This domestic worker tried to escape her employers' home through a rubbish chute.
After trying to to climb down a rubbish chute in a seventh-floor public flat, the 27-year-old maid fell on top of a rubbish heap and ended up with a broken lip and leg fracture - and now has eight rings attached to her spine to hold it in place. She also has to wear a waist brace.
The maid, who gave her name only as Rindu, had to undergo three operations and was hospitalised for several months.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said Ms Rindu claimed she was not abused or mistreated by her employers and neither was she confined nor prevented from leaving the house.
However, the Indonesian worker claimed she was desperate to escape her employers' daily criticisms. "I regret jumping... but I didn't know what else to do," she said. "I was really afraid of what my employer was going to do to me."
Ms Rindu, claimed she was constantly berated for her work. "She said I was getting lazy and I didn't do my job (well)."
She was also scolded in front of others at a chalet in Changi, where her employers held a gathering. She said she was sent to a room and could not leave it for fear of angering them.
The relationship with her employers, a car salesman and his housewife spouse, deteriorated a month into her job.
Before that, they took her out at least thrice for family gatherings and once to the hairdresser. They also taught her how to do chores such as washing clothes and mopping the floor.
Her duties also included taking care of her employers' two teenage children, including waking up at about 5am to make coffee for them.
"I don't know what changed. I'd been doing everything the same," she said, noting that they conversed mostly in English.
She decided to run away a day after her employer allegedly dumped a bucket of warm water into the sink while she was washing dishes.
"I felt scared... I think she did it on purpose though she said 'sorry' and walked away," she said.
At 6am the next day, she climbed into the chute after gathering blankets and clothes to make a rope. "It was very dark and I couldn't see," she said. She claimed that she could not open the main door as it was electronically bolted and the keys were taken away from her.
However, her emplowers disputed her claims and said they had engaged a lawyer.
According to Eddy Lam, Managing Director of 121 Personnel Services, some helpers do run away though it’s not common.
“If a helper decides to change employers, she will usually inform the employer about it,” he explains. But rare cases like Ms Rindu's are the result of a lot of pent up stress and discomfort.
Here are 4 tips to help your domestic helper feel more comfortable with your family.
1. Bond over kids - yours and hers
Use your little ones as common ground to strike up casual conversations with her. Get her to share fun facts she has observed about your kids, such as what their favourite games at the park are.
Your maid undoubtedly misses her own kids back home, so ask about them as well.
2. Celebrate special occasions
Make it a point to celebrate her birthday. Give her a gift or take her out for a nice meal with your family. Alternatively, you can give her a generous red packet.
Says stay-at-home mum Victoria Deng-Kheng, “We did that for our helper’s birthday last year. It’s a practical yet thoughtful gift, as we figured she’ll need money the most. Plus, she can spend it on what she wants, instead of being saddled with a gift she won’t use.”
Don’t forget to allow her time off for important religious holidays, such as Hari Raya Puasa or Christmas.
“You should also include her in any festivities your family celebrates,” says Noorashikin Abdul Rahman, president of non-governmental organisation Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2).
3. Keep communicating
“You should ask after her physical and mental well-being regularly, and hear her out whenever she is troubled,” advises Noorashikin. Be the one she can turn to in times of need.
But Anja adds a note of caution: “Keep in mind that any inquiries about her personal life should be done with professionalism, so avoid interrogating your helper about strictly personal affairs, such as her love life.”
4. Be generous with privileges
Besides giving your maid weekly days off, you can also consider giving her additional perks.
“My family gave our previous maid – who has since returned home – a radio of her own, which she could listen to at night to unwind.
"We also took her along on family holidays, to places like Bangkok and Hong Kong. On these trips, we gave her a travel allowance of $100, so that she could buy her own souvenirs,” shares freelance designer Kristy Quah.
“It’s a two-way process. I believe that if we treat them well, they’ll feel more appreciated, and will, in turn, treat our children well. A happier maid is also easier to communicate with.
Like this? Read more domestic stories here.