“I started to dream bigger for my family because of Uplifters.”

“Always look on the positive side of life. Sometimes you’ll bump into a brick wall and it can get upsetting but you’ll eventually gather yourself and overcome it by going around it or over it. The choice is yours! You are in control of your life.” These are the lessons that Ailenemae Ramos learned throughout her journey as a migrant domestic worker. She is one of our Diamond Team Leaders who have supported more than ten sessions of our ‘Dare to Dream’, our free online course on money management, personal growth and mental well-being.

She had experienced many challenges, but it did not stop her from making her dreams come true. She co-founded the group Migrant Writers of Hong Kong to help migrant workers express their emotions, come out of their comfort zones and make their time productive. She counts being a certified poetry book author and holding her book launch at The University of Hong Kong as a huge achievement. “We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go to plan. If things are getting too much for us and we feel we can’t cope, we get our pens and papers, write something and put our feelings into words. Eventually, we feel much better and we will be better.”

“I came to Hong Kong to work as a domestic worker in 2010, leaving my five and six-year-old children behind. If you have a family and you don’t know what to do to sustain your kid’s everyday needs, you will surely make the impossible possible. Growing up without a mother who passed away when I was just two years old, I never imagined myself working abroad as I grew up with my grandparents and was not trained to do household chores. Taking good care of someone else’s kids is very hard as I always thought about my children’s welfare while I am miles apart from them. There were nights I couldn’t sleep. I had mixed emotions, felt tired and sick. My pillows were always wet from tears every time I woke up in the morning. Yet I need to be strong and always think of the positive side and why I left home and sacrificed to be in a foreign land.

Days, weeks, months, years pass by, and sometimes I forget when I arrived here to work as a domestic worker. I have experienced different treatments from my four previous employers. I worked so hard to gain their trust. It was hard to do, but I learned that open communication, honesty and mutual respect help. I am happy to have supportive employers who help me make my dreams into reality.

Uplifters’ community changed everything in me. I won’t be who I am today if it is not because of Uplifters. I couldn’t imagine where I would be at this moment in my life if I didn’t know this wonderful community which is a great instrument to help me save my family from tearing apart. I built a stronger relationship with my children and realized how their future is very important.

I started to dream bigger for my family as I want to provide them with a better future that I never had growing up. I began to invest in a house already for my eldest child and built my emergency fund. It’s hard to budget, but Uplifters teaches me and enlightens me on how to set my goals and plan for the future. I want to get ready for my children’s future before I retire a few years from now.

I enjoy being a Team Leader, especially when my team reaches out to me and expresses their gratitude. I am always grateful whenever they trust me with their personal experiences. I love to read every sharing they had and listen to their stories whenever we had a chance to call or meet up in person. I am also happy to meet those who have the same writing passion as I do and I am so proud to be with them. We have an extraordinary bond. I got a chance to meet leaders from different charities as well. It’s an opportunity to share and use every learning from Uplifters.

“Work hard in silence, let your success be the noise,” by Frank Ocean, is my favorite quote, followed by the story ‘The Elephant’s Rope‘ that I have learned during my Dare to Dream class. A dream is just a wish without hard work. Let’s all learn together and make our goals achievable. Our family needs us. Let’s make a big change for our mindset to be with our family for good with a stable source of income. We can do it! We are Superwomen!”

The Team Leader who was accepted in a global fellowship of grassroots leaders

We are thrilled to announce that our Gold Team Leader Maria Nemy Lou Rocio was selected to be part of the 2021 cohort for GivingTuesday’s Starling Collective program, joining grassroots organizers, activists, artists and changemakers representing 29 countries.

Starling Collective is a global learning community and innovative fellowship that provides a 6-month coaching program and access to a peer learning community and offers grants to catalyze grassroots generosity worldwide.

