Uplifters’s mission is to enable migrant domestic workers in South-East Asia to transform their lives by unleashing the combined power of online education and peer support -and as such make migration successful. We offer a 3-week money management and personal growth online course and have a dynamic and supportive community on Facebook of more than 6.5K domestic workers. In the future we plan to develop new courses and especially vocational training.
There are already great educational centres and non-profit organisations for domestic workers. Uplifters was created to fill a gap in the existing solutions. Our goal is to make education truly accessible at scale for underprivileged communities thanks to online tools and peer support.
What’s unique about us in 5 points
1. We use new technologies to make our courses truly accessible
Uploading some content online is not enough to truly reach out to underprivileged communities. We have to overcome accessibility and flexibility issues and design online educational tools suited to their situations.
44% of the 3,700 domestic workers who registered on our Facebook Messenger chatbot since August 2018 don’t have an email address (you can register on Facebook with a phone). And for those who have one, we know from experience that a large majority of them have lost their passwords or don’t consult it on a regular basis.
Many domestic workers do not have access to WiFi at their employers’ homes (20% as per our last poll on our Facebook group Uplift Your Life of migrant domestic workers, May 17th-18th 2020, 193 respondents). Videos are therefore not suited, as they require higher broadband speed and width. They may also not use Google or other internet browsers often (27% of domestic workers in our Uplift Your Life Facebook group only use it sometimes, making them unlikely to find educational resources online except through social media, May 17th-18th 2020, 103 respondents).
Domestic workers tend to work long hours and have no control over their schedules. In addition to WiFi issues, it’s impractical to ask them to connect at a given time for a conference or a live chat. You need to provide asynchronous activities or flexible options.
Our courses are accessible through a Facebook Messenger chatbot. Our students don’t have to use an email address or an internet browser. The lessons are mostly in a short format text with quizzes so having access to WiFi is not a prerequisite. The interaction happens in our group chats where we encourage students to discuss the lessons with their peers and share their “assignments” (we call them challenges). The schedule is totally flexible to adapt to their constraints. They do not have to connect at a specific time.
To create this “simple”, user-friendly solution, we make the most of existing technological tools and integrate them: we have a chatbot, a Learning Management System and a database to name a few.
You can read more here about how we deliberately chose low bandwidth tools and asynchronous interactions to guarantee the accessibility and flexibility of our courses. https://uplifters-edu.org/why-zoom-may-not-be-the-best-alternative-to-your-workshop-and-what-else-you-can-try/
This approach makes it possible for us to reach domestic workers worldwide and grow exponentially. So far, we have students in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.
2. We don’t teach. We enable individuals and communities to self-coach themselves
We combine coaching techniques with peer support to help domestic workers make change happen in their lives.
- We insist on actionable and practical solutions that can immediately be implemented in their lives. For example, we make them draft a plan to reach their goals with actions to be taken now, during the coming month and in the next coming year and help them stick to their plan with our 6-month “Make it Happen” follow-up program. We have a team of personal growth advisers and coaches to help design the most effective tools to make change happen.
- We leverage the power of peer support by encouraging discussions and experience sharing in our online group chats. Our students learn from each other, feel comforted when they realise they are not alone and get motivated to reach their goals.
- We are truly community-led with alumni trained to support the new students. So far we have more than 70 active “team leaders’, alumni who have gone through our 2-week online “train the trainers” program. Each of them can support every month a group of 10 to 15 students through their Uplifters journey. This creates a ripple effect as they become community leaders beyond Uplifters. For example, 3 of our alumni have become Resolve Foundation fellows in Hong Kong, thereby continuing their positive impact on the community. Some have created their own Facebook groups or also volunteer in other organizations to further support fellow domestic workers.
3. We do more than just financial education
We believe it takes more than good money management habits to lift people out of poverty and help create the lives they want for themselves.
- We make mental well-being education accessible for those who need it the most.
We all need good mental health to reach our goals. It’s even more true for domestic workers living abroad far from their families and often facing difficult working conditions and life challenges. However, they have little access to counselling and coaching. So, we have a holistic approach with a strong emphasis on mental well-being. For example, we encourage them to adopt positive psychological tools like morning and evening rituals to feel better in their lives.
