Listen at St Paul's Cathedral
Listen at St Paul's Cathedral
Sound by Alexandra
Go for a walk around St Paul’s Cathedral.
St Paul’s underground station does not have step-free access, but buses with ramp exits stop outside the building. There are flat pavements around the building, as well as green spaces with benches.
Alternatively, listen in a meditative space.
Alexandra intended this soundwalk to reveal some of the hurtful realities of overseas domestic work, for other women considering working abroad. It therefore contains accounts of violent labour abuse.
It’s my first time in London. But I think the comfort for me is when I go in the church in St Paul’s. If you go inside, only small places, too much chairs. But if you go outside it’s big. Maybe if you feel bored, or maybe if you think too much, you can go inside to pray. Because only prayer is the best, for you to be comfort. Because my family is not here to comfort me. So I feel happy because…
Alexandra pauses and becomes tearful.
Because when I am in Qatar two years and four months, even I can’t go outside, it’s not allowed. The mother of my madam beat me with a bamboo stick. So I don’t have the place that I want to go. Just only in our room, that I get to pray. I didn’t have choice – only in the room crying. I want someone to comfort me, but no one. So only pray.
That’s why, when I came in London, I saw they have a church here – so I’m not bothered myself to… I just directly go inside, to pray.
Everything what happened in your life – if you came from sadness, broken, anything – only the solution is to pray. So if you’re losing someone in your family, or I don’t know what is your story – so only the best place is to go inside the church and to pray.
I’m only the breadwinner in my family. We are four, so I am in the third one, we have two boys and two girls, including me. My mother, she didn’t have work, my father also. They were totally old. I’m only the one supporting my family. So I decided to go abroad because I want to be independent. So I decided to go in Qatar, even though I don’t know what’s the situation for first-timers, to become a babysitter. So that’s why I grabbed the opportunity. When I go in Manila, maybe I stay three months for Manila. And when I came to Qatar, it’s my first time to come, I see the baby, four years old. She slapped me. She’s spitting on me. I’m shocked! I cry. I said to the one who takes care – because she goes to Philippines and me I’m the one to take care the baby – and I said ‘I can’t handle the baby’.
And then maybe one year we don’t have a day off. After one year we’re going to the beach, and then her mother – even though I did not do anything – she beat me with the bamboo stick. I have my pictures with me. She beat me, but my Madam she not do anything for me. Only she just tell ‘Stop’, only like that, but to save me? She not do anything.
She told me ‘Come and tell sorry to my mother.’ And I said ‘Why I tell sorry? I did not do anything to your mum.’ And she said, ‘Just tell sorry, just to save yourself!’ And I said, ‘If I want to save myself, it’s better I go to Philippines than to stay here in your house’. Maybe at night we go home, and she said, ‘Please don’t go home, because no one will take care of the baby.’
Maybe because I feel pity for the children that no one will take care, so I just control, I just handle all the… all the abuse that they make for me. Because I don’t have a choice – I’m the only one to support my family. So even though it’s so hard to be away from my family, I do everything for them. Even my family they don’t know what happened to me in Qatar.
Because I choose this job so… what can I do?
Even for our salary, she not give the right salary. No [day] off. Our food, for one month finished, it’s finished. So we need to buy, with our own money. If time for going outside we go home late. She don’t know that the kids will wake up early: we sleep late, one o’clock, two o’clock, it’s OK to her. She don’t care. If some things that become… it’s broken, she will say cut salary. That’s why no helper stays long at their house.
My Madam, she put something in the bag, and she tell ‘This one for me, she steal’. Our room is only small – without cabinet, without TV. We just sleep in two beds, and if she takes another helper, where they sleep? On the floor. Even you tell them ‘Can you buy for us cabinet?’ She’s just thinking for her own, not for us. If we’re fighting she always says ‘I treat you like a sister, I treat you like family.’ But we all know what her attitude is.
The children are too naughty. Even the travel, when go Germany, she’s not listening. Her mum, she’s angry at me in front of people. She tell me, ‘What happened to my baby? I will kill you!’ And I said, ‘OK, just let my family know that you killed me.’ She’s not listening – even her mum always tells her ‘Hold your nanny’s hand,’ she’s not listening. She runs away.
So I said ‘I’m tired’. I’ve finished two years and four months. That’s why I choose to run away rather than to go back in Qatar. Because I know I will suffer there. Until now they don’t have a nanny.
I can [only] contact my family if she’s sleeping, the Madam is sleeping. Because she don’t want to see us on our mobiles. And sometimes if the baby sleep, we go up, without wifi, we just buy credit for our phones, to contact my family. And sometimes if we go down late, she will ask ‘Why sleep late?’, like this. She don’t know that that’s the only time we can contact our family – when the children are sleeping. I tell my mum about what happened to me. And she told me, ‘It’s better that you go home. Because I’m so far away from you there. And what happens to you? I don’t know.’ She tell me like this. Because if I’m not run away maybe I’m in the jail! Because maybe I cannot control myself, maybe I would beat the children because they’re not listening. So I choose to run away, than to put myself in danger. Because I know their family: always police, police. Any little thing that happens, directly police, police.
I’m signing a payslip for the salary – right salary 1,450, maybe $400 [USD]. But she only give us 1,200. Even for the sleep, even if we go outside – she’s not thinking did you eat, you finished eating? No. We just fix her kids, give her food for the baby, and she tells, ‘We go’, like this. And at the night, what time? 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock, she tells ‘Come, take these clothes, make it steam.’ She wake up if the kids have urine in the bed. Even in Qatar, always like that: even if you’re sleeping, she don’t have respect. We don’t have rest. 24/7 we work for her. That time, we feel disappointed, and we always pray that ‘I hope they will go London.’ Because I did not know that they will go here! Every time they go Germany, Turkey, and till now I said to myself ‘If God will allow me to come to London, I will run away.’ When we came in London, I said to myself ‘This is it. This is the sign that I asked from God.’
We let my Madam sleep; around 7 o’clock we wake up, and we make our clothes all – maybe I wear three jackets and jeans, and I take another clothes inside my bag and I put in the plastic cellophane. And we go back in the gate – because in the other one has alarm – so we pass in another gate. So in the side we have the bus station, and we don’t know that the bus station is for the Oyster card. And fi [there was one, Arabic] there who said ‘You don’t have an Oyster card?’ And she talked to the driver – she said ‘These two are new here, so it’s OK, we can let her ride?’ And the driver said it’s OK. That’s why I said thanks God, because what time my Madam will wake up.
My plan is if God allows me to have a good employer, I want to build our own house – because we don’t have a house. To support my siblings, my niece, all. But my dream house is… All the rooms are up[stairs], and down is only one room. We have two toilets, up and down. We have a small grocery. And… one car. It looks like two storeys also. You just put terrace on it. All the bedrooms upstairs. And down is the sala [living room] and the kitchen. The colour… I want the colour is sky blue.
And we have big TV in the sala. Only that.
It’s too hard to go abroad, to find your future in other places, to just find your – or let’s say you want it to be a stepping stone, but you don’t know the pathway, if what God lets you to go. That’s why sometimes I said you need to take a sign first, or you just pray for it. Then God will allow you. For me, I don’t want again… what happened to me in Qatar, I don’t want here in London the same. That’s why I don’t want that someone… if what our sacrifice is, I don’t want that someone will also what we do, in Qatar. That’s why we contact OWWA [Overseas Workers’ Welfare Association] to block our Madam, so that they cannot take another maid. Maybe because if they take another, another abuse.