When Ms Marny C. Pera first arrived in Singapore from the Philippines 28 years ago, it was not an agent who was at the airport to meet her but her employer's family.
Then, four years into her stay, her employer, Madam Yap Sock Hoe, 65, loaned her money to purchase a piece of farmland worth around $10,000.
She also helped Ms Pera's son to find a job as a therapist here, and when he got married, the ceremony was held in the function room at Madam Yap's condominium.
To thank her, Ms Pera nominated the retired teacher for an annual award for employers organised by the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast) and Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore).
Yesterday, Madam Yap received the top honour, the Foreign Domestic Worker Employer of the Year award. Her son, Mr Ling Wei Hong, 34, was there to receive it on her behalf as she was travelling.
"It's the small things that mean a lot," said Ms Pera, 58, who is still a domestic helper for the family. "From the first time I went to their house, the whole family said 'please' and 'thank you' to me. It shows they are such warm and good people."
Mr Ling said the award is an "affirmation" for Ms Pera, adding: "If we didn't feel she was a family member to us, we wouldn't be able to work together for so long."
The awards were part of the sixth Foreign Domestic Worker Day, attended by 6,000 maids and employers at Singapore Polytechnic. Outstanding domestic helpers were also presented with awards.
Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan acknowledged the strength and sacrifices of domestic helpers.
"Foreign domestic workers help us to juggle our careers and family commitments, and give Singaporeans more time to pursue our hobbies and passions," he said in a speech thanking them.
Mr Tan also said mutual respect and communication are important in building successful working relationships. Preliminary results from a Manpower Ministry survey of about 1,000 domestic helpers found around 97 per cent were satisfied working here. About four in five would recommend working in Singapore to their friends and relatives. The full survey results will be released early next year.
Fast also announced the launch of a mediation service next year for maids and employers.
The organisation celebrated its 10th anniversary at the event. It runs a helpline and clubhouse for domestic workers, provides avenues for legal aid and has conducted subsidised training for more than 66,000 maids.