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‘Happy Homes’ inspires boss-helper harmony

08 October 2017

The employers, their helpers and their families share center stage after receiving awards. 

By Vir B. Lumicao

Tell young mother Karen Wong that her Filipina domestic helper is so lucky to have an employer like her, and she’d immediately respond by saying it’s she who is fortunate to have a maid like Leny.

The key to the harmonious relationship ostensibly lies in “mutual understanding, fair treatment and respect” between the employer and her worker.

“We don’t treat her as a helper, she is a family,” Wong groped for words as she tried to explain to The SUN the relationship between her family and the domestic worker who has been with them for close to two years.

The mother of two children, a boy about 8 years old and a 15-month-old girl; her husband, mother and Leny went on stage in full force as they received from Cynthia Abdon-Tellez a “Happy Homes Seal of Approval”, a token award for both employer and helper fulfilling the 10 criteria of a happy home.

The Happy Homes recognition ceremony highlighted the fun-filled 31st anniversary of Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge on Chater Road, Central on Sept 17.

The event began with a holy mass at 10am celebrated by Fr Dwight dela Torre of the Philippine Independent Church, followed by the opening of various health and wellness services tents on both sides of the avenue in Hong Kong’s Central District. 

Fifteen employer family-worker tandems who had successfully fulfilled the 10 criteria that made up a truly harmonious relationship were recognized for their “Happy Homes,” a newly launched project of the Mission for Migrant Workers.

“Employers are nominated by their workers as they fulfilled the 10 criteria of happy homes, (where) workers…agreed that they feel respect as a human being with dignity in the family,” Mission volunteer Johannie Yan said.

“Besides, they are allowed to voice out their opinions and they feel that the family has paid efforts to understand and accept cultural differences between two sides. Most importantly, their work as a domestic worker is recognized and appreciated.”

Wong, a stay-at-home employer, would have been the last choice of any domestic worker if she were like most of the ordinary stay-in bosses who watch every move of their maids, never run out of “do this, do that” orders, and spew out invectives such as “stupid”, “stubborn” and “crazy” to debase the helpers.

But Wong, like the 14 other nominees for the citation, is a rarity. “Leny does her work well. She is trustworthy. She takes good care of my children, she loves them,” she said.

The housewife admits there is a language barrier at home because she is not fluent in English, but she and her maid talk regularly, and she encourages the helper to discuss her personal problems with her.

“If she has problem she tells me, and I help her and I tell her to pray to God,” Wong said. 

To make the maid feel she is family, she has her own place at the dining table beside Wong’s baby daughter, where she eats the same food as the bosses.

She says she likes Leny because she goes to church.

“If a person goes to church, that means she is not bad,” Wong said, admitting that she herself used to go to church.

Another Happy Homes pair is that of Amy Zhang and Aida, who both say their employer-worker relationship is also based on trust and mutual respect.

Zhang says she is very satisfied with the performance of Aida, who she treats as a member of the family. In fact, it is Zhang who does the cooking for the household, including Aida.

“She is honest and very trustworthy. Because I work and I have two children, I can travel to other countries and I can trust her with the job…no problem with her at all.” said Zhang.

Aida, a diminutive woman in her 30s, says she has no complaint about her job and her employers because they are very kind.

“Happy ako talaga sa kanila. I’m happy. It’s not about money, it’s about the way they treat me.”

Nine other employer-worker tandems came to receive the Happy Homes Seal of Approval. They are worker Myra and employer Winnie Chan; Zenaida and Muthuswami; Melinda and Ms Chan; Edna (Lalay) and Emma/Ric; Bing and Lau Miu Yuen; Baneng and Natasha; Marina and Christoph; Annabelle and Eva Tang; and Eileen and Nicky.

Dean Matthias Der of the St John’s Cathedral, addressing the event before awarding the recognitions, said that despite a lot of negative news nowadays, “I also know we have many wonderful stories and those stories are happening everyday in your homes”.

“And even though this is only the first year, and we have 15 families to be recognized, it is my prayer that as this program proceeds to grow, there will be hundreds and thousands of happy homes in Hong Kong,” he said.

Tellez echoed the Dean’s wish, saying she hoped “in the next…, future handing out of this seal of approval, we should have hundreds of thousands more.”

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