Peer Support Guide

Supporting peers in times of difficulty – An handbook for Uplifters Team Leaders

WHAT IS THIS GUIDE FOR?

Uplifters is an organisation providing education to enable migrant domestic workers to make their migration successful. As such, some of our courses educate on money management, mental well-being, and legal rights. However, we are NOT a financial, mental health or legal advisory service provider.

In other words:

We CANNOT give financial, mental health or legal advice to someone.
We CAN actively listen and recommend seeking professional help.

As an Uplifters’ Team Leader, we rely on you to have a great attitude, your actions reflect our organisation’s mission and values. We know it’s not easy to know how to react when you encounter people in difficulty so we wrote this guide.

Even if students don’t openly share their difficulties with you, they may be showing signs of being depressed or anxious. This may be due to issues such as money concerns, working conditions, personal and family issues, etc. This is by no means your responsibility to fix. However, you might be asked for advice by your students or friends or want to proactively provide them guidance. We hope that this guide helps you recognise signs of distress and make wise decisions on the steps you can take.

As always, if you have any concerns, please get in touch with our Management Team:

In all cases, we ask you to respect your students’ privacy at all times.
Never share anything they have told you to someone else and on social media. This also means you can only refer them to us or any other organisation if they agree to.

HOW TO RECOGNISE IF A PEER’S IS SUFFERING WHEN THEY DON’T CONFIDE 

Signs to be mindful of

There is no definitive list of symptoms that will help you recognise someone who is suffering. However, the list below helps to paint a picture of signs to be mindful of.

  • Feeling depressed or worried over some time.
  • Preoccupied with stressful events (e.g. how coronavirus is affecting our lives).
  • Having trouble staying focused and/or concentrating on work or feeling less interested in day-to-day activities.
  • Loneliness, isolation and reduced contact with others.
  • Excessive paranoia, worry, or anxiety.
  • Extreme changes in moods, tearful, aggressive, or difficulty in controlling emotions.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping pattern.
  • Finding it hard to make decisions.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by things.
  • Substance abuse, e.g. drinking excessive alcohol or using drugs.
  • Loss of confidence in both human and religion, loss of faith in fundamental beliefs

On the contrary, good mental health doesn’t mean that you always feel happy or never have bad moods or bad days. But if anxiety, low mood or other symptoms of your mental health are overwhelming or persistent, then it becomes an issue.

What good mental health is

Characteristics you would associate with someone who has good mental health:

  • They feel good about themselves.
  • They do not become overwhelmed by emotions, such as fear, anger, love, jealousy, guilt, or anxiety.
  • They have lasting and satisfying personal relationships.
  • They feel comfortable with other people.
  • They can laugh at themselves and with others.
  • Positive self-esteem.
  • Sense of belonging.
  • A sense of purpose.
  • Positive outlook.

WHAT CAN BE THE CAUSE OF DIFFICULTIES?

Diverse reasons to feel bad

  • Employer or agency physical abuse (if this is the case, please let the Uplifters Management Team know immediately or  use the emergency channels to contact us through Mentors if needed).
  • Any other issue with employer or agency
  • Financial difficulties and pressure from debt collectors
  • Difficult working conditions (long working hours, no private space etc.)
  • Living under the same roof as employer
  • Having a colleague that is not easy to get along with
  • Having little or no friends
  • Living and working in a different country with a different culture
  • Being uncertain about the future
  • Worrying about own health
  • Separation from family
  • Not having control over when you’ll next be able to see your family
  • Worrying about the health of family back home
  • Past traumatic events
  • Experiencing difficulties related to Covid-19 restrictions, including social distancing, regular testing and vaccinations
  • Etc.

HOW YOU CAN HELP AS A TEAM LEADER

Overview

The most important thing is first to make sure you are in the correct headspace to help. If you feel the person needs urgent help and/or to be referred to a professional, please inform a Mentor or a staff from the Management Team. We’ll take over. 

Three main situations may arise:

  • Situation 1: You feel that all that is required is a friendly ear
  • Situation 2: You feel the person needs professional counselling 
  • Situation 3: You feel the person is in danger, likely to be/being harmed by others or herself

What you can do in situation 1: You feel that all that is required is a friendly ear.

