Uplift your Night Episode #1: The Limits of Control Strategies

Here is the transcript of Uplift your Night Episode #1 on June 26th, 2020 with Nerice Gietel, Certified Executive Coach and Online Learning Facilitator

Camille: Hi everyone. Thank you for joining me tonight. Uplifters is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering underprivileged communities with online education and peer support. We offer a free online money management course for domestic workers. You just need to click “ Send Message” on our Facebook page to enroll. This is the eleventh episode of our Antivirus series and we are very happy to be here with you tonight. 

Our objective with this Antivirus Facebook Live is first to reply to your questions if we can or collect them and consult with professionals afterward so we can answer them later. Secondly, we just want to be there with you. Uplifters is first and foremost a community and we will go through these difficult times with you. 

We are very happy to have Nerice Gietel as our special guest for tonight. Nerice is a Certified Executive Coach and an Online Learning Facilitator with international HR experience and a passion for supporting individuals to successfully combine life and work. 

Nerice, welcome to our live broadcast. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. 

Nerice: Hello! Good evening everyone! I’m really happy to be here and I hope I’ll be able to share some of my knowledge which will be useful to you. 

It can be difficult to determine what are the things we can control and what are the things we cannot control, especially now that we are all dealing with uncertainty. Are there techniques that can help us make a distinction between the two? What is the most important thing to keep in mind to identify what we can control and what we cannot?

Nerice: I think when you start thinking about different things you can control and the things that you cannot control, in reality the only thing that you can really control are the things that has to do with yourself. So your mind, like how you respond to situations, your actions. So when a situation involves somebody else, the behavior of somebody else, we already have no control over that, the most you can have is influence. And then there’s a whole range of things out there that you cannot control, for example the weather, traffic, Covid-19 situations, that we have a global pandemic, the list is endless. I think sometimes we can spend so much time worrying about all these things that we really have no control over that we don’t spend enough time doing all the things we can do and that we do have control over. We don’t focus on the actions we can take to make ourselves feel better because we are so busy dealing with the things out there which makes us feel helpless and more upset.  You feel hurt and actually can lead you feeling hurt, tired, exhausted and you don’t have energy left to take the actions that you need and do things that you have control over. 

So it’s a question of where you wanna put your energy.

Nerice: Yes, that’s a huge thing.  

What are examples of things in our lives that we can have control over in general? For these specific examples, what does it really mean to be in control of things? 

Nerice: The things that you can’t control, let’s just say you had a busy day at work and you are exhausted. And you may also have had some encounters with your boss or a friend, something that really was upsetting to you, now, you cannot go back in the past and change the situation, you cannot change what happened during the day but what you can control, let’s say you’re tired and you’re upset, you can spend the night just thinking about this and talking about this or you can think “What can I do right that can help calm myself down?” or “What can I do physically to make myself feel better? Is it to shower, go and listen to music that I find relaxing and puts me in a good mood or meditate, do some stretches, all those actions you can take to influence how you’re feeling about the situation. You can’t change the past but often we find ourselves ruminating about that.  These things take so much practice, it took myself a while and still can’t fully control this. I still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about and worrying about things. The brain is very powerful, and if you have that habit, undoing it will take time. One of the things people can do perhaps is to create a tool kit of all these habits and practices that you know would make you feel better and you might feel too tired or to even switch on meditation, so maybe have reminders on your space of all the things that can make you feel better so it’s easy to access them. 

Sometimes control strategies are useless and can even be harmful, taking a lot of our time and energy, making us feel weak when we realize we can not change things, etc. How can we move away from “bad control strategies” to acceptance? 

Nerice: Control strategies can sometimes occur in the form of various addiction, so when you’re in a bad position, feeling hurt, you may not be able to stop your mind thinking about it, so you try to take control and take away the power of the situation by drinking and using that as a form of escaping or gambling, overeating or eating too little, all these things that you can feel that you have a sense of control. I’m no expert when it comes to dealing with addictions in which you’ll need a specialist for. But I think sometimes we do this to a lesser extent, so it may not be an actual addiction but we do things to sort of numb or take away the feeling or the power of a  bad situation. One of the big steps is to realize this might be happening, or being aware of it. Knowing things like, “I’m drinking more than I should be” or the fact that we go out on the weekends three times if i can and getting ourselves so drunk that we feel sick the next day and do it all over again. This might be because not just we are enjoying it or having fun but it’s because we are trying to stop something from happening. Being aware of the negative impact, feeling tired, exhausted and all of that. It’s really difficult, this is the kind of thing where it’s much harder to do if you are trapped in the situation. I think one of the things is if you find yourself in a painful situation try to find things that you can do when you are feeling good about yourself or focus on the daily basis or the three things that you are grateful for, those daily habits to help you focus and take more control of your brain, your feelings and your actions. 

