TV appeal helps maids return home

Domestic workers who spent months at an Abu Dhabi shelter have been repatriated.

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ABU DHABI // Five Filipinas who spent months at a labour-office shelter after fleeing their employers have been flown home.

One of them, Angie de Jesus, is now back in Atimonan, Quezon, 175 kilometres south of Manila.

In January 2010, she came to Abu Dhabi to work for a Yemeni family.

"I suffered a nervous breakdown," said the mother of three. "I did all the housework and served as a nanny to their granddaughter."

The 47-year-old was paid Dh600 a month, less than half of the US$400 (Dh1,470) minimum salary set by the Philippine government for its nationals working as domestics overseas.

After two-and-a-half months, Mrs de Jesus fled to the Filipino Workers Resources Centre, a makeshift shelter managed by labour and welfare officials in the capital.

She had a hard time adjusting to the Arab culture and the demands of work, according to James Mendiola, the welfare officer in Abu Dhabi.

"When I first met her, she was quivering and it took several weeks for her to get her bearings back," he said. "I'm glad she's now back home with her family."

Claro Ramirez, the president of Pilipinas Global Network-TV5 International, who welcomed Mrs de Jesus and four other women at Manila airport on February 4, said most of them did not have money with them. One only had Dh30, he added.

The other maids were Ellen Namoca, Cherry Ann Tamporing, Catherine Alvarez and Laga Salam.

"They were all happy to be home," said Mr Ramirez. "They recounted their experiences. Two of them said they had to sneak out of their employer's home at night."

At TV5's launch event at the Abu Dhabi National Theatre on November 4, the audience was asked to donate at least Dh5 to send five Filipinas home.

"We called our Middle East launch 'Give Me 5 Kapatid [sibling]'," said Mr Ramirez. "Our goal was not only to entertain but to give back to the community."

The plan for the fundraiser was for TV5 and Orbit Showtime Network, a subscription TV service, to match the amount raised by the community so they could send five Filipina housemaids home.

The network ended up paying a much larger amount for the five air tickets, said Mr Ramirez.

"This is just the start," he added. "We want to help in a much bigger way by sending more overseas Filipino workers home before Christmas."