When 56-year old Filipino maid Lucy stepped on stage to receive her long-service award yesterday, her employer's family and all the maids present gave her a hearty round of applause.
Having worked in Singapore for close to 37 years, Lucy is the Filipino maid who has worked here the longest.
She told this reporter that Singapore is like her home, "I feel that my roots are in Singapore."
Yesterday was International Migrants Day. Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a group concerned about the welfare of maids, organized a sports day at the Queenstown Stadium for foreign maids and workers. The group also presented certificates to three maids from the Philippines and Indonesia who have worked here for more than 20 years.
Lucy said, "It was a friend who invited me to work in Singapore. I am very happy working here and very quickly fell in love with Singapore. I never thought of returning to the Philippines."
Lucy's employer Anne and her family hail from the US. Yesterday, Anne, her husband and two daughters were at Queenstown Stadium to show support for Lucy and share her joy at winning the award.
Yesterday more than 3,000 maids and foreign workers enjoyed a morning of sports and songs. TWC2 arranged a series of games like street football as well as very entertaining songs and dances.
TWC2 Vice-President John Gee said the response to the event was very enthusiastic. Although the Sports Day started at 8 am, people arrived as early as 6 am.
All the maids and foreign workers who attended the event received a gift pack and were treated to lunch.
Mr Gee said, "Since the response has been so enthusiastic, we hope to organize a similar event next year to encourage foreign workers and maids, provide an opportunity for them to relax and mix with their fellow countrymen and women."
Yesterday quite a few maids were accompanied by their employer's family.
Fifty-four year old civil servant Mr Zheng Wenshan was at the stadium to support his maid Engka, 60, who received a long service award yesterday. He said that she has worked with his family for 20 years and is now a part of the family.
About two weeks ago, an international organization Human Rights watch released a report that charged Singapore with not protecting the rights of foreign maids thus exposing them to harassment and abuse and in Singapore.
Zheng said that such accusations were not fair to Singapore employers, a majority of whom got along well with their maid. Only a minority abused their maid.
He said: "Look! How happy everybody here is today. The maids are enjoying themselves. Many employers have made the effort to be part of the event. These show that the accusations of Human Rights Watch are not true."
Last night, NTUC Migrant Workers Forum in conjunction with HOME organized a fund-raising cultural event. Some five to six hundred maids and foreign workers were invited to watch the show and some of them also took to the stage to perform.
In his opening speech, Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, Chairman of NTUC Migrant Workers Forum, said that NTUC cared about the welfare of migrant workers and would not permit any violation of their welfare or any form of abuse.
Presently Singapore has more than 500,000 foreign workers on work permits. Of these, 150,000 are maids and 135,000 are construction workers.
(Translated article. Original in Chinese)