Outstanding foreign domestic workers and employers recognised at annual awards

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The new Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast) All-FDW band performs during the 8th Foreign Domestic Worker Day. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
The packed auditorium at Singapore Polytechnic celebrating the 8th Foreign Domestic Worker Day. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Rani Naeli, a singer from Indonesia, performing at the 8th Foreign Domestic Worker Day on Oct 15, 2017. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Most employers focus on what their foreign domestic workers are to achieve daily, such as cleaning the house, feeding the children and cooking meals.

But business development director Ng Bee Bee, 46, believes in setting and realising long-term goals for Ms Jocylen Abella, 45, her foreign domestic worker of 12 years.

So, on top of bonuses and sponsored annual holidays, Madam Ng has been paying for the private school education of Ms Abella's 17-year-old daughter in Manila, and even encouraging her helper to invest in property.

"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.

"Long term planning is very important: you have to think of her retirement plan," said Madam Ng, who has also invited Ms Abella's daughter to join them in Singapore on holiday.

On Sunday (Oct 15), Madam Ng was given the top honour - the Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW) Employer of the Year award - at the 8th Foreign Domestic Worker Day, held at the Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre.

The Foreign Domestic Worker Day is organised by the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast) and the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore).

Madam Ng was one of three employers and eight foreign domestic workers who received awards at the event. Her son Chong Yong Rui collected the award on her behalf as she was travelling.

On her approach towards managing her relationship with Ms Abella, Madam Ng said it is important to maintain open communication to cultivate a happy relationship.

"(Ms Abella's) 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," she added.

Ms Abella, 45, described her employer as a very kind person who treats her like family.

"Every time I go back to the Philippines, they (Madam Ng's family) give my family gifts too," she added.

The Foreign Domestic Worker of the Year award, which comes with a cash prize of $2,000, went to Jayawardena Mudiyanselage Sittamma Jayawardena, who had been working for the same employer for 20 years.

(From left) Ms Ho Hui Min, Ms Irene Chua, Jayawardena Mudiyanselage Sittamma Jayawardena, and Ms Corinne Chua at the 8th Foreign Domestic Worker Day. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
The Foreign Domestic Worker of the Year award, went to Jayawardena Mudiyanselage Sittamma Jayawardena, who had been working for the same employer for 20 years.

On top of household chores, the 60-year-old Sri Lankan cared for her employer's bedridden wife from 1997 till the latter's death in 2016.

She would bathe her, change her diapers, feed her every few hours through a nose tube, administer medication, and even take the initiative to cut her hair.

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

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The event on Sunday drew more than 7,000 people this year, including foreign domestic workers and their employers.

The annual competition saw more than four times the number of entries compared to last year. Most of the entries - 341 of 442 - 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 winning employers received certificates.

The judges this year were Ms Kumeri Vengadasalam, senior manager in the planning and development department at the Ministry of Manpower's Foreign Manpower Management Division; Ms Alexandra Chua, assistant manager of caregiver training development at the Agency for Integrated Care; and Mr Ivan Ng, manager of Econ Careskill Training Centre.

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.

Fast president Seah Seng Choon said: "The objective of recognising the good work of employers and domestic helpers is to show them up as models for others to follow. We would like the numbers to continue to grow over the years."

At the event, Mr Seah also announced plans to look for a bigger space for the Fast clubhouse over the next two years, given the "huge crowds" - about 400 foreign domestic workers every Sunday - that have been flocking to the the existing 7,000 sq ft premises in Jalan Bukit Merah.

Said Mr Seah: "This (new) place should have classrooms, a sizeable function hall and an open space for outdoor activities. For greater efficiency, we are also exploring the possibility of co-locating the clubhouse with a dormitory service provider if the space allows.

"If we can secure a place like this, we will also team up with appropriate service providers, including our existing training providers, to run all training courses and conduct orientation and induction programmes for new FDWs, offer remittance and courier services and at the same time provide clubhouse facilities at the same place."

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The club has also formed a Fast All-FDW Band, comprising members from the Philippines and Indonesia, who will perform at the clubhouse's various events.

Sunday's event was attended by Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say. It featured singing and dance performances by the winners of the We Got Talent... III competition for foreign domestic workers, as well as numbers by celebrities from Philippines, Indonesia, and Myanmar.

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