A sense of fulfilment reaching out to domestic workers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2006, 12:00am

Sam Jauhari has always had a nose for business. He's set up a car dealership, a food and confectionery import business and tried his hand at telecoms.

But one Sunday on his way home, he witnessed an incident that gave him an idea that was less about business and more about reaching out to a growing, vulnerable community in Hong Kong.

'I saw an Indonesian domestic helper slapped by a Pakistani man - they were arguing about their relationship or something,' Mr Jauhari said. 'I didn't dare approach them but I started to think how, when you are overseas, you need to be careful who you mingle with. I decided I needed to find a way to relay this message to these people.'

'I decided to form a newspaper - a free newspaper for the Indonesian community here.'

Mr Jauhari, 46, talked to friends of his father in Indonesia and enlisted the help of an uncle who is a director of one of the largest newspapers in the country, the Jawa Pos. 'I get to write about how to be careful when mingling or making friends in Hong Kong, how to avoid being cheated, where to turn to if you are assaulted,' he said.

'Some domestic helpers are being abused and taken advantage of by men - you hear a lot of horrifying stories.'

The monthly Berita Indonesia, which Mr Jauhari started six years ago, did well enough for him to start two more publications - Intermezo and Peduli.

Mr Jauhari also hosted a radio programme for the community with Metro radio and, more recently, he has been hosting a Sunday morning show on RTHK sponsored by the Home Affairs Bureau.

On his radio shows, Mr Jauhari invites psychologists, imams, pastors and representatives of the Indonesian consulate to give the helpers psychological, spiritual and practical assistance.

'A lot of them have problems not only in Hong Kong but also at home,' he said. 'Some find out their husbands are cheating on them - they work so hard to send money back home and the husband is enjoying it with another woman.'

Mr Jauhari said others who were young and single were vulnerable to being preyed upon by Muslim men.

'They take advantage of these girls, who are not always well-educated, have an affair. She may get pregnant, and if the employer finds out, they are terminated,' he said.

Even though the newspaper and radio work is on the side for Mr Jauhari, who works for a CD production business full-time, he says they give him a sense of fulfilment.

'I do feel like I've achieved something in the sense that I can connect with them - I think they are a lot more aware now.'