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  • Habitat for Humanity Singapore

Regaining control for this independent woman

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

Mdm Lim is a slice of living history that is fading fast with each new year. Born in 1936, Mdm Lim spent a decade of her life working as an “amah” or Chinese female domestic servant for affluent European households.

Mdm Lim joined generations of women - from China and around the region - who eventually dominated the field of paid domestic service until the 1960s and 70s (source). Domestic work as a familiar and practical choice of employment gave amahs the ability to carve out their own livelihood.

“When all the European families left, I went to work in a Japanese restaurant to slice vegetables, wash the dishes. I’ve worked in all kinds of places like a school cleaner, everywhere except bars,” said Mdm Lim.

This independent and almost feminist streak is something she still embodies at 84 years old. Breaking away from the mould of her generation, Mdm Lim scoffs at patriarchal ideas like families valuing sons over daughters as “old fashioned”.

“Last time people’s thinking was so stupid. Women now are so capable, they can do anything,” said Mdm Lim.

Outliving all her 7 siblings and her husband is also not an excuse she uses to wallow. Instead, she keeps herself occupied by going downstairs to what she calls her “Old Lady Club”, goes to church every Sunday and enjoys the regular calls she has with her daughter living in England.

For someone who has spent her life doing paid cleaning jobs, Mdm Lim’s home is as clean and tidy as anyone would expect. And that’s why the bed bug infestation that crept into her bedroom was baffling and frustrating for her.

“My whole body was so itchy, even my head and my hair. At first I thought it was lice. I kept washing and washing my hair until my hair turned from black to white. I didn’t know what else to do. Sometimes I see the very small, young bed bugs and it’s so difficult to kill,” Mdm Lim shared in exasperation.

“So I have no choice, I looked for (a staff) at Blk 149’s (Care Corner Senior Activity Centre) to make the bed bugs go away. Old people like me don’t know who to go for help,” she added.

Mdm Lim’s tidy bedroom didn’t take long for our Project HomeWorks staff team to clean out the infestation on her walls and bed.

After 2 months of tossing and turning on her sofa, Mdm Lim couldn’t wait to test drive the brand new, bug-free bed set up for her. It was two thumbs up from her.

“You all help me, thank you very much,” said Mdm Lim. “I’m very lucky I have you guys, thanks alot.”


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