May is helper appreciation month so here’s how you can thank this integral member of your home.
There are more than 380,000 domestic workers in Hong Kong. That’s 10% of the working population! With little or no affordable child care services in the region, these women (and a few men) make it possible for others to go to work. Sadly though, their work is barely recognised as it happens in our homes, behind closed doors. We tend to forget that our helpers may go through a very emotional time, working long hours and living away from their families. This has been especially true in the last weeks with all the COVID-19 turmoil. It has often meant an additional workload with more members of the employer’s family staying at home. Secondly, helpers are also likely to feel stressed for the health of their own families and also face additional financial pressure to support them as their countries go into lock-down.
So while we should always celebrate and be thankful for the important contribution that domestic workers make to our lives, this year, let’s make even more of an effort this year. Here are some easy ways to express our heartfelt appreciation to our helpers.
Why Is Being Thankful Essential?
This is not a regular working scenario, with fixed office hours and then the option to switch off and head home. With no other refuge to turn to, most domestic workers are deeply offended by negative comments or a firm tone of voice. Often, language barriers lead to miscommunication. Indifference or thinking they are not worthy leaves a bitter taste. For a good balance in your family, you need your domestic worker to stay motivated with a positive attitude. Appreciation is often their biggest reward.
What You Can Do On A Daily Basis
Most helpers are incredibly touched by simple gestures and praise. You can also choose specific moments to reward her, like her birthday, her children’s birthdays or graduation and Christmas. This is also an opportunity to connect with her and have a friendly talk!
The Best Gifts You Can Give Your Domestic Worker
1. Time off
Understandably, all domestic workers miss their children. Giving them the opportunity to go home, at a time when they really need or want to, is priceless for them. If your domestic worker has children in their final year of primary or high school, they will be graduating at the end of March. Buying her tickets home at this specific time would mean the world to her and to her kids!
This year has been different with international travel being suspended because of the coronavirus and your helper may not have had a chance to take annual leave. In fact, with everyone stuck at home, you might find her workload increasing these days. If you are encouraging your helper to stay at home on Sundays and days off, please make sure you respect that it is a holiday and do not give him or her tasks to be completed. When things return to normal, account for the holidays lost and the overtime put in.
It doesn’t always have to be a special occasion, but you could consider giving your helper some money for her children’s birthday. Also, a little extra cash if she works harder than usual (when your family is visiting or if you host big dinner parties).
3. Body check
Domestic workers are always grateful for medical attention and intervention. Good Link Consultants and QHMS are reliable centres to get health checks done. You could also encourage her to get screened for breast and cervical cancer if she is over 40 (most early detection tests are free or subsidised).
Two years ago, Uplifters (the online education platform for domestic workers) met with Natalia Morrison, a health consultant here in Hong Kong. She recently published a comprehensive cookbook which she wrote with her domestic worker. If your domestic worker likes cooking, she will love Home Cooking East & West for the variety of recipes and information it contains.
Another cookbook that is popular is A Helping Hand, written in English and Tagalog. It’s available at Bookazine stores across the city.
5. The gift of education
Finally, the gift of a training course is the ticket to growth and empowerment, and it benefits your family as well. You can find a multitude of courses whether it is to learn how to cook, to administer first aid, or to understand how to save and prepare for the future. Uplifters offer free money-management and personal growth courses online. They can join via Facebook.
How To Support Your Helper During COVID-19
The current pandemic has upended many lives, not only in Hong Kong but the world over. At times like these, many of us may be feeling the pinch of restricted personal freedom, the lack of privacy while stuck at home, the stifling inability to travel and the worry of job cuts. Unfortunately, these are often realities that our helpers live with on a daily basis. Perhaps because they are used to less freedom than we are (or are more resilient), the helper community in Hong Kong has dealt with this health crisis remarkably well.
Some employers (especially those with elderly parents, very young children or anyone at home whose immunity may be compromised) aren’t allowing helpers to take the day off on public holidays, but send them out on grocery runs. Most helpers are even more worried about falling ill as they have large families back home who are dependent on them. In cases like this, a frank and fair dialogue is necessary and will help reduce resentment. As things inch back to normal, do remember to notice, appreciate and reward your helper for their stalwart support at home through this outbreak (perhaps take your helper out to a restaurant for a nice lunch now that the “not-more-than-four” rule is relaxed!).
You can also support your domestic worker through COVID-19. Uplifters is developing new ad-hoc resources and running a series of Facebook lives related to mental health and financial planning during a pandemic. It is also currently organising a crowdfunding campaign. With as little as $155 (USD$20), you will help one domestic worker have the opportunity to join their supportive online community to help her navigate COVID-19 challenges (including worries about money remittance) and also sponsor the full cost of her online money management and personal growth course at Uplifters.
So this May, don’t forget to show appreciation to your domestic worker. A small thank you goes a long way in building a harmonious home.
If you are interested in getting additional tips on how to create a healthy win-win relationship with your helper, please subscribe to the Uplifters newsletter.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published by Marion Dechy in May 2019 and has been updated by Anita Balagopalan in May 2020.