Here is the transcript of our Facebook Live on Thursday 9th April to help our community of migrant domestic workers go through COVID-19 challenges.
I am Marie, Uplifters Founder and CEO. Here is Jenely, the Uplifters Community Building Officer.
Uplifters is a non profit organization dedicated to empowering underprivileged communities with online education and peer support. We offer a free online money management course for domestic workers. You just need to click “ Send Message” on our Facebook page to enroll. https://www.facebook.com/uplifters.community/
This is the third episode of our Antivirus series and we are very happy to be here with you tonight.
These are challenging times for all of us and especially for our community.
Our objective with this Antivirus Video Live is to reply to your questions if we can or collect them and consult with professionals afterwards so we can answer them later. We are happy to come together as a community and provide comfort to each other in these difficult situations, we will go through it together. Uplifters is first and foremost a community and we will go through these difficult times with you.
We are very happy to have Devi Novianti as our guest tonight. She is a domestic worker in Hong Kong, human rights advocate, facilitator of change and dream builder coach. We will discuss the impact of Covid-19 on our mental health and how we can overcome stress and anxiety during these challenging times.
Welcome to our live broadcast, Devi. It’s a pleasure to have you with us tonight. Thank you very much for joining us.
Can you tell us something about who you are and the work that you do?
Devi: My name is Devi, I’m Indonesian. I’ve worked in Hong Kong for 25 years. In my entire career in Hong Kong, I’ve worked in empowering migrant domestic workers as they are ones of our stakeholder. I’m now working in the Equal Opportunities Commission. People have a lot of potential and sometimes we discount our own ability. I’m really passionate about it so that people can see the potential that they have beyond their circumstances.
The current pandemic has affected domestic workers in so many ways. They are among the most vulnerable to abuse in society. What do you often see as the main concerns of domestic workers now? How do these concerns affect their work and daily life?
Devi: What I’ve heard in Hong Kong is that the flights are cancelled, people want to go home and contracts are terminated. It’s unfortunate that we have social issues like these. Some domestic workers are in limbo because when this thing started they were on holiday. Some employers do not provide them a mask. Because of social distancing rules, now domestic workers have to be in groups of less than 4 when they go out. There is limited space at home. In Hong Kong, houses are very small and there is no place for the domestic worker to rest. Sometimes even though the employer doesn’t allow the domestic worker to work on a holiday, they still work. I even heard one domestic worker who was asked by her employer to take a shower with bleach. It’s really a tough time.
For those who are worried for the safety of their families back home, how should they cope with feelings of fear and uncertainty?
Devi: In times like this it’s very important to look after ourselves. Fear and anxiety are connected to our brain and hormonal functions. If we have too much fear you actually reduce your capability to produce lymphocytes or red blood cells. Worrying doesn’t serve anyone. Make sure that you maintain your contact with your family. You can be a source of inspiration to them. If you are anxious and scared, it will create a loop because this person, your family, will be worried. Focus on the solutions but don’t think about the problem too much. Let me put it this way. I’m really happy Uplifters is giving financial education. Hopefully some people have savings back home. Maybe this is the time that we can think of solutions.
There is greater pressure and stress among migrant domestic workers whose families rely on. Some are the sole breadwinners in their families while some have young children and elderly parents. It’s easy to be overwhelmed with thoughts of not being able to provide for their families if they catch the virus or if they would be able to survive it. What is your advice to them?
Devi: Always have a safety net in case something bad happened. Have a plan in place so that when things go wrong you are not worried because you have a back up already. If there is a will there is a way. It’s just a matter of whether you are willing to do everything it takes. For example, if your goal is you want to create a great life for you and your family, you must be willing to put the time and effort. Sometimes you limit yourself and you have this narrow window of things that you are willing to do. Yes we have to be aware and we have to be careful in these tough times but it does not mean everything is doom and gloom. You can ask yourself what opportunity you can see in this situation. Maybe you can see an opportunity to change and shift your financial situation. Look into opportunities around you. Maybe there is something you can actually do. Instead of being the victim of the situation maybe you can actually create something out of your circumstances. Try to find things that make you happy. Put your earphones and listen to music. Some people listen to gospel or meditation music. Find a way that makes you feel peace within yourself. Another thing is law protection. Remember that we have protection even when we are in quarantine. For example when your employer says I’m worried that you are going to develop this coronavirus, I need to let you go. This can be categorized as imputed disability. This is something that people can lodge a complaint to the EOC. Remember your rights. The number 3 concept that you should always remember is what you focus your attention on will expand. Instead of focusing on fear, focus on a healthy and happy lifestyle that can bring you joy. This is something that we should focus our attention to because anxiety and fear do not serve us.
You are from Indonesia. Is there a specific message you want to share with our community of Indonesian domestic workers?
Devi: My message is applicable to everyone. Fear is contagious. If there is a will there’s a way. See the possibilities beyond everything. Do not let the gloom and doom affect you. You have to look after yourselves, Sleep well, make sure your body gets the required hours of sleep, drink a lot of water, light exercise, healthy eating, do something that makes you happy whether it is dancing in the bathroom or singing. Just hang in there. It’s easy to think everything is bad but if you have a gratitude journal you can find something that you can be grateful for.
We admire your commitment to equality and supporting underprivileged people. Why is this important to you? How can each of us help and contribute especially given the current situation?
Devi: Try to see the possibilities, nurture yourself, share your knowledge and wisdom to uplift each other so people do not feel alone or isolated especially now when people cannot go out. This is a good time for us to reach out. Sometimes we unconsciously judge other people but we have to remember that everyone is different and everyone has their own experience. Instead of saying to other people, “Really, what made you think you can do that?”, you can say “Go for it, it’s amazing!” Let’s lift each other’s spirits, be there for each other and share the love.