My first name means water, I am like the water that brings life to others

Who are you?

I am a 38 years old Indonesian woman. My first name means water in my language and according to my father ‘I am like the water that brings life to others’.

 I have three brothers and three sisters, no children. But I love children so much!  My parents both passed away a long time ago. They were teachers and also had a small business.

Why did you decide to become a migrant domestic worker?

I moved to Singapore 17 years ago to work as a domestic worker because of my ex-husband. He turned my life totally upside down as he contracted of lot of debts on my behalf. I am a trustworthy person, so friends and family members lent him money easily only to realize later that I had no idea about it! We are now officially divorced but he doesn’t recognize it so it’s very difficult for me to go back home.

How did your financial situation evolve over time?

I did all the paperwork by myself in Indonesia to come to work in Singapore, but my employers hired me through an agency so the first 6 months after my arrival I had to repay them the placement fee and I got only 30 $SGD per month (about 22 $USD).

Then I had to repay my debts and after that I have been supporting 4 families. Two of them are my sisters’ families and the other ones are my friends.

My biggest investment was a fish farm in Indonesia that I started with a friend, but he cheated me and kept all for himself (my name had been misspelled on the official property document and he replaced it with his name). There is a lot of corruption in Indonesia so there is no point in trying to sue him.

I’ve also been helping other friends. One of my friends in Indonesia was half way through her studies but her father fell sick and could not support her anymore. I knew her father had sold everything he had for her, so I really pitied her and helped her finish her studies. She promised she would return the money, but she didn’t yet even though I heard she has a good job now in Singapore.

Honestly, it’s hard for me to save money. Many of my friends are in need. One of my nephews has a good job now so I have one less family to support and I will try to save more.

Can you tell us about your life as a migrant domestic worker? What do you like/ don’t like about your employers?

 What I like the most is taking care of babies and watching them growing up.
What I don’t like is hanging clothes outside with bamboo sticks, it’s very heavy sometimes.

My employers are very kind that’s why I stayed with them for the entire 17 years. I am grateful that they give me time to pray during the day because my religion is important to me and I feel peaceful after praying. I like that they treat me as a family member, talk to me politely and also that I am free to go where I want once my job is done. I appreciate their trust.

 My boss and I enjoy cooking but I don’t dare tell her that hosting 150 people for dinner twice a month is too much  work for the two of us. It’s hard to clean all the kitchen pots and dishes because they are very heavy. She tells me to rest but how can you rest when your boss is working?

What is your favourite activity on a day off?

My favourite activity on Sunday is community volunteer work.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of myself when someone I help manages to change their life.

Happiness is…

Happiness is when I can help desperate people and bring smiles into their lives.

What are you dreams and hopes for the future?

My dream now is to buy land and start a business. A place where people can spend time together fishing.

 Interviewed in October 2017 and edited by Marie Kretz Di Meglio

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