In many ways, being a foreign domestic worker (FDW) is a tough and thankless job.
Many of them leave their hometowns and families for years to earn a living by serving employers as live-in help, and keeping their households running smoothly.
At the same time, their working conditions can leave them susceptible to abuse, as seen in several recent cases of foreign domestic helpers being treated cruelly by their employers that have made the headlines here in recent months.
There remains much that can be done to better protect and care for FDWs in Singapore. And one big part of the equation is to have more of us see them as people first, and helpers second.
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Which makes a couple of incidents recently shared on a popular Facebook group for FDWs in Singapore extra heartwarming. The two posts were contributed by FDWs who are currently working in Singapore.
Filipino Ma.Analiza Encarnacion has worked in Singapore for the past five and a half years. On Mar 9, she had made plans with a friend, an Indonesian domestic helper, to visit the Jurong Bird Park on their off day. The outing was a belated birthday celebration for Encarnacion, who turned 59 on Mar 1.
The two were going to purchase tickets when an elderly couple approached them. To their surprise, the couple told them to leave the queue, and instead to just follow them to the park entrance.
As it turned out, the couple had two extra tickets, and they wanted to give them to Encarnacion and her friend. It was a gesture that Encarnacion found touching, as she wrote in her post, quoting Oscar Wilde: “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intentions.”
Speaking to The Pride, she recalled the encounter: “After we entered the park, I eagerly asked them to take a photo with us. They were so approachable, and then we went our separate ways with joy and gratitude in our hearts.
“Later, when we bumped into them again in the park, they asked where we’re from and made small talk with us. It was a big birthday present for me, as it’s my first time meeting such good-hearted people like them.”
While Encarcion found herself lucky to have met kind strangers, Desy Kinasih shared about the sisterly relationship she has with a previous employer.
The 31-year-old Indonesian has lived and worked in Singapore for the past six years, first as a domestic helper, and now as a specialist live-in caregiver.
In a post published on Mar 10, she described a “happy Sunday” with her previous employer, where they met for a meal and caught up on each others’ lives.
She wrote: “Even though I’m not working for her anymore, we still keep in touch through WhatsApp messages, and we share everything that goes on in our daily activities.”
Speaking to The Pride, Kinasih explained that she had been tasked to look after her former employer’s mother in the four years that she worked for the family. In the third year, the elderly woman passed away.
She said: “After ahma passed away, there wasn’t much for me to do. But she let me finish my contract, and encouraged me to go for courses on Sundays in the hope that I can get a better job rather than being a domestic helper.”
During their catch-up, the previous employer treated Kinasih to a meal, and even gave her some beauty products as a present.
In her Facebook post, Kinasih’s gratitude to the woman whose kindness changed her life was apparent.
She wrote: “I’m truly blessed to have known her and her family. She treated me like part of the family, for that I couldn’t ask for more.”