Helping is not as easy as we often think. Check out what we suggest as DO’s and DON’Ts:

DO

  • Listen; ask about their needs or concerns. Help them feel understood.
  • Be patient and calm. 
  • Show respect and compassion. 
  • Be aware and set aside your views and opinions.
  • Respect privacy and keep the person’s story confidential. 
  • Be honest about what you know or can and can’t do. For example, “I am not sure how exactly I can help you but I will ask one of our Mentors and try to find out for you.” 
  • Make it clear that even if they refuse help now, they can still access help in the future.

DON’T

  • Don’t force people to share more than what they feel comfortable sharing.
  • Don’t give simple reassurances such as “everything will be alright” or “at least you survived”. Do not minimise the issues your students share with you.
  • Don’t tell people what they should be feeling, thinking or doing. Just provide factual information IF you have it. Don’t make promises which cannot be kept.

You can watch Brene Brown’s 2.5-minute video to better understand what empathy really is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3znEm8DAiI

If you feel it’s getting too much for you, reach out to one of Uplifters’ Mentors: All Uplifters’ Mentors are trained to be official Mental Health First Aiders and can be contacted for help. They will either take over or help you deal with the situation. It is important to protect yourself from being drained by other people’s problems (remember, their problems are NOT yours). This is not part of your role as a Team Leader, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Most people need to vent about their issues, and the following morning, they can see a new perspective and a way forward. Unfortunately, sometimes, it’s not so simple. If the situation is serious, then your students might need extra support. This is situation 2, in the next lesson.

What you can do in situation 2: You feel the person needs professional counselling

The best way you can help someone who has serious issues (legal, financial, or mental health) is to make sure she has access to this help.

There are two ways you can do that:

1. If your student or friend ACCEPTS her situation to be disclosed, reach out to Uplifters’ Management Team and give her contact details: We are not psychologists or financial, or legal advisors but we’re closely connected to people who can help. We will directly refer the students to the appropriate services.

Or

2. If your student or friend DOES NOT accept her situation to be disclosed, offer to give her information on where to get support: use our community directory to find the appropriate service. Please do so only if you feel you have a very clear understanding of what the issue is and a good knowledge of the domestic worker supporting system in the country where your student is based. Remember, mentors and the Management Team can help as well, just make sure in this situation not to disclose your student’s contact details if she doesn’t want to.

It’s not always easy to know if all is needed is a friendly ear or if professional counseling would be best. Never hesitate to discuss it with one of our mentors or Uplifters Management Team.

What you can do in situation 3: You feel the person is in danger, likely to be/being harmed by others or herself

STEP 1: If the situation needs immediate action because the person may be severely hurt otherwise, use these numbers. This should only be in extreme situations. Ideally, contact the Uplifters Management Team first.

Hong Kong

  • In emergency situations, you can contact the local police, ambulance service, fire department and other emergency services by calling 999. 
  • Caritas Family Crisis Support Centre 24-hour crisis hotline: 18288 
  • Samaritans of Hong Kong 24-hour suicide prevention hotline: 2896 0000
  • Social Welfare Department 24-Hotline: 2343 2255

Singapore

  • In emergency situations, you can contact the police by calling 999 and the ambulance service, fire department and other emergency services by calling 995. 
  • Samaritans of Singapore 24-hour Hotline: 1800 221 4444
  • Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST) 24-hour Helpline: 1800 339 4357
  • Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) 
  • Helpline for domestic workers: 1800 797 7977

If you live in another country, you can find the list here.

These numbers will direct you to your country’s emergency services where a person will provide you with the assistance you need.

STEP 2: Always inform the Uplifters Management Team as soon as you can and if they don’t reply within one hour, contact one of our mentors as they have Uplifters Management Team’ private numbers.

YOU’RE A SUPERWOMAN BUT WITH LIMITED SUPERPOWERS

Remember: set your own healthy boundaries

It’s important to set your own boundaries. We all want to be able to help others. You have already helped so many of your fellow domestic workers by being a Team Leader. But in order to be the best role model, you need to take a step back and ensure you are in a good state of mind before you can support others. It’s important to remember, you are not a trained counselor. Know your limits and get help from others, either Uplifters’ Mentors or Management Team.

