This month, ISS said goodbye and thank you to H.O.M.E (Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics), a Singaporean charity that works to support male and female migrant workers. There are over 300,000 migrant workers in Singapore, coming from countries like China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines, with the men working mainly in the construction industry and the women working mainly as domestic workers (home helpers). They have all made the difficult choice to move to Singapore to support their families in ways they cannot in their home countries.
For the past five years, ISS Paterson campus has sponsored H.O.M.E. Academy, where domestic workers come to ISS on Sundays to study such courses as English, Cooking, Sewing and Caregiving so they can continue to learn new skills that can help them in their work or to find new opportunities in life. Over the past five years, ISS High School students have helped teach these courses, changing the lives of over 500 women from all over the world!
Ms England, from ISS High School, worked with a dedicated team of student volunteers this year to teach Creative Writing to a group of inspiring domestic workers from India, Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines, and here is a story written by Yanti, who is from Indonesia and has been a domestic worker in Singapore for eight years:
The Seed That Would Never Grow
I was a little girl when the accident happened. One day I was eating an orange when I swallowed its seed accidentally. I told my brother, who stared at me in shock after hearing what I said.
“What? You swallowed the orange seed? You are in big trouble,” he said.
“Why?,” I asked in worry.
“Because the orange tree will grow on your body, from your stomach all the way up through your head!”, he answered. I was so scared I started crying.
“It’s the end of the world for you!”, my brother continued. “You can’t go anywhere anymore. You can’t go to school because your orange tree will block other students from entering the school gate!”, he said, laughing. “You can’t take a bus anymore as your branches might stick on the bus door and block the other passengers!”.
I couldn’t stand this anymore, so I ran to the kitchen.
“Why are you crying, dear?”, my mother asked me. She stopped cutting vegetables and stroked my hair gently.
“I’m in trouble, Mother. An orange tree is going to grow inside me!”, I cried.
My mother just smiled at me.
“But this is good, isn’t it?”, she said. “If you are thirsty, you can just pluck an orange from your arm. I won’t have to buy you oranges anymore, which will save us a lot of money. You can even sell your oranges and get rich, right?”
I grinned and ran back to my brother. “So what if an orange tree grows on my body?”, I said.
My brother rubbed his eyes in disbelief. “How come you are not sad anymore?”, he asked.
“I don’t need to be sad, because Mother said that I can just pluck an orange from my body when I’m thirsty – and I can even sell my oranges to make money!”, I said happily.
“And just to let you know, brother,” I continued, “I will never, ever give my oranges to you. Not even one single little orange, hah hah hah!”, I laughed.
“Not even one?”, my brother asked.
“No, not even half!”, I answered.
“Ayo, you are so stingy, sister!”, he cried. “Mother taught us to be generous. She said we must share things with others!”.
Before long, our mother came into the room. “Why are you fighting?”, she asked.
“Sister won’t share her oranges with me, Mother!”, my brother moaned.
“What orange?”, Mother asked in amusement.
“The orange from her body, of course!”, my brother replied. “From the seed she swallowed.”
“Oh, that orange,” my mother said, laughing. “Come on children, I was just kidding. That seed will never grow. It will disappear forever when your sister visits the toilet,” Mother explained.
My brother and I looked at each other before bursting into laughter.
“Come on, you two”, mother said, grabbing our hands. “Say sorry for fighting for nothing!”.
“Sorry, brother,” I whispered. “Sorry, sister,” he replied.
We held hands tightly while our mother watched us happily.
Until today, every time I see an orange it always reminds me of wise mother and my naughty brother.