Mothership and The Birthday Collective are in collaboration to share essays from the 2019 edition of The Birthday Book Jr.
The Birthday Book Jr is a collection of 55 essays featuring young Singaporeans from various walks of life.
Apart from showcasing the diversity of young voices in Singapore, these essays also discuss our collective future as a nation.
16-year-old Franchesca Minette N. Ordonez contributed an essay titled "My mother, your helper", reflecting on how her mother left her family behind to work as a helper in Singapore. Her essay is reproduced here:
By Franchesca Minette N. Ordonez
The first time I took an aeroplane was when I came to visit my mother. I was 12 years old. I was so scared but was also happy.
When we got in the air, I was amazed to see the different views.
It was exciting to see the many lights as I landed in Singapore. I had last seen my mother two years before.
Visiting my mother in Singapore
You see, she works in Singapore as a maid. Sometimes you call them foreign domestic helpers.
I had a good time in Singapore. I got to meet the family my mother works for and hang out with them. I got to check out all the famous Singapore attractions.
Singapore is very different from my home in Philippines; Singapore is clean, safe and actually cooler than back home. After four years, I got to come back to Singapore. This is my second trip overseas.
I am 16 now and I got to discover even more of Singapore. I love chicken rice! It’s so yummy!
I really like The Gardens By The Bay, The Merlion and Universal Studios. I also visited other places I missed out on the last time like The Jewel and the three zoos.
I am amazed at this country. I did not expect to be able to come back. I met many new friends, they are kind and it makes me happy to know them.
It's hard to have my mum so far away from me, but this can't be helped
Most of all, I am glad to be able to visit my mother.
Her employers invited me to come as a treat for graduating and having done well in school. Every day, my mother has chores to do and I try and help her out. The family has a toddler and I like to babysit him. He’s cute.
Sometimes, I swim in the pool and watch TV — there are so many cool channels here!
It is difficult to be far away from my mother.
When I am back home, and she is in Singapore, I am sad. It is hard to have my mother be so far away from me, for so long. But I understand that this cannot be helped.
It is especially hard when I see that my friends get to see their mothers every day; it makes me miss her very much. Luckily, I get to video call her almost every day.
I want to repay my mother in the future
She is a single mother and I really appreciate what she does for me. She is fighting for me even though it’s hard.
This coming school year, I must study very hard to do well. I hope to run my own business next time and do well enough that I can help my mother.
I want to repay her for all the sufferings that she has to go through. I will give her a good life and hopefully, she won’t have to work so far away from me next time.
I’m happy that her employer invites me and I am determined to do well in senior high school so I can come back to visit again. I am sure Singapore would have changed by then, and I will have new places to explore.
Helpers leave their family behind to take care of yours
I hope the children in Singapore know how lucky they are to live with their parents.
Many of the helpers that work here leave their families behind to come to Singapore. While I know my mother works with a good family, many Filipino helpers here are not as lucky.
Some helpers are treated badly: they don’t get off days or get to call home to their families because their employers ban them from using the phone. Some even cheat their salary or give very little food!
That makes me sad and angry — please remember that your helper had to leave her family behind to come take care of yours. I hope you treat your helper well.
If you happen to be in the education space and think this essay may be suitable as a resource (e.g. for English Language, General Paper or Social Studies lessons), The Birthday Collective has an initiative, "The Birthday Workbook", that includes discussion questions and learning activities based on The Birthday Book essays. You can sign up for its newsletter at bit.ly/TBBeduresource.
Top file photo by Fasiha Nazren