Thank you and in one of the Uplifters’ online courses “Dare to Dream”, we do have these rituals that can help in thinking positively. Something that I’ve been trying myself, the first step is to realize what they are, you can think of something that is upsetting you that’s been bothering you for a long time now, trying to list down all these things you’ve been trying to get rid of and then think about if it helps you in the long term or short term, and at the end of day we may said or did something or thought in a certain way because of wanting to get rid of these things. Did it work? And then realizing that 80 percent of the things you’ve been trying to establish to control didn’t work. So this is the time you start identifying what are the bad controls. 

Nerice: Correct. I think some of us do and that might make us think that we’re doing something about the situation is talking about it. I know that this is something that I myself used to do a lot, especially in certain work situations where I was working with a colleague who’s not particularly nice and I would always have a trusted friend or sometimes my husband when I go home and we talk about the situation over and over. Somehow this might feel like a release but actually when I think about it now, all I was doing was sort of replaying the hurt over and over again. Since it kinda feels like a release, I didn’t think about what I was doing that might be causing the situation or what can i do differently, what actions can i take? Sometimes people would just agree with us and we get reassurance that can feel OK but ultimately you’re not necessarily doing anything to change that. 

What does acceptance really mean? How does it feel when we reach that state of mind?

Nerice: The state of mind is when you feel calm. When you reach acceptance, eventually it will lead to calmness. Acceptance is just being aware and knowing the difference between the things you can and cannot control or knowing that you’ve done everything within your power to influence the situation and being at peace with that. I think once we accept the things that we cannot control, it can take such a huge burden away from us. We carry so much responsibility we will never feel any sense of achievement because if it’s out of our control that’s just the way it is. 

We all want to reach that state of mind but it does require a lot of practice. Back to the thoughts in our mind that’s been bothering us, instead of thinking about something else or something more positive, one technique can be to observe what’s happening with your mind. Acknowledging that you’re in control of your thoughts and accept or talk to it even. it may be weird at the beginning but through practice, then slowly you will disconnect with those bad thoughts. Another thing that I’m doing is when I happen to get thoughts is humming. I will try to sing it, I will sing it my mind, I will think of a song that I like and the thought would start playing along so it takes away all the seriousness out. It’s like knowing that the thoughts are there but you are choosing not to acknowledge it. 

Nerice: I just want to make sure that I made this completely clear, so if i could talk about a specific example where people taking control, is this thing about your employer relationship and I have a lot of personal experience of finding myself working with someone where at some point things didn’t feel right anymore, at one point and I was speaking to our domestic worker about this the other night and she strongly agrees with this, is for example, when you’re going to your first job to HK or Singapore, sometimes you may feel like you have no choice in terms of who your employer is. You have no negotiating power, you’re just going with it, This may or may not be true. But once you have experience working and you’re thinking that the working environment is not working for you for whatever reason,  there will be an opportunity for you to terminate a contract after a certain period of time, so what you have control is how much effort you put into finding an alternative. So this may not necessarily transpire but how much effort do you put in finding other agencies that are available? What do you tell your friends that might know somebody who could be interested in hiring a new domestic worker? All of these things, how much do you know about your rights? To what extent do you inform yourself about organizations that are there to support you who would extend you access to the support that’s available for you? There are so many different things that you can do that will help you feel less helpless other than just talking about the situation. The specific actions that you can take. And then if the situation presents itself, where your employer terminates your contract because they’re leaving, again at this point, this is where you have a little bit more negotiating influence. So when you go with your interview, how well do you prepare yourself, if you find it scary and intimidating then practice with a friend. Do you think about the things that are important for you to know from your employer’s point of view. So an example is, from someone who shared with me, was that at the interview she asked, what’s the situation with food, for me it’s really important that I’m fed properly. At that point you can ask that question. It depends on how much effort you put in terms of having another interview where you have the ability to negotiate. So realize the moment where you can change things.  

It’s very true and I’m not minimizing how complicated those situations like trying to talk to your employer or even your family, that step can sometimes feel like a big step to take. 

Nerice – Yes, and you can practice it. If you want to take action, maybe you don’t have a group of friends that will help you practice, expand your network and find friends that can help you. 

From the comments, Ody said that she is trying to control her daughter to finish college, but her daughter wasn’t able to finish it. 

Nerice – As a parent I think I can feel that is so hard to accept, but unfortunately sometimes we need to let people walk their own journey. All we can do is talk to her, rather than forcing her, try to let her understand  how you feel or what you have been doing and why it’s good for her. 

Do you have any advice for domestic workers so they become better at focusing on what really matters to them?

Nerice:  I think with everything, it’s about what we can actually do about it, focusing on actions. And this element of “Am I in this situation because of somebody else? Then probably I cannot control it.” The most one can do is influence it and take action and do something about it. 

Yes. And again it all depends on the situation, sometimes it’s harder  to speak up but if you feel like you could and you should then it’s better to try it. 

Nerice – Absolutely. 

Antivirus Episode #11, Mental Health under Covