The first ever Sassy Mama Helper Awards were a huge success! Here’s a recap of our wonderful event, along with all the winning nominations.
Last Saturday, October 1, was the culmination of months of hard work and coordination in putting together our first ever Sassy Mama Helper Awards. We ultimately received over 325 outstanding nominations – seriously, mamas, each and every one was so moving – and the party was a fabulous way to celebrate so many of the women that had thoughtfully been nominated by their employers.
In reading through the nominations, judges from Sassy Mama, AIDHA, AWARE and HOME were given a glimpse in to the amazing, heart-warming bonds that so many families in Singapore have formed with their helpers. Read on for just a small taste of some of the lovely quotes we came across as we read through the nominations:
“Sure, having a helper means you have someone to watch your children while you are at work. But what she does is more than that. She gives me peace of mind. I know that in her care my children are being loved, cared for and disciplined.”
“She is everything we are not – structured, soft spoken, calm, organised, master in getting the kids not to fight, to eat their food, to do their homework, and all without even raising her voice!”
“She fills up my children’s emotional bank account by hugging and kissing them regularly so that they grow up to be confident children.”
“With a 5-year-old of her own back in the Philippines, I know how hard it must be for her to work every day for another family, but she treats us and our little girl like family. She IS our family.”
“There are no newspaper-worthy heroic acts to recount, only everyday moments that show consistently the other-person centred decisions she makes – on behalf of my children, for her family, and for anyone who crosses her path.”
“Living on the opposite side of the world from family is not always easy, but she is like the sister I have always been missing. I constantly feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the laughter, happiness, knowledge, and peace she creates in our home.”
“My husband and I constantly marvel at her ability to not only care for our children but be the “house ninja!” The laundry is always done, she cooks healthy food for us and our children are happy.”
“It’s tricky writing this as she has never saved my life, or my child’s or made a birthday cake in the shape of Marina Bay Sands or surprised us with home made clothes or anything big like that. What makes her so special is all the little things she does, which some could take for granted or not notice.”
“She is protector of and confidante to my five and two year old everyday. Although today she was mostly a dinosaur chasing a baby horse and a pet rabbit around the house!”
“I have two loves of my life: My husband and my Helper.”
In total we had nearly 300 people in attendance for our party at The Pantry, which proved the perfect space for mingling, delicious food, and lots of fun and games for the many children in attendance (the pop-up playground from Chapter Zero and the music from Play with Mozart were both big hits!). We had some issues with a wonky microphone but don’t worry — we’ve included all of the winning nominations below so everyone can see how outstanding each of our winners are. Definitely be sure to check out our Facebook photo albums from Littleones Photography, and let them know in the comments if you’d like a high res version of any of the photos!
If you nominated your helper, mama, and want to give her her certificate: they can be picked up anytime throughout the month of October at Trehaus, 442 Orchard Road, #03-01 Claymore Connect, SG 238879.
As we mentioned in our Facebook album of all the winners, we were so blown away by the nominations that we ultimately presented 10 awards instead of the originally planned four. Among these were four “special recognition” awards for women whose stories perhaps didn’t fit with a specific category, but still made a huge impact on all the judges. Pictured above is Penina “Penny” Quito, who has worked for the same family for 33 years, and had three generations and seven people in attendance to support her. Be sure to check out the heartwarming nomination from one of her former charges, Juliana Chan Drum, below!
Indeed the best part of the awards was getting to see the special relationships that so many helpers have with their employers and their families in Singapore, and being able to publicly recognize the extraordinary work done – and sacrifices made – by helpers. With a lot of negative coverage out there, we were so happy to celebrate the positives (and we were thrilled that The Straits Times interviewed our “Helper of the Year” winner, Erlinda Melchor, and her employers, Clem Cull and Amy Eckhoff!).
These awards would not have been possible without the time and effort that so many employers put into nominating their helpers, and we were blown away by the enthusiastic response that we received off the bat. We are equally grateful to our generous sponsors, who contributed both to gift bags, and to our grand prizes, including Sudio Sweden, Sophie @ Wild for Flowers, Expat Hair Studio, The Lens Men, Guardian, A Helping Hand, Carrotsticks and Cravings, Health and Vitality, White Frangipani Photography and A Better Florist.
In short, a huge thank you to everyone who made our first Helper Awards such a success: the nominators, the judges, the sponsors, and above all else, the wonderful helpers that we want to celebrate and recognize. We are already planning next year’s event so stay tuned, mamas, although we have a pretty good hunch that you won’t wait a year to praise your helpers.