You rock!

Thank you once again for the fantastic support and guidance you provide to your students. Without you, Uplifters would never have the impact we’re now having on the lives of thousands of migrant domestic workers! We appreciate it requires time and commitment. Additionally, supporting others in their time of need requires a level of maturity to be self-aware and set your own comfortable boundaries. 

Your role as a Team Leader is invaluable! We need you. And we need you in good shape, so please take care of yourself first!

“Dream big, start small and act now, as what Dare to Dream by Uplifters taught us.”

“I wish I had been told about Dare to Dream before moving abroad. If I already knew the importance of planning when to go home, I would probably not have spent 21 years abroad.”

Amy Ramirez is one of our Diamond Team Leaders who has supported more than ten sessions of our free online course on money management, personal growth and mental well-being Dare to Dream. A single mom from the Philippines, she decided to work abroad to provide a good future for her son.

“I realized after getting married that my husband was financially dependent on his mother and will never change. It was a difficult decision as it led to a broken marriage and separation from my family. Working as a domestic worker comes with a lot of challenges. Homesickness was very difficult. To cope, I ask God for guidance, strength and protection and practice self-affirmations. Some people think there is no place for a domestic worker to be happy because they feel it is a lowly job, discriminating against us and not showing us any respect. But I am also thankful because I have become a better person. I have beautiful memories with the families I have worked for in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Kuwait and now Singapore. Each has its own cultures and traditions that taught me values like instilling discipline in children and showing love to your family. I even got to develop my skills in food preparation and presentation.

Completing the online courses at Uplifters made me realize the value of money management and managing myself and my future. I learned how to make a financial plan through good budgeting and saving. It gave me the confidence to handle my money well. I continue to impart these lessons to my family and my 26-year-old son, a marine engineer.

As a Team Leader, I am grateful for the opportunity to share my experiences and help more women achieve their goals. It is a noble deed for me. I am happy when I see the interest of students to learn more. I enjoy interacting with them and learning from their different experiences. Their attentive participation in our class chat inspires me. I urge fellow domestic workers to dream big, start small and act now, as what Dare to Dream by Uplifters taught us. Keep learning and practicing what you have learned and you will see the fruits of your hard work.”

Impact of Covid-19 on women in the labor force

The Covid-19 pandemic’s economic impacts know no boundaries, with statistics showing that the financial hits are disproportionately affecting working women and mothers. Migrant domestic workers continue to be adversely affected by the pandemic in both their home and host countries.

This article from annuity.org, a free web finance resource, talks about the burden most women have taken on due to Covid-19, from childcare, wage disparities and unemployment.

Read the full article here.

Sisters, sisters are we!

Here is a beautiful poem of our alumni and Team Leader, Maria Nemy Lou Rocio, during our online 3rd anniversary. 


We are sisters!
Not by blood and neither a kin
The connection we have
Is deeper than friendship has ever been
In this community where we belong

We are women
Of meaningful past, a strong present
Holding a threshold of the next generation
Committed to serve
A common goal that everybody deserves
To lift up one another
To move forward together


We are sisters!
We may, or we may not know each other personally
Seldom talk or just see each other virtually
But we understand, we comprehend
Completely
That you are always there
And I am always here

We grow and learn,
We laugh, cry and yearn
To win our battles,
We never say never
For your fight is my fight
And if you win, then I win

Whenever you’re lost for words
Or don’t know how to express your thoughts
When you struggle to show your true self
And you need someone to say
Hey sis! I got you on this!
I will be that someone and I should insist
Remember that
If you ever fall backward
I’ll be there to push you
Hand in hand, we will move upward
When you’re feeling weak and low
The world seems to crumble

Before your eyes and tears won’t stop but flow
My shoulders are built for you
Lean on them if you may
I’ll turn your frown into a smile
Draw the sun on your cloudy day

But know that it’s not every day
We’re cookies and cream or
Peaches and mangoes
There are times when we get on each other’s nerves
And there are things we say that we never mean
We love and hate, hate and love
But at the end of the day
We choose to set aside our differences
And we accept that each one of us
Has flaws and are not perfect

So I’ll keep you in my heart
And treasure our journey
Miles or inches apart
Our connection will always be defined
By the memories that we created
And I’ll always have you by my side
Because we are sisters, sisters are we!

