We value the voices of domestic workers and look for opportunities to amplify their reach. Recently, one of our clients spoke about her experience with HELP at St John's Cathedral. We would like to share what Janelle had to say.
I have been working in Hong Kong for over 16 years as a domestic worker for different Chinese employers. I can say that I am proud that I am able to work in Hong Kong and I had been so blessed because I have had good working relationships with most of my former employers. In fact I still communicate with some of them even though I am not working for them anymore.
Being a domestic worker is a tough job. You need to have patience. You need to work really hard to meet the employer’s expectations. You need to adjust to the culture and ways that are far different from what you already know and are accustomed to in your home country. You need to focus and divert your attention from thoughts of the family you left behind in the Philippines. Over the years I worked in Hong Kong, I was able to overcome those difficulties, until I met my most recent employer. I did not realise I would face such challenges that were beyond my imagination.
I began working for the employer in August 2016. She was very irritable and would often take it out on me when she was angry with other people. She rarely talked to me in a calm manner and would always shout at me. She also often accused me of things I did not do and made deductions from my salary. I had tried to be very careful with things around the house because she had warned me about breaking things but accidents do happen and one time accidentally broke a plate.
The employer was very angry and repeatedly demanded that I replace the plate or she would call the police. So that next day, my day off, I went to Lane Crawford as she had instructed but I could not find the same plate that was broken, so I went to a different shop and bought two plates similar to the one I broke. I thought everything was fine after that.
The next day, the employer went to my room while I was cleaning in the living room and when she came out she suddenly threw a bracelet at me and accused me of stealing it. Then she also alleged that her expensive tea cups were missing.
She said she bought them abroad and if I could not find replacements for them in Hong Kong, she would call the police. I maintained that I had not seen the tea cups and did not take the bracelet. She then called the police and they searched my room repeatedly along with my employer but they did not find anything. I was then arrested, taken to the police station and detained. I was released at 2pm the next day after another domestic worker friend of mine came to the station to pay the bail of $500.
My friend brought me to a church shelter and while there I spoke with my sister in London. Her friend advised that I go to the organisation, HDH which is now called HELP for Domestic Workers. She said it is the best organisation she could recommend that could help me with my case.
During my trials, I knew that God was on my side. I knew He would send the right people to help me. I took it as a challenge and because of the assistance of HELP I gained the courage to overcome those challenges.
HELP assisted me with my case, explained the court procedures to me, accompanied me to the hearings and labour meetings, helped prepare the documents I needed for the courts. Even with their busy schedules, they stayed late to work on my case and guided me throughout my ordeal. God also provided me with a good lawyer who defended me during the trial.
With my strong faith and as a result of all the efforts of HELP and my lawyer, we won the case. I am so grateful to God and to HELP for Domestic Workers, as well as to my friends and my church for providing me shelter to this day.
I have now found a new employer and I hope that I can start working again to support my family, in God’s grace.
HELP would like to thank Janelle for sharing her account and for her bravery in pursuing this case. We are so glad that you chose to seek the justice you deserve!
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our client.