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Filcom volunteer among first FDHs to enlist for free Covid-19 test

25 August 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

 
Inside the testing room at the Harbour Sports Centre in Wanchai (photo by Baby Jean de Leon)
The voluntary testing for Covid-19 of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong who are about to move in with their new employers started today, Aug 25,  at the Harbour Sports Centre in Wanchai, with about 50 participants initially taking part.

The offer was extended by the Labour Department to all qualified FDHs on Sunday, after a series of coronavirus outbreaks in dormitories and boarding houses where helpers in-between jobs were staying.

Among those who queued up for the deep-throat and nasal swab tests was Baby Jean de Leon, one of the administrators of the online group, Domestic Workers Corner.
De Leon, 49, who is about to move in with her new employers in Fanling, was among the 15 FDHs given the 2pm time slot for today’s testing. She booked her appointment yesterday, on the first day that the phone-in registration for the tests was made available.

She said there was another group of 15 before them, and at least one other after them, with the testing of each group being done at 30-minute intervals.

Asked how it was like, De Leon said with a laugh: “Masakit, lalo na yung nose swab kasi ang haba ng pinapasok, tapos iniikot pa sa dulo.” (It hurt, especially the nose swab because the probe was long, and was even made to turn right at the end)
 
Baby Jean says she welcomed the free test for her own peace of mind, and that of her employer
She said her new employer had requested that she get herself tested, which was apparently the same reason why there were many others in the queue with her.

“Pero ok din naman kasi frontliner din ako, at gusto ko ding masiguro na safe ako,” said De Leon, who has spent many weekends distributing food donations and free masks to Filipino DHs stranded in Hong Kong because of the pandemic.
(But it’s ok, because I am also a frontliner, and I also want to make sure I am safe).
The donations, sourced from members and supporters of DWC, are distributed to FDHs who ask for help because of their dwindling resources, and inability to return home because of flight cancellations and travel restrictions.

De Leon is in the best position to understand their plight, as she has been stuck in Hong Kong for the past three months, while waiting for her new employment visa to be approved by Hong Kong Immigration.

Though she has worked as an OFW for the past 23 years in both the Middle East and Hong Kong, De Leon said that after spending only four months with her previous employers in Tai Wai, she already wanted to quit.


But she lasted another three months at the request of her employer, who, in turn, agreed to state in his release letter that the termination of their contract was by mutual agreement.

In truth, De Leon said she suffered through those seven months from verbal abuse, insufficient food and inhumane living conditions.

“Yung tinutulugan ko parang nitso, talagang kasya ka lang humiga,” she recalls. “May siyam na camera din sa bahay.”
(I slept in a tomb-like space. It was just enough for you to squeeze your body in…There were also nine video cameras inside the house).

For much of the seven months that she had worked for her employer, his wife and their baby, De Leon said she subsisted only on bread and coffee, as the couple was very frugal.

Although she was willing to buy her own food, she said she was discouraged from bringing any from outside, much less store it in their refrigerator, so she was forced to live on the scraps given her.

But what was worse, De Leon said, was the constant shouting that went on in the household. Although much of the shouting was between the couple, she said she often got caught in the middle that she almost had a nervous breakdown because of it.

It came as a relief then, when she was finally able to leave them on May 24 this year.

Since then, De Leon has been living in a boarding house in Sai Ying Pun where she splits the rent for a tiny room with a friend who goes there only during the weekends.

She has kept herself busy with the volunteer work that she does for DWC. Apart from distributing food aid and masks, she has also helped pick up FDHs who were either sent packing by their employers at odd hours, or left on their own accord because they had been stopped from taking a day-off for months.

Many of the FDHs in distress are newcomers, and De Leon and her fellow DWC admins have taken it upon themselves to form a “rescue team” that either picks up the worker, or directs her to a place where she could be easily fetched.

But after three months of not earning any salary, she is just too glad to start work anew with her new employer who lives with just her mother and a couple of pets.

Knowing she is virus-free when she begins this new chapter in her life would help put her mind at ease, De Leon said.

(FDHs about to move in with their new employer may apply for the free Covid-19 test by calling the registration hotline: 1836 1333, from 9am to 9pm.
FDHs who are currently employed may also avail of the free Universal Community Testing Programme along with their employers, starting on Sept 1.)



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