Your Letters

Treating maids as family benefits everyone

Madam Luzviminda Baraquel's reunion with the Lim family reminds me of an ethos that was once common ("Maid's sweet reunion with family nearly 30 years later"; last Sunday).

Majie were single women from the Guangdong province of China who dedicated themselves to serving as domestic helpers in the past. With their black-and-white samfu outfits, they were much beloved and trusted by their employers in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Not unlike our domestic helpers, they lived with their employers and worked long hours.

Many were commonly treated as a trusted member of the family, and lived with their employers until they retired or passed on.

To them their employers entrusted their children, and many of their charges grew to be deeply fond of them.

Unfortunately, that vocation has long faded away, and the close-knit bond between the domestic helpers and their employer families became a thing of the past.

Today, we are appalled by news reports of physical and emotional abuse of domestic helpers. Some domestic helpers also abuse and mistreat their charges.

It is not easy to determine cause and effect. But there is enough evidence in the old majie system to show that where domestic helpers are treated well and trusted, kindness does breed kindness.

There are many wonderful stories of "family reunions" that are very heartwarming. Like the Baraquel-Lim story, there is so much human warmth generated by loving, trusting and caring relationships.

So will we ever go back to the days of the majie, where the responsibility of bringing up a child is shared to the best of their ability by both employer and employee?

I can only hope so.

The Lims have shown that to love our domestic helpers as our own and welcome them into our family with trust and respect is beneficial to all.

With genuine love, trust and respect given to these hard-working domestic helpers, maybe one day, the wonderful story of Madam Baraquel and the Lim family will become the norm again, and not just a heartwarming exception.

William Wan (Dr)

General Secretary

Singapore Kindness Movement

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 13, 2016, with the headline 'Treating maids as family benefits everyone'. Subscribe