I have been so lucky to have to opportunity to live in another culture, and experience new things, new ways of doing things. Most families in Asia, including expats, hire a live-in maid. A “helper”. I had no intentions of participating in this, as I have never had help, nor have I ever needed it.
But after a few months I changed my mind, and hired Leny. She has been living with is since October 2013, and is such a blessing to our family.
She does the laundry and cleaning for me, a good part of the cooking, and watches the cats for us when we are away.
She is my age, only a year older than me, and hails from the Philippines. She left her home country 23 years ago, leaving behind her 15 month old baby girl, in order to support her large extended family. When she was finally able to go home for a visit, after 5 years away (remember, this is before skyping, FaceTime, even cellphones… All she had was a five minute phone call home on Sundays) her little baby, now 6 1/2 years old, didn’t know her or recognize her. She didn’t know her own mom. Leny was devastated.
She sends every paycheck home. Every month, saving only a little for herself to live on.
In 23 years, she has lived with 3 other families, raising their children, tending to each family members every need. With one family she shared a room
with the kids, and with another she only had the storage closet for herself to sleep in.
In our home she has her own living quarters, with a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen. Trent bought her a flat screen tv with a subscription to the Philippine channels. We treat her as an equal, she is respected in our home. She sits at the dinner table with us. She gets every Saturday and Sunday off, and we include her in family activities.
Sadly, not all helpers are treated this way. There are constant troubling stories about maids being abused. I see these women in the markets, buying food for their families, usually with one or two small expat kids in tow. These ladies leave their own children behind in their home countries to care for and raise other children. It’s sad, and shocking, and I’m not sure that I will ever become immune to their sad faces.
I have had the opportunity to get to know a few of these helpers, through my Leny. And I am fascinated by their stories, their endurance, their resilience, and ability to survive cruel circumstances.
Would you like to hear more about these women and their lives? I have a few ideas in the works, so I am looking for your feedback.