Manage your life the smart way

Our Dare to Dream online course provides different tools and ideas to grow personally, acquire new skills, manage hard-earned money and start building your life plan.

It’s not easy to apply all these tools in daily life. Where to start? What are the first steps? How to make sure to manage our lives in the right way in order to execute our plan?

Here is a checklist to help you organize your life the smart way and check you’re on track with what needs to be done!

A Guide for Expectant Parents: Fair Agency x Holly Wong Yoga x Uplifters

Hello and congratulations!
Having a baby is an exciting and busy time. We created this guide to help families who are considering employing a domestic worker primarily to help with baby care. We will walk you through hiring and managing a domestic worker, with expert content by Fair Employment Agency and Uplifters. As a wonderful addition, we have soothing pre-natal yoga resources from Holly Wong.

Fair Employment Agency is a nonprofit agency that helps employers hire great domestic workers. Their mission is to set a new standard for professionalism, ethics, and service for recruitment in the sector. 

Holly Wong is an experienced Pregnancy Yoga Teacher, Parent Educator, and Mother. She is passionate about providing education and resources to inspire a positive pregnancy and childbirth. 

Uplifters is a non-profit organisation that helps migrant domestic workers break the cycle of poverty, and build lives they want for themselves. This is achieved through online education and community support. Uplifters’ core online courses focus on money management and personal growth. In 2021, they will be launching a Baby Care Online Course with a dual access for parents and their domestic worker.

To download the FREE PDF Guide, please share your email address below. We will only use your email to send you the Guide, subscribe you to the Fair Agency Bulletin (a monthly newsletter on hiring and managing by Fair Agency), and for Uplifters to send you updates on their programmes and courses for domestic helpers.

Opening address of our Director Sujata Ramakrishna on behalf of our Board at our Annual Team Conference, December 7th, 2020

Hi Everyone, Mabuhay! Selamat Siang! Salut! What a great way to start the week! My name is Sujata, and I am a member of the Uplifters Board, together with Janice (our Chair), Romain, and Alex. On behalf of them, let me say how happy we are to be here together with you to celebrate your achievements and the impressive impact you all have made this year, despite it being a very tough year.

I want to take a minute to bring it back to why are we here today. We are united by the mission of Uplifters to enable migrant domestic workers to transform their lives, thanks to the combined power of online education and community support to make migration successful.

So why am I here today? I am here because I am humbled and honoured to have the opportunity to work with Marie and Uplifters. This mission of providing access to education resonates very personally with me. I believe that access to education is the first step in opening access to opportunities. I have personally benefitted from access to education.

The other aspect of Uplifters that resonates with me personally is the approach. I have worked in leadership positions for a good part of my career. I’ve always known this, but you bring this concept to life that leadership is not a title or a position, it is a choice, and you Team Leaders and Mentors have made that choice. You have chosen to be leaders in your community. You have chosen to mentor, lead, coach and support your peers to be successful in their educational journey. You make Uplifters truly a community-led enablement program.

Despite the pandemic, you, the Mentors, Team Leaders, Volunteers and Staff have uplifted the lives of many migrant domestic workers. This is really displaying a can-do attitude. Being positive in the face of challenges.

To all of the volunteers and staff, thank you for making lives richer by your service. You share your time and expertise and foster interactions at a grassroots level. We thank current and past volunteers for all your contributions. Regardless of how many hours you choose to give, we want you to know that you make a difference and your volunteered time is acknowledged, valued and cherished.

The personal success stories and the work that you do that Marie shares with us, we are thankful that the Uplifters team enables successful learning and that you live the values of enablement, positivity and warmth.

I’m based out of Hong Kong but consider both Hong Kong and Singapore as my home. I look forward to future opportunities to meet you all in person, in either in my home cities…..or Dubai!

