Life in the Shelter After Eight Months of Unemployment


"Tomorrow's my first day at work! Feeling super nervous!" Today is Nika's last day at the shelter. She's double-checking her luggage, afraid she might forget something. A few T-shirts and pants, a thick winter coat – that's her entire wardrobe.When she came to Taiwan late last year, she never expected to get laid off from the factory after just one month of work. Back then, she didn't even know basic Chinese like "left" and "right." She joined our shelter and started a long period of not working."

Nika's been in the shelter for a solid eight months. During that time, she faced countless dead-end interviews. Being fired just a month after she arrived in Taiwan and having no job experience made it tougher for her to switch employers than other migrant workers. At one point, Nika even thought about running away. She's already in debt for 80,000 NT dollars just to come to Taiwan, and she wanted to at least earn back what she paid for the placement fee. But then, she worried about what would happen if something went wrong after escaping? She's got two kids back home who rely on her care, and she can't risk dying here.

These eight months without a job have been super stressful for Nika. She likes to belt out songs loudly to keep her worries hidden. There was this one time when she got really upset and went to the convenience store near the shelter to grab some beers and ended up crying her eyes out all night. With no coworkers, no familiar faces around, she remembered those early days of work when she had to cautiously listen to people speaking a language she didn't understand, scared that one wrong move could mean getting sent back to Indonesia.

We totally get where Nika's at. When job opportunities got scarce, the shelter stepped up and started offering free Chinese classes. They were teaching folks like Nika, who had just arrived in Taiwan and got fired right away. Nika was really committed too. During her time at the shelter, she put in the effort to attend those Chinese classes. And guess what? All that hard work paid off – she aced an interview at a new factory and now she's back to working in Taiwan.


After finding new jobs, many Indonesian migrant workers in shelters treat everyone to drinks as a way of saying thanks for the time spent there. In Indonesian, it's called "syukuran" which means gratitude. For Nika's syukuran, she whipped up two bowls of fresh mango milk. She thanked everyone at the shelter for being there during her tough unemployment phase, teaching her Chinese, and helping her rehearse interview answers over and over. Now that she's back to work, she's not rushing to make money – she's just grateful to slowly pay off the agent fees and avoid going back home in debt.