Help at hand for domestic helpers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 August, 2010, 12:00am

Overseas domestic helpers are common in Hong Kong. They help us clean our homes, cook dinner and look after our children.

But have there been times when you get frustrated that things are not done right?

Perhaps dinner wasn't to your liking, or that stain on your new shirt has still not been removed.

The best way to tackle these problems is to demonstrate to your helpers the way you want things done.

However, with the hectic work schedules of most Hongkongers, enrolling helpers in training courses is another option.

Super Helper is one such organisation which provides training. Director Marilyn Santiago says she set up the company in 2004 after noticing a lack of training for helpers in Hong Kong.

She is half Filipina and believes this is a crucial factor, as she is able to communicate with helpers from the Philippines in their native language.

Santiago says the company's target clients are those from wealthy households, but middle-income families also enrol their helpers.

Courses provided by Super Helper include housekeeping, Western and Asian cooking, cooking for children, and dining and entertaining. Helpers are taught how to make various dishes, from appetisers to desserts.

Each cooking class costs HK$350 per person.

Instead of solely lecturing helpers, courses are hands-on so that helpers can repeat everything they have learned in class, while lecturers reason with students instead of having them memorise points, meaning they don't forget techniques. In workshops, helpers learn about attitude, manners and etiquette, including phone manners, personal grooming and hygiene, household organisation, budgeting and shopping, cleaning methods, fabric care, table setting and serving etiquette, and home safety.

Pet care classes are also provided if needed.

Workshops can run for five hours per day over two days, or for 21/2 hours per day over four days, and the fee is HK$980.

Families can also enrol their domestic helpers in the dining and entertaining course, which takes place once a month.

This course teaches helpers to brush up on their serving and setting skills if guests visit the household.

The two-day course costs HK$1,200 per helper.

Super Helper is also starting a childcare course to prepare domestic helpers for taking care of children from infants to primary school age.

Helpers can attend refresher courses if they have forgotten what they have learned in the workshops.

Holiday seasons, such as summer and Christmas, are peak times for Super Helper, as most families are away and take the opportunity to enrol their helpers on these courses to brush up on their housekeeping and cooking skills.

Santiago suggests that interested employers sign up their helpers two weeks to a month in advance during these busy periods.