Nemy applied for this program to help her Facebook group Migrant Writers of Hong Kong achieve its mission to provide a social media platform for talented and aspiring writers to freely share their thoughts through writings. They hope to connect the gap between domestic workers and the locals of Hong Kong through their writings. One of their visions is to provide workshops that will foster their community’s artistic, intellectual, and personal growth.

She learned about this program through Dr. Julie Ham of The Hong Kong University, who conducted and supported their writing workshops. “We are on our second month now and we still have four months to go. Through Giving Tuesday’s leadership program and peer community support, I hope that I will be able to have a deeper insight into being a community leader and organizer. I hope to gain more knowledge and utilize these new learnings to help my fellow domestic workers and together make our goals achievable”, Nemy shared.

“Believe in yourself that you can overcome life’s difficulties. If other people can do it, we can do it too.”

Today we’re sharing the story of one of our Diamond Team Leaders, Yulia Endang.
She has supported more than ten sessions of our free online course on money management, personal growth and mental well-being; Dare to Dream. She is from Ciamis, Indonesia and has been working in Singapore for 15 years.

Read more about how she overcame her struggles in her interview.

“My family was struggling with financial problems and I wanted to help. My mind was set on earning a good salary so I thought taking care of a household would be easy. But I was wrong; my English was very poor and I did not have much work experience. I spent nights crying and anxious that my employer would send me back. I wish that the training center in Indonesia told us about the challenges of working abroad and trained us better.

During my first few years of working, I felt that people thought being a domestic worker was not a decent job. I felt low and had no self-confidence. I turned to prayer to comfort me when I felt homesick and kept myself busy so there would be no space to feel stressed and depressed. I spent years reflecting until I got the courage to find and proudly show the positive sides of working as a domestic worker. Uplifters’ ‘Become a Leader’ course helped me gain confidence and develop my communication skills. I took writing and photography courses. My English significantly improved. I learned to cook a variety of dishes. I even started documenting the people and places that inspire me in my YouTube channel, YuliAShares. Now I call Singapore my second home.

I had many plans for my future but did not know how to start. Dare to Dream taught me the importance of making a plan and how to set goals. It is the only money management and personal growth course I took and I am grateful that I enrolled. I learned how to communicate and discuss my plan with my family. Learning to do so helped me save money and continue studying while supporting them at the same time. Currently, I am taking an online course in digital marketing at Writerpreneur.

To fellow domestic workers, believe in yourself that you can overcome life’s difficulties. If other people can do it, we can do it too.”

“Challenges are not obstacles. Instead, they are part of our journey.”

Rema Tabangcura is one of Uplifters’ Gold Team Leaders. She is a mother of two boys and has  been working in Singapore as a domestic worker for almost ten years. 

“I got married at an early age and did not finish my studies but I was determined to give my children a better future and working abroad was the only way I knew to do so. Even though I did not finish my secondary education, I tried my best and mustered up my courage to apply for a job. 

When I saw a Facebook post about Uplifters, I quickly enrolled. I was hungry for knowledge and wanted to improve my life. Although I had been working for many years, I did not have any savings at all. I did not know anything about budgeting and managing my finances. I used to spend money on unnecessary things and could not differentiate my wants from my needs. 

After finishing the Dare to Dream course, I was transformed. I now have the courage to say no and I am gradually building my confidence. Uplifters taught me to focus on my goals and the reason why I am working abroad. It taught me the value of self-discipline in managing my hard-earned money. I have built my emergency fund and continue to save and track my money. It helped me to believe in myself and my abilities. I was too shy and did not know how to express myself. Now I am a member of the Migrant Writers of Singapore. We enjoy attending literary workshops and developing our talents together. 

Being a team leader is challenging and fulfilling at the same time. When we learn from each other, I can not help but be grateful. Everyone shows compassion to each other. Challenges are not obstacles. Instead, they are part of our journey. All hardships we have been through are not meant to hurt us but to teach us and no matter what happens, there is always a reason behind it. We should be patient. 

My outlook on life has completely changed. Thank you to Uplifters.

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!