The Winning Nominations
Employer: Elise Molenaar-Kristiansen
Our family would like to nominate our helper Jonna. It is difficult to choose one of the categories as she is taking care of our dog, our three children and she cooks. However, what is most special about Jonna is her perseverance. She had a very rough start in Singapore, working with a family who physically and mentally abused her. She jumped out of a window and ran away and was helped by HOME. We are very very proud of her, as she did so well for herself. She went all the way through with her criminal court case, which took many years and we even started a civil case against her former employer. She was a very shy and traumatised person and now gives interviews to the Straits Times and will even be on TV because her court case. In the meantime she runs our household smoothly and is very caring for our children. She learnt how to cook and bake, she greatly improved her English and she knows how to work on a computer. She started going to school with Aidha and it gives her great pleasure. Now that the legal proceedings are settled, she has big plans for a future on Ilo Ilo, where she is from. She is a great advocate for changing the laws in Singapore for Migrant workers and we are so proud that she looked further than only her own interest but wanted to push through with the court case so that her case will be registered and used in future court cases.
2. Anita Dela Cruz Baltazar
Employer: Jessica Fayers
Every helper in Singapore makes a huge sacrifice to be here, and by enabling both parents to work makes it possible for many of us to be here. However, we believe that Anita especially deserves to win this top prize for a number of specific reasons. First, when it comes to teaching about caring and compassion she leads by example – not only does she show our children nothing but love and patience, on her days off Anita also does voluntary work at Singapore’s Institute of Mental Health (IMH), and invites our daughters (and us) to participate in some of the events that she is involved with through her volunteer work and through the wider Filipino community. Second, she goes far, far beyond merely ‘supporting’ our children – she positively contributes to their interest in different cultures by sharing her own culture through songs and language. Third, whenever we are away from Singapore or Anita is in the Philippines we keep in touch by Skype just like with all our family members. This is not a case of ‘Anita’ and ‘us’ – the five of us are a team!
3. Plana Janice Seva
Employer: Miruna Ranjan
There are so many reasons why Janice deserves to receive this amazing award. Getting the award will be a recognition of her unwavering commitment to our family, and numerous sacrifices she has made to provide for her own family. A trained nurse, Janice started working for my mother-in-law to care for my late ailing father-in-law (FIL). Janice was proactive, attentive, patient and most of all kind, treating him just like the daughter he never had (he has 3 sons). Because of Janice, we had peace of mind, we knew he was in safe hands. It was no mean feat, but she did it, without grudge nor complaint. Always smiling. Soon after FIL passed on, I found myself pregnant with my first child. Janice shared my excitement just like a sister would. She almost immediately offered to look after baby as I decided to go back to work. Simply put, there is no one else I trust more to look after my daughter. Janice has raised my now 2.5 year old into a healthy, active and well-spoken toddler. Janice is a special part of our family and we love her.
4. Penina Bau Quito
Nominated by Juliana Chan Drum
Have you ever met a domestic helper who has worked for 33 years in Singapore, the entire time for the same family? Meet Ms Penina Bau Quito, known as Penny by those close to her. This angel sent from above arrived at my humble East Coast Road apartment on 4 August 1983, the very day I was born. My parents had engaged Penny to look after me and my older sister, then 18-months-old. Forgoing marriage and personal luxuries, Penny’s lifetime sacrifice paid for the college fees of more than ten nieces and nephews. Now 56, Penny has mentored hundreds of Filipinas who seek her counsel. As my nanny, “Mama Penny” supported me through 33 years of sickness and health, heartache and happiness. I have moved away, but Penny’s legacy continues with my two children, who visit every weekend. Penny feeds, bathes, plays and sleeps with my two-year-old daughter Heather, who loves her “Lola” (Tagalog for grandmother) incredibly. Children have a special place in Penny’s gigantic heart—from me and my sister to my kids, Penny has loved us all.
Childcare (3 winners)
Employer: Niamh Daniels
Vicky has lived with our family for over 4 years. She began to work with our family when we moved to HK in July 2012. I have 3 daughters and the youngest daughter Essie has Down Syndrome. Essie was 11 months when Vicky and Essie first met and they have developed the most wonderful relationship. Vicky has always interacted with Essie beautifully – they have a wonderful bond but more than that Vicky has gone over and above, from learning Makaton signing along with the rest of the family, to implementing advice given by speech therapists to not letting her get away with things just because thinks she can! We relocated back to Singapore two months ago and when Vicky agreed to come with us we were so delighted. Vicky had family members in HK but has chosen to come with us. She deserves recognition for how truly fabulous she has been in helping develop Essie’s full potential. She is amazing full stop, but knowing we have Vicky as an extra pair of hands with Essie has been a blessing to our family.
Betty C. Lumawig
Employer: Sheera Conway
As a full-time working mum with a husband who’s constantly traveling, we are so lucky to have Betty look after our 16 months old toddler and our cat, Bob. Betty goes to school on Sundays to improve her knowledge on childcare, nursing and first-aid. On top of that, she’s constantly reading and looking up courses to attend to be a better nanny to Aidan. She has attended Chapter Zero’s competent nanny course, studied Janet Lansbury and Magda Gerber’s books, and practices and models respectful caregiving at home and out. Her recent obsession is Reggio Emillio and Loose Part Play!
