‘I stay because they treat me not as a housemaid, but part of the family’
KUWAIT: The Filipino Clients Relations Officers (FILCRO) recently awarded three Filipina domestic helpers for dedication and loyalty to their work, their contribution to uplifting their families’ lives and for helping the Philippines’ economy. The awards were given during a Christmas party organized by FILCRO at Holiday Inn in Salmiya. “They deserve to be recognized for their hard work, dedication and commitment to their sworn duty. They were able to demonstrate perseverance and loyalty too and showed the world that not all stories of our fellow workers in Kuwait are sad,” said FILCRO President Maripol Abdullah.
“Two of the awardees have remained at their sponsors’ houses for almost 30 years and they deserve recognition. This is how we thank them for their hard work. One of them received 50,000 pesos (around KD 300) as a reward. We also consider the kind of service rendered and how they were able to make a positive impact on their families,” she stressed.
Aisha Husain started working as a domestic helper when clearing operations were being conducted after the 1990-1991 Gulf War by members of the coalition forces in Kuwait. Aisha, who hails from Basilan in the Philippines, was 13 when she entered Kuwait. Her employer had no idea of her real age since she was wearing a hijab and her face didn’t reveal her real age. “This was probably because I started working in my childhood – I was already helping my mother at the age of seven,” she said.
“My only dream was to help my mother and my family,” Aisha said. Her passport was altered so she could be allowed to enter Kuwait. She worked and stayed at her first employer for a year and requested a transfer as she felt exhausted. “Their house was really big with eight family members. I was the only housemaid at that time, so I asked for a transfer, and they allowed it,” she recalled.
When she arrived in Kuwait, she didn’t know what to do, with no training and no family to lean on. But her guiding principle was to take her family out of poverty. “Why did I stay this long? Because they treated me not as a housemaid but part of the family,” she said. “My employers never raised their voice against me when I committed mistakes. I was really touched by this gesture. They even warned the kids of consequences if I were disrespected,” she recalled.
When her employer needed another helper, Aisha’s brother joined her at her sponsor’s house as a houseboy. “My brother worked as a gardener and took care of the hard labor at the house of my employer. He stayed with me in the same house for six years. He left after he got married,” she said. Even though he left Kuwait many years ago, he still gets a KD 30 monthly allowance to help his family. “My boss told him it is the reward for the work done,” she said.
His brother also got a rickshaw from his boss in Kuwait. After his brother’s departure, she recommended hiring the brother of her sister-in-law. “From 2009 till now, he is with the family of my employer. In 2008, I also brought my mother from our place in Basilan – she is now with me working as a cook in the same house. Our driver is also our relative and has been working with our boss for 12 years now,” she said.
Aisha noted that her employer trusts her so much that she even withdraws cash from her employer’s ATM. “My Indian colleague has also worked with my boss for over 40 years and is still with them. She never attempted to leave the house and look for another opportunity because she is also very contented with the way we are being treated. My employer’s house is really heaven for us. I want to thank our sponsor for this treatment,” she said.
In 2015, Aisha decided to marry her longtime boyfriend in Manila. But the marriage did not last long and they separated, leaving her lonely and brokenhearted. She then requested her boss to take her back again, so in 2016, she returned to Kuwait. During her employment, she has visited London, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Tehran and several cities of Saudi Arabia with her boss. She is a proud domestic helper as she enjoys weekly days off, a free telephone and recharge provided by her employer and air tickets back home.
Cathy Hadcan has been working as a domestic helper for a Kuwaiti family for more than 15 years. “Since I arrived here as a housemaid, they have never changed. Their attitude is kind and I didn’t get any reason to leave them,” she told Kuwait Times. “What I need is a monthly salary for my family back home and good treatment – that’s it,” she said. Her employer had three more Filipina housemaids. “I was hired as a nanny to take care of their small kids,” she noted. “When the kids grew up, some of my colleagues left for good to get married. But I was already married, so I decided to stay,” she recalled.
Like other OFWs, Cathy decided to go abroad to look for a better future for her three kids. She hails from Cagayan Valley in Luzon but got married to a man from Capiz in Visayas. Her husband takes care of their children – 20, 14 and 12 years old. “My husband is doing everything. I have a day off but I don’t go out often because it is very expensive out there,” she said.
One of many acts of kindness Cathy got from her employer was during the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan. “When Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, one of the provinces devastated was our place in Capiz. My boss immediately sent a large amount of money so we could rebuild our destroyed house. I thought it was a loan, but my boss told me he doesn’t want to be repaid. I was really touched and I cried. I am really grateful,” she said. Cathy has traveled with her employers outside Kuwait. “Almost every other year they take me with them to other countries,” she said.
Zenaida Ramos started working as a domestic helper at the age of 24. She came to Kuwait in 1991, two months after the liberation. Since then, she never transferred to any other sponsor. “They are kindhearted employers. I have never had any problem with them. I brought my sister here to work along with me but she had to cut short her stay because she got married. She stayed for six years. They treat me as one of their children, so in return I respect them as my parents,” she said.
At 52, Zenaida is still single. She had a boyfriend but the man couldn’t wait and got married, leaving her heartbroken. “It was the most painful and devastating event in my life that took a lot of courage before I finally moved on,” she said. Zenaida said she is winding down her stay in Kuwait. “Maybe in a year or two I will finally leave Kuwait to attend to my personal life back home. I want to run my own business and I have the money to start it now,” she said. During her job as a housemaid, she has travelled around the world, including to London, US, Lebanon, Dubai and many more places.
By Ben Garcia