Many Sri Lankan women travel to foreign countries to seek employment as domestic aides and do similar blue-collar jobs to send money home. But oftentimes, many of them have unpleasant stories to relate. There have been instances when some were tortured and others returned in coffins. In such a backdrop, an acknowledgement hardly comes their way. However, Panambarage Jacintha’s story is different to the rest where she not only worked for the same employer for 30 long years, but was also adjudged the Foreign Domestic Worker recently with a cash price worth S$ 2000 at the recently concluded Domestic Worker and Employer of the Year Award ceremony held in Singapore. The event was organised by the Association of Employment Agencies Singapore.
Tell us about yourself:
I’m from Jayagama, a small township in Kurunegala District. Now I’m 58 and have been working with the Lam family for 30 long years. Initially I was worried about my decision, but today I feel proud of myself.
What made you opt for foreign employment:
I had trouble earning a living. My father died when I was very young and I worked on estates and earned a pittance which wasn’t enough to raise my children. The only option was to apply for foreign employment. Then I went in search of an agency and needed Rs. 8000 to apply for the visa. I somehow managed to obtain it although I was in debt and managed to fly to Singapore. At the time I left my daughter was only three years old and my son was five. However my grandmother and my mother were there to look after them.
How was it like to be in a foreign country for the first time?
I was shocked. At the time I only knew to respond in Yes or No. But later this family helped me to learn and converse in English. From that moment on wards I realised that I had come to a safe place to work at. They never ill-treated me for my shortcomings.
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