Boss pays for her stroke meds

Domestic helper Rayda Florentino Malana.

SINGAPORE - She says she has never felt homesick working for her current employer.

Miss Rayda Florentino Malana, 40, works for dental surgeon Reginald Teo and his mother at a four-room flat in Potong Pasir.

The moment she arrived more than four years ago, Dr Teo, 53, lent her an old mobile phone and bought her prepaid cards so that she could keep in touch with her family.

She is her family's sole breadwinner, supporting her mother, two older brothers and an older sister back in the Philippines.

Her sister is married with four children. Miss Malana helps pay for the oldest child's college education.

Working with Dr Teo is a far cry from her first working experience here five years ago.

She recalls crying every night and calling her sister in tears, telling her how badly she wanted to go back home. This despite previously working in Hong Kong as a domestic helper for nine years.

The 1.5m-tall woman says that she lost so much weight working for her previous employer, that she was down to 39kg.

The last straw was when the employer's sons started hitting her. Once, the older boy, then aged 12, took a fork and jabbed her, she claims.

And when she told her employer's wife about it, the woman allegedly replied: "He's like that."

Four months in, she told her employer that if he did not take her back to the agency, she would run away.

When asked why she did not tell her agency about it earlier, she says: "I did not have their number."

She returned to the Philippines for about four months to recover.

But to feed her family and support her nephew's education, she knew she had to come back to work again.

And she feels blessed to be paired with Dr Teo, who treats her as part of his extended family.

Dr Teo says that such relationships are two-way streets - if employers look after the maids, the maids are more enthusiastic and will work more diligently.

In 2012, Miss Malana suffered a sensory stroke, which does not impair motor functions but causes giddiness, a loss of sensation in the face, hands or feet and an unusual perception of pain, temperature or pressure.

She was hospitalised for six days - long enough to make her worry that her employer would terminate her contract.

"But my employer said, 'Why would I want to replace you? If you want to work for me, I will employ you'," she recalls with a big smile.

Dr Teo not only paid for her hospital stay, he has been paying for her medication, which she needs to take twice every day for the rest of her life.

He says that at that time, he only wanted her to get better but she proved she was able to work well.

"She has left her family to work here, earn a decent living and send money back home. Subsidising a small sum (for her medication) is not a big deal," he says.

Miss Malana signed her third consecutive contract with her employer in November and plans to return home next month for a month-long holiday.

"I'm excited. I haven't seen my family in four years. But they know I'm in good hands."

marielim@sph.com.sg

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