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More foreign domestic helpers taking courses on days off

Published on May 4, 2014 8:00 AM

For 30-year-old maid Jennifer Balucay, her weekly day off is not just for taking a break from cooking and cleaning.

The mother of an 11-year-old boy has forked out $100 in instalments over two months to attend a 10-part caregiver course run by the Catholic church.

The Filipina, who earns $500 a month, told The Sunday Times she hopes the skills could help her get a job in Canada, where the pay is higher. She is among a growing number of maids who are using their days off to learn new skills. Some pay on their own, while others are sponsored by their employers.

Local organisations which offer such courses say demand is rising after days off for maids were made compulsory last January.

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Background story


Starting a bakery in the Philippines had always been Ms Genneby Onilan's dream. Now, with a little kneading from her Dutch employer, the 37-year-old is one step closer.

The Filipina's employer, Madam Mieke De Rooij, has been footing the bill for her cooking classes for the last four years.

It began when she sent Ms Onilan for a course to learn Western recipes that were more suitable for the family's palate. But she later found that Ms Onilan had a flair for cooking. Spaghetti bolognese, in particular, is a family favourite. "After I tried Genneby's, I never order the dish at restaurants," she said.

Since then, the 43-year-old director of a design firm has paid about $2,000 for Ms Onilan to attend six courses - five at Western-style cooking school Expat Kitchen, and a Catholic-church run baking course which the maid is now attending.

"She has a talent for cooking, and such courses build on this talent," said Madam De Rooij. "It also improves her employability."

Ms Onilan, who has four children, said: "I am very thankful that (my employer) sends me for classes - what I learn in school, I can also make for the family.

"I am planning to start my own bakery, perhaps when my eldest son graduates from college in two years."

Audrey Tan