She just wants to keep on helping others

Maid who takes care of stroke victim like one of her own family wins AWWA award

Tomorrow, for the first time in five years, Ms Easwari Shellaiah (photo) will return to her home village, a night's journey from the southern Indian city of Chennai, for a month.

She wants to help her younger siblings care for her mother, who has heart problems.

But the 47-year-old maid worries about leaving her employer, Madam Kalaiselvi, 53, who suffered a stroke in 2011 and has to use a wheelchair.

"Both are my family. Here, I do everything for my 'sister'," said Ms Easwari, referring to her employer. Her dedication won her a merit award plaque yesterday - social service provider AWWA chose her as its model caregiving domestic helper of the year.

Ms Easwari was nominated by AWWA's daycare supervisor, Madam Parvathe, who first noticed the Indian national's diligence, helpfulness and cheerful attitude in taking care of Madam Kalaiselvi.

Madam Parvathe said: "Easwari really cares for her employer. She would ask the therapists what she can do to help her employer get better... She would also help out the other elderly at the centre... Everyone likes her."

As her widowed employer's sole caregiver, Ms Easwari is in charge of feeding her, helping her to the toilet and taking her to AWWA Readycare Centre thrice a week.

Ms Easwari, who is 53kg, also has to carry her 76kg employer from the bed to the wheelchair.

She talks to Madam Kalaiselvi every day to cheer her up. "When you tell others to be happy, you also become happy," she said.

In 2011, Ms Easwari started working for Madam Kalaiselvi, who has a son doing national service, after her employer had a stroke. At home, the two women share a room. The family rents out a room, which helps pay for Ms Easwari's $400 monthly salary.

Ms Easwari, whose father died when she was 12, started helping out at one of Mother Teresa's charities in Chennai at the age of 14. She came here in 1986 to work at Swami Home, a voluntary welfare organisation in Sembawang, where she helped out for 10 years before moving to another employer.

"I just want to keep on giving and helping others," she said. "I am happiest when I feel that I have helped others live better."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 25, 2015, with the headline 'She just wants to keep on helping others'. Print Edition | Subscribe