Runaway migrants chasing dreams: a call for support


BY RAYMOND CALBAY

We've had countless Filipinas, some of them our school teachers, secretaries, and midwives go abroad to work as domestic helpers. They trade the comfort of family and loved ones for higher salaries than they could find locally. Their remittances in turn become the lifeblood for their homes, putting food on the table, sending off their kids to good schools, and pooling money for future investments.

They start jobs with foreign employers prepared to devote their time and care. But soon enough, many would find out that their contracts - as caregivers, babysitters, or live-in helpers - demand much more. From dawn to dusk, they take care of minors and the elderly, and at the same time clean, cook, and run various errands. A 24/7 commitment indeed - and sometimes without a day off. Call it slave labor, but they may also be "shared" by their employers' family or friends to do as much in extra settings too. To top it off, they are also prone to threats, abuse, and violence.

Domestic helpers can only take so much before reaching a breaking point. No wonder, many of them would rather "run away" from their employers than finish their contracts. This is not without legal and financial ramifications - these domestic helpers borrowed money for placement fees with manpower agencies to clinch employment contracts. Poor as they were when they went abroad for jobs, they now also become potential renegades from law.

What policy changes are needed to protect domestic helpers from this tragic situation? Alex Wolfgram and Nick Vaky take off from this point in their documentary project "I Have it Maid". They have started research in Taiwan, which is host to thousands of domestic helpers. But their work is not yet complete as they need to capture the perspective from domestic helpers departing the Philippines and Southeast Asian nations. They need support for their project through their KickStarter page. How to also take care of domestic helpers - the answer is up to us to piece together.

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