I am a man full of dreams. Everybody has dreams; dreams that we all want to become a reality.
I am the second youngest of 12 siblings. We lived a very simple and happy life in the Philippines. Time with my family is what I looked forward to the most each day. Sadly this all had to change, rather unexpectedly when my mother died. Time just stood still. Not long after that, my father died too.
At that moment my family’s entire world changed. Family life became more difficult. We were all trying to deal with our terrible grief. Nothing quite felt the same. It wasn’t easy to adjust, but as each day passed, we somehow found the courage we needed to move on.
I had many different jobs to help my family. We all did. Eventually, I realised that we were never going to be able to survive in life without earning more money. I worked as much as possible to make the money that my family needed but it wasn’t enough. I had to make a decision to leave my family, to work abroad. The simple reality was that even if I could earn a little more money, it was worth the sacrifice.
“My future happiness would now be in the hands of a family in a foreign state”
In 2015, I applied for a job abroad. I had to attend an examination and interview to become a domestic worker. Luckily I passed them both and left my family to work abroad as a domestic worker in the UAE. My future happiness would now be in the hands of a family in a foreign state. Little then did I know the true cost of what my sacrifice would be.
I had hoped to return to see my family soon. I loved them. I missed them, I dreamed about the times we would see each other again. I re-lived every happy memory I had of my home in my head, my siblings, my friends, and my parents. I never for a moment wanted to forget them and what I needed to do for them. I tried to remember the life I had. The longer I was away, the less bright those memories were.
It was my first time away from my family. I worked very hard and it was very difficult to deal with all the different things my employer wanted. I had many different tasks. I was on duty 24 hours a day and paid 1200 Dirham a month (approximately £252). My employers’ mood was unpredictable. I had no days off at all for my personal life, not even breaks to spend the time talking to my family over a video call. I simply was not allowed the time.
I kept telling myself “I need to do this for my family”.
I ended up working for four years in a controlling and horrible place. During this time I had a lot of difficult experiences and I saw some things that made me realise that I never want to be in this situation again. I had to escape.
From the UAE I was brought to London. My employer had the right of a diplomatic passport, therefore I had a UK visa for that employer only, for six months.
It was in London that I decided to escape. As soon as my employer left the house I grabbed whatever I could and left the house. I headed to the station and tried to find out where I could go. Luckily for me, I found a Filipina at the station- she asked me if I needed help. I told her I needed to escape. I could just tell she knew what I meant. She took me to a place to meet the Voice of Domestic Workers. She told me I would be safe and they would help me.
The Voice of Domestic Workers embraced and welcomed me. There were lots of different nationalities and all women. This surprised me. I heard their stories, their awful past experiences, and the terrible suffering they had to go through to support their families.
I am now a campaigner for the Voice of Domestic Workers which is exciting, but challenging. We campaign to overturn the changes made to the 2012 Overseas Domestic Worker Visa which took away our rights to change employers without restrictions, the right to renew the ODW visa, the right to settlement and the right to British Citizenship. And despite our many years of campaigning, we never give up. It’s important to us all because at some point we have all experienced abuse and exploitation. The current rules strengthened the power of employers to abuse us because it restricts our ability to fight back and claim our unpaid wages and other employment rights. The VODW helped me and many others not only to survive, but also to be empowered. We may not be able to change the way the government sees us, but we can decide how we wish to see ourselves.
Last month I received my leave to remain in the UK. It took many years. I couldn’t stop crying. It was such a relief to know that I can now make plans, work another job and at last be able to save and book a holiday to see my family! I know that everything is temporary because I am not settled yet but I will continue the positive work to ensure domestic workers reclaimed the rights we deserved.
I now have the ability to do what I’ve always wanted, to live, work and contribute to society in the UK safely and fight any exploitation. Just like others.
About the author:
Demetrio Masupil was born in the Philippines. In 2015 he left home to work abroad as a domestic worker. He has travelled all over the world working in various roles including butler, valet, housekeeper and carer. During this time he experienced exploitation working long hours, with few breaks and low pay.
He now lives in the UK where he continues to work as a domestic worker in better conditions. He is also a member of The Voice of Domestic Workers and part of its Media & Communication Working Group. He is part of the first Voice of Domestic Workers Future Voices Spokesperson programme.
Follow Demi on Twitter @mur_demie and join in the conversation on the rights of migrant domestic workers.