Maid learnt English with employers' help

The Seah family, (back row from left) Jason and Joshua. (front row, from left) Justin, Madam Pasgodayaye Fernando, Madam Vera Balakrishnan and Mr Victor Seah.
PHOTO: Vera Balakrishnan

Sri Lankan domestic helper Pasgodayaye Gedara Indrani Fernando did not speak a word of English when she first came to Singapore 22 years ago.

Her employers, Madam Vera Balakrishnan and Mr Victor Seah, decided to help her out - they labelled the furniture and other household items with English terms.

Madam Fernando, 51, can now write grocery lists.

She is well-loved by the Seah family, which also includes three sons aged 22, 20 and 18.

To recognise Madam Fernando's efforts, Madam Balakrishnan nominated her for this year's Foreign Domestic Worker Of The Year award.

Organised by the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Skills Training, a non-governmental group, the award will be handed out tomorrow at the 7th annual Foreign Domestic Worker Day.

The winner will receive $2,000.

The first runner-up and second runner-up will receive $1,500 and $1,000 respectively.


Madam Balakrishnan, 51, a primary school teacher, told The New Paper: "We trust her, and we are so thankful as she takes care of our children so well. They are close to her too."

Mr Seah, 53, an assistant director at a voluntary welfare organisation, said: "The boys would tell her things they would not share with us."

"When they got new iPhones, they would give one to Indra and another to her daughter so that they could keep in touch."

A former seamstress, Madam Fernando lived in a village five hours away from Colombo.

After her husband died, she left her then three-year-old daughter in Sri Lanka to make a living here.

Madam Fernando took care of Mr Seah's parents, who have since died, and accompanied them on hospital check-ups.

The Seahs encouraged Madam Fernando to pick up new skills and paid for her computer and bag-making classes.

Madam Fernando said she is lucky to have such supportive employers.

She said: "It was painful to leave my daughter behind. But she is now 25, working in a government job and graduating from open university soon."

"She has visited me in Singapore, and she always says she has three brothers."

"I hope to stay in Singapore long enough so that I can witness the boys get married and have their own children."

This article was first published on December 10, 2016. Get The New Paper for more stories.