuperate for three whole months when I fractured my leg. They sent me for physiotherapy sessions until I regained my strength.”

She is especially close to Mr Che’s 40-year-old autistic son, affectionately introducing him as “my boy”. She even brings him out to meet with her friends on rest days, and refuses to let people’s stares or comments bother her. 

Mr Che Kuan Yau and his FDW Ms Chona Bandejas Balisme (both seated) touched the award judging panel and organisers (standing) with a recount of their employment journey for the past 22 years, from the death of Mr Che’s father and wife, to Chona’s three-month recuperation after breaking her leg.
‘Pillar of Support in times of need’

Ms Rodalina Saguid Dalauidao, a domestic helper from the Philippines, can boast that all three of her children are university graduates, all thanks to the support of her employers, Mr and Mrs Tey Ah Neo. She has worked for them for 13 years and from the beginning, Mr Tey Ah Neo and his wife promised her that they would support her three children through their college education.  In fact, the Teys’ support has gone even further than that. Ms Rodalina’s son, Mike Kevin, is now working in Singapore as a Healthcare Assistant and the Teys have taken him in so that he can be closer to his mother. Rodalina shared that she sees her employers as her teachers, friends and parents all in one.

The award judging panel and organisers (standing) were pleasantly surprised to see that Mr and Mrs Tey (seated, extreme right and second from left) had opened their home to their FDW Ms Rodalina’s son, Mike Kevin (second from right). 
The respect and care shown by Rodalina also goes both ways. Mr Tey expressed his deep appreciation for Ms Rodalina’s unwavering support to the family when his wife was hospitalised. He said, “Rodalina would travel to and fro from our house to the hospital, taking care of my wife’s needs all the time. It was not easy for her, yet she never complained and continued to perform her household chores to the best of her abilities. She is even closer to us than some of our relatives.”

Celebrate with Us!

Twenty-two nominated households will vie for the awards. And if these four stories touched you, imagine the difficulty our judges are having!

Come to our MOM Facebook page to find out who the winners of the FDW and FDW employer of the year award winners are, on 30 November 2014!
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