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Dear Ma’am: A Foreign Domestic Worker’s Open Letter to Her Employer

ExpertsPost Category - ExpertsExpertsFamily LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily Life - Post Category - Domestic HelpersDomestic Helpers

“We are human beings like you. Some employers forget that. I hope that I will have an adequate place to sleep. Proper food to eat. I hope you will not confiscate my phone and forbid me from talking to others.”

Bhing has been a helper in Singapore for over 27 years. Here she writes an open letter on behalf of all those who do not have a voice as foreign domestic workers. It’s worth a read and while you are here do consider joining our Helper Appreciation effort for 2023 and fill in this 3-minute survey before 6 June 2023 led by Bhing to help foreign domestic workers with employer hiring transparency.

Dear Employer,

Good day to you, Sir/Madam/Ma’am. Please let me know how you want me to address you. I am your new domestic worker. As you know, I came from a country that is very different from yours, and your culture. The food here is new to me also. But I will do my best to adjust.

This is my first time leaving my country. I left my family to work here in Singapore because I need a stable job to provide for my children. It was not easy doing that, but for us, it is a choice that we need to make. I know that I will struggle at first because I have salary deductions for 6 months.

I remember what my agent told me before I left. She said I should be very careful in everything I do. Obey my employers all the time. Do not talk back to my employers. Do not complain about work, because I came here to work. Be nice to everybody in the house. And work hard so that, you, my employers, will be happy.

As your domestic worker, I want you to know that I can do all those things that my agent told me. Even if she had not reminded me of it, I would be good to you and to your family. I will do my best in my job so everybody will be happy. Because that’s how I was brought up. Isn’t that the default attitude of a person – to be nice? But I hope that you, as my employer, will understand me too. I hope that you will be interested in getting to know me, where I came from, why I applied for a job here. Ask me if I have kids, and how I cope in leaving my family back home. And whether I feel homesick.

Getting to know each other is the best way to build a good employer-domestic worker relationship. Understanding where I came from will give you an easy feeling in communicating with me. And that is very effective since I will be staying in your house.

Sir and ma’am, I heard about abuse cases of domestic workers. I read it in newspapers and heard it from friends working abroad. It’s horrifying! I was worried and frightened, that it may happen to me. I hope and pray that you are not like that. You need to remember that you are not hiring a robot. And we, domestic workers are not commodities. We are human beings like you. Sometimes, some employers forget that. I hope that I will have an adequate place to sleep. Proper food to eat. I hope you will not confiscate my phone, like some employers and agencies do, or forbid me from talking to others. As you know, I am away from my family. Communication is very important to me. Hearing my family’s voices will give me strength. You would feel the same way if you were away from your family, right? Would you like your boss to confiscate your phone too when you go to work?

Sir/Ma’am, we domestic workers are not 12 years old and don’t like to be treated like we are. I hope that when we encounter problems in the future, we can talk about it. I believe that communication resolves everything.

Sir/Ma’am, I know hiring a domestic worker is easy, but getting along is another thing. I hope that we will have a good relationship in the future. I want my job to last. Rest assured that I will do my best to get along with everyone in the family. I will not break your trust. And I hope that you will treat me with kindness too.

Respectfully yours,

Your Domestic Worker

Bhing has been a domestic worker in Singapore for 22 years. On her day off, Bhing volunteers at the helpdesk of HOME, giving advice to fellow domestic workers when they have trouble with their work. Unlike many others, Bhing has had good employers throughout her time working in Singapore, however through her work at HOME, she has witnessed other helpers’ struggles with their employers. Bhing writes this open letter on behalf of all those who do not have a voice as foreign domestic workers in Singapore.

Read More:
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Lead image sourced via HOME First written in 2017 and updated in 2023

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