- We help them build a support network
Whilst some domestic workers quickly slot into a network of friends when they move abroad, many others find it tricky. They can feel homesick, lonely and isolated in their employer’s homes. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this in some cases, with workers having to limit their outings. Uplifters enable our students to make new friends, virtually or in person, giving them a new support network.
We also give them access to quality education and NGOs that can support them in times of need, therefore creating a ripple effect for the community at large.
4. We want to migration successful both for departure and host countries
We also want to develop vocational courses in the future to help domestic workers better meet their employers’ needs and feel more capable in their jobs. We believe in a dual-approach enabling the employer to communicate its expectations better to his domestic worker and therefore increasing the chances of a win-win work relationship.
5. We create ripple impact through active sharing and reflection
We share and reflect actively on our experience in online education and community building so other organisations can also amplify their impact.
What our students say about us
I joined Uplifters because I wanted to save money but I also wanted to make friends. I learnt a lot about saving but I was also able to chat to other students. It was great to be able to support each other during the course, great to hear about different people’s experiences and great to share ways to change things from negative to positive. We built up a friendship and kept in touch afterwards.
I had been working for 6 years in Singapore but had nothing to show for it. In just one year after I joined Uplifters, I started building a house in the Philippines. I don’t have a weekly day off to attend face to face classes so Uplifters was a unique opportunity.
Thanks to Uplifters I’ve finally learnt to say ‘No’ in a nice but effective way. My kids now understand the value of money and the importance of savings.
What is unique about Uplifters is that there are chats in the online classes where students can share their difficulties and motivate each other without fear of being judged.
I came to Hong Kong two years ago to escape a toxic relationship with my husband. Uplifters is not just about money management but also personal development and empowerment. I am little by little reaching my objective to make myself complete again as an independent woman.
I joined Uplifters out of curiosity but it changed me in many positive ways. I was struggling to save money before and I didn’t know how to manage my money. I am sure that if I didn’t join Uplifters, I still won’t be able to save and I ‘d never achieve my personal goals. My dream is to save for my retirement and I’ve already started saving for it. I’ve joined other classes before and they’re almost the same but Uplifters has had the most positive impact on me as I was able to put my learnings into action.
I joined Uplifters because of my friend who told me about it as we had graduated from the same face to face financial education program at another ngo before. I felt that I could still benefit from more support with keeping up with my savings and self-discipline. I was excited and nervous as it was my first time to do an online class. I was planning to back out as I am shy and introverted and thought it was similar to virtual teaching where I have to face the mentor on the screen. I was very much relieved to learn that it wasn’t like that. I enjoyed studying when it was convenient for me. However, I felt that the 3-week online course wasn’t enough for me to help me reach my goals so I did the Uplifters 6-month Make it Happen online course. I loved the lessons that I got monthly from Robot Joy! I was always looking forward to receiving them. I remember one of the lessons that I have done is the bracelet challenge where you change your bracelet from wrist each time you break the new habit you want to follow. If you manage to keep the bracelet at the same wrist for one month you can give yourself a small reward.
Then I decided to become an Uplifters team leader. It gives me the chance to study it again and at the same time practice what I have learned. Being a team leader also gives me the chance to learn from others and it keeps me on track with reaching my goals.
Before Uplifters, I was easily discouraged and thought I was not brave enough to face life. However one story from the Dare to Dream course inspired me to stop listening to negative criticism from other people.
The course helped me learn how to manage my money well and say no to people in a nice way. The courses of Uplifters differ from other classes because they really helped me to be motivated in pursuing my goals.
The most rewarding part about being a team leader is I grow together with my students. I may repeatedly read the lessons but it continuously inspires me. I find my worth being a woman by helping to empower my fellow women. It is my happiness to share with them how this life changing course moulded me to be better. In Uplifters, I found my purpose and that is to be an instrument to make a change in the lives of foreign domestic workers. It is satisfying to know that I am part of how these students find their own self, dreaming and working towards achieving their goals. I love what I am doing right now and I will continue to give back to the community that impacted me deeply.