Our house looks like a junkyard with her recycled toys project going on but it puts such a big smile on Aidan’s face when he sees a recycled broomstick made out of bubble wrap and a old broomstick. She organizes playdates with other helpers but also discuss his routines and schedules with me every week. A trusted grocery shopper, not a week goes by where I need to worry about money because she budgets well and cooks well and healthy for the family. Not only does she respect our toddler, she also respects our home by never bringing any drama home. She is the best gift we could ever give to our son – a full time nanny who is involved, interested and attached. I can say so much more but in short, Betty is so freaking amazing. We truly can’t live without her!
Margaretha Ninda Kii Petrus
Employer: Natalie Vander Vorst
Retha is a second parent to my 3-year old daughter. I wouldn’t be able to work and support my daughter Alexandra without her. My husband passed away last year. Retha provides more than just full-time childcare of any good helper in Singapore (which I couldn’t afford in the U.S.). She goes beyond – she’s my right-hand man and handyman around the house, works early morning to late night, even proactively pitches in on many Sunday mornings if she sees I need help. Retha stimulates my daughter’s learning through books, music, and takes Alexandra for outdoor adventures. And still somehow manages to keep our home spotless. I completely trust Retha to care for Alexandra while I work long hours most weeks and travel for work. She goes as a ‘parent’ to school events when I am working, so that Alexandra doesn’t feel alone. Most importantly, Retha loves my daughter as her own, making Alexandra feel she has the love of two people at home. When her teachers ask the kids what makes them happy, they all say “Mummy and Daddy.” Alexandra says “Mommy and Retha”, and it makes me so relieved to know she feels that love and support in her life.
Master Chef Award
Liezl Basa Real
Employer: Nathalie Ricaud
Liezl came to us with a good knowledge of Filipino and Chinese food and was very quick to learn Western recipes, at first taught by myself then independently through cooking books. Over the 10 years she’s spent with us, she has learned to cook not only French, Italian, Spanish and American food but also Japanese, Indian, Thai and Vietnamese. This includes hearty dishes as well as refined dishes that are really restaurant quality, in meals as diverse as Vietnamese spring rolls, Italian meatballs, Moroccan tagines, Spanish paellas or French duck confit to name a few. But not only does her food taste great, it’s always presented to a high standard and often showing great creativity. She’s also an enthusiastic baker and belongs to several cooking groups in Facebook. We’re very fortunate to eat varied and healthy meals cooked from scratch and we owe it to Liezl. Her dream is to open a café when she returns home for good to further pursue her passion for cooking and we believe that she has all it takes to succeed.
Pet Lover Award
Janaki Pathma Rankothgadara
Employer: Lou Searle
Janaki has been the most incredible woman with our 7-year-old French Bulldog. She came to our home just over a year ago, quite frightened of dogs, and Frenchies are known for being awfully stubborn and extremely difficult to walk. We even had a trainer come to our home before Janaki started to help with walking issues… without much success. However it didn’t take long for her to fall in love with our baby (this was truly reciprocated back. We were totally amazed). My dog, who is named ‘Small Thing’, sleeps in Janaki’s bedroom, on the floor in her little bed. Janaki chatters away to her constantly, sometimes in Sinhala. They enjoy watching Hindi movies together and we even joke to her that Small Thing has developed the Sri Lankan head wobble. We travel extensively for work and it is the first time in 6 years that we feel completely confident and relaxed that she loves our baby the same as we do. She even cleans her face each morning with a flannel (chatting away to her the entire time about keeping her face clean — she is a real talker). It was a big adjustment for Janaki to accept our dog as our baby. Being familiar with Sri Lankan culture, due to my work there, it is not culturally common for dogs to be treated like the princess she is. But she has taken her role as babysitter to sometimes a hilarious, yet caring and loving extreme. We are truly grateful to her and hope that she can be recognised for her devotion. And for making our life guilt free and stress free.
Helper of the Year
Erlinda Jones Melchor
Employer: Clem Cull
We would like to nominate our helper, Erlinda due to the fact that she has been nothing but a godsend over the last four years. Upon joining is in 2012 I was diagnosed with Head and Neck Cancer, stage 3. This was challenging as we had a 2-month-old baby girl. I was required to undergo treatment of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in Singapore. At the time Erlinda not only ran the house but researched Head and Neck cancer so was preparing meals / drinks /supplements which helped fight the disease. In April 2013 I went into remission. Unfortunately in April 2016 I was re-diagnosed and things were a little more serious as it was staged at 4. I was given a year to live. Like us Erlinda, while upset again, carried out extensive research and meals / drinks were prepared with the aim of fighting the disease. We also had numerous family visitors and her ability to prepare meals / keep the house spotless were second to none. On this basis we would like to nominate Erlinda due to the amazing work she has done and is doing. She is absolutely a key part of our family and her ability to keep calm in tough situations is incredibly helpful. Finally, treatment so far is working. My tumours have shrunk so hopefully things keep tracking in this positive way.
All photos courtesy of Littleones Photography.