Maraming Selamat, Terima Kasih, Merci beaucoup, Thank you from our hearts.

“To my dear fellow domestic workers, don’t stop learning because learning has no age limit.”

Today we turn the spotlight on Naicy Candido. She is from Aklan, Philippines and has been working as a domestic worker in Singapore for the past three years. 

“I finished the “Dare to Dream’ course, as well as ‘Make it Happen’ and ‘Become a Leader’ over 2020. I am fortunate to have employers who treat me very well. I share a special bond with my former employers’ two children, and we still keep in touch. We sometimes video call, which I love as it makes me feel as though I found my second family here. 

Sunday is my day off, and I wanted to spend it doing something productive. When Uplifters popped up on my Facebook feed, it caught my attention, and I enrolled straight away. The online course on money management was very interesting and kept me motivated to finish.

Uplifters is unique because it is free, and it’s completely online. I log on in my free time, from anywhere, which makes it very flexible. When I finished the ‘Dare to Dream’ course, I felt more confident in handling my hard-earned money and realising my self-worth. I have savings now and am mindful about my finances.

I used to be a shy person, but now I am happy to talk and motivate others, as one of Uplifters’ team leaders. I enjoy seeing the members of my class chat, share their thoughts and their eagerness to learn, despite their busy schedules. It is where I get my encouragement to keep going. 

My goal is to save for my future. I want to launch my own clothing business and buy properties. My first step is to make a ‘SMART’ plan, work hard and save money. 

To my dear fellow domestic workers, don’t stop learning because education has no age limit. When an opportunity arises, just grab it! Don’t be afraid to try new things. My favourite quote by CS Lewis is: “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Explore, learn more and enroll now! 

To Uplifters, thank you so much for offering us a chance to learn. A super salute to our CEO Marie, who wholeheartedly built this fantastic place for us to better ourselves.” 

“To those who want to expand their learning journey to prepare for the future, join Uplifters and be part of our community.”

We are very proud of our students who completed “Dare to Dream'”, Uplifters’ 3-week free online course on money management and personal growth.

Mary Grace Basilia is one of the graduates of our May 2020 batch and is now enrolled in our “Make It Happen” follow-up online course. She is from the Philippines and has been working in Singapore for the past eleven years.

“I came from a low income family in the Philippines and the eldest among five siblings. I have a degree in Food Technology. I decided to make a sacrifice and support my family to give them a better life. I had worked in many jobs in the Philippines but the salary was never enough to support the needs of my family, specifically the school fees for my siblings. My sister aims to graduate in hotel & restaurant management while my brother in accountancy and my youngest sister as a teacher. I feel my sacrifice was worth their education and future.

I found Uplifters in 2018 via Facebook. I was curious and had a conversation with Uplifters’ CEO & Founder Marie. We talked about some of the difficulties that I face, for example, how I lost confidence to speak to people face to face. I enrolled in Dare to Dream because I wanted to work on my weaknesses and better my skill set.

I was a shy person, but now as an active volunteer and ambassador at Aidha, a non profit organisation in Singapore. I support students by providing motivation and encouragement. Since taking the Make it Happen course in Uplifters, I discovered my passion for journaling. My communication skills have greatly improved. I can use the skills I have learnt when I start my cafe and restaurant in the Philippines. I would be able to support my community particularly the underprivileged children and their education once my business flourished. I want to help implement a strategy for the future through financial studies and mentoring to help others, like me, change their lives.

My message to my fellow domestic workers is if you feel alone and have difficulties in your situation, I encourage you to share your issues. Speaking up is the first step. To those who want to discover their abilities and expand their learning journey, in order to prepare for the future, this community is most definitely for you! Please join and learn by taking courses, learning from others and making friends! Never stop learning because life never stops teaching. Remember, especially during this global pandemic, that everyday is a new opportunity, every challenge is a new hope, embrace the uncertainty with open arms, there are no guarantees but that’s what makes life exciting! I would like to share my motto with you, “Everyone is unique, believe in yourself based on your credibility and authenticity. Follow your heart, always persevere and strive to reach your goals because life is beautiful.”