Maids get recognised for their good work

The Foreign Domestic Worker of the Year award went to Ms Jayawardena Mudiyanselage Sittamma Jayawardena, seen here with members of the Chua family: (from left) student Ho Hui Min, 16; her mother Irene Chua, 47, a teacher; and Ms Corinne Chua, 42, a l
The Foreign Domestic Worker of the Year award went to Ms Jayawardena Mudiyanselage Sittamma Jayawardena, seen here with members of the Chua family: (from left) student Ho Hui Min, 16; her mother Irene Chua, 47, a teacher; and Ms Corinne Chua, 42, a lecturer.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

8 helpers and 3 employers receive awards at annual Foreign Domestic Worker Day

Most employers focus on what they want their foreign domestic workers to achieve daily, such as cleaning the home, feeding the children or cooking meals.

But business development director Ng Bee Bee, 46, believes in helping Ms Jocylen Abella, 45, think about her long-term future.

Madam Ng, who has been Ms Abella's employer for 12 years, nominated her for the Foreign Domestic Worker of the Year award but ended up winning the Foreign Domestic Worker Employer of the Year award herself yesterday.

On top of bonuses and sponsored annual holidays, Madam Ng has spent about $6,000 so far on the private school education of Ms Abella's 17-year-old daughter in Manila, and has even encouraged her helper to invest in property.

Madam Ng told The Straits Times: "Her happiness rests so much on her daughter's future. One day she might have to go back to the Philippines, and her daughter will have to take care of her."

Ms Abella has only one child. With encouragement from Madam Ng, she also started to save money for herself.

Madam Ng added: "I explained that her priorities are to ensure the safety and well-being of my three children. Also, over the years, we have developed this sense of trust. If she needs help financially, she can approach me."

MUTUAL TRUST

I explained that her priorities are to ensure the safety and well-being of my three children. Also, over the years, we have developed this sense of trust. If she needs help financially, she can approach me.

MADAM NG BEE BEE, on her maid Jocylen Abella, who has worked for her for 12 years.

She was one of three employers and eight foreign domestic workers who received awards for their outstanding contributions at the 8th Foreign Domestic Worker Day, held at the Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre. Her son Chong Yong Rui, 17, collected the award on her behalf as she was travelling.

Ms Abella said of her employer: "She is very kind and treats me like family. Every time I go back to the Philippines, they (Madam Ng's family) give my family gifts too."

The Foreign Domestic Worker of the Year award, which comes with a cash prize of $2,000, went to Ms Jayawardena Mudiyanselage Sittamma Jayawardena.

On top of household chores, the 60-year-old Sri Lankan cared for her employer's bedridden wife from 1997 till her death last year. She would bathe the woman, change her diapers and urine catheter, feed her every few hours through a nose tube, administer medication, and even take the initiative to groom her with a haircut.

Said her employer Chua Choo Hock, 76, who is retired: "The family is always thankful and appreciative of her dedication to my wife and our family... She has become more of a family member to us now after so many years."

Ms Jayawardena intends to save part of her cash prize, and give the rest to her 100-year-old mother who lives in Sri Lanka.

Foreign Domestic Worker Day, organised by the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast) and the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore), drew more than 7,000 people this year who watched stage performances and took part in activities such as lucky draws.

The annual competition saw more than four times as many entries compared with last year. Of the 442 entries, 341 were for the foreign domestic worker category.

The first and second runners-up in the foreign domestic worker category took home $1,500 and $1,000 respectively, while the five merit winners each received $500. The employers received certificates.

Since its inception in 2005, Fast has provided subsidised training programmes for about 25,000 foreign domestic workers every year. It also runs a helpline and clubhouse for domestic workers and provides avenues for legal aid.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2017, with the headline 'Maids get recognised for their good work'. Print Edition | Subscribe