My name is Elena Bornales, I am from the Philippines, living in Singapore. I work as a domestic worker to support my husband and six children back home.
God blessed me six healthy children. My eldest is 17 years old (I gave birth to her when I was 20), next are my 15 year old twins, and the youngest are 11, nine and seven. I have raised them Cathotic but we also enjoy attending Christian services. And like most religions, we’ve raised them on the virtues of being kind and to value others. But feeding six kids isn’t cheap and we couldn’t get by on faith alone. As our family grew our financial needs grew along with it and something had to change. So I decided to work abroad to help my husband to provide a better life for our children.
In January of 2014, I probably experienced the saddest day of my life when I left my husband and my kids – my youngest being only 20 months old at the time – to start my career as a domestic worker in Singapore. I couldn’t have imagined the tears would come every night for over a month as I would think of my family back home. Being homesick was unbearable at times and it almost drove me home. To get through, I’d turn to my fellow ‘sisters’ and cousins who also work here. We all share common heartaches and together we get ourselves through. We’d remind ourselves that others back home would do anything to be in our position to be able to provide a better quality of life for our kids and that the upside outweighs the sacrifices.
And sacrifice we do. For me as a mother not to be able to take care of her children first hand and for my children not to be able to enjoy my presence as they grow up is a great sacrifice. There are of course other struggles of being a domestic worker – adapting to different cultures, customs, beliefs, and even the food...but I count myself lucky. I know other domestic workers that suffer from abuse – verbally, emotionally and physically. In the worst case, it has lead to suicide. But for me, after more than 5 years working here in Singapore (a wonderful place to live), although not easy, I keep moving forward for my little ones.
Despite the hardships and the long distance from my kids we still we have a great relationship thanks to a very kind and understanding husband as well as modern technology which allows me to communicate with them every day. I often lose myself in loud happy conversation over Whatsapp during my work day (sorry Ma’am Kat!). Getting to chat to them every day gives me strength and courage to be strong and I look forward to being with them when we are financially stable. Getting to visit home and to see them getting their school awards makes it all worthwhile.
I am blessed because I have friends to get me through the hard times. I am blessed because God is always at my side in who I find comfort in prayer every night. And God bless us all my fellow overseas workers and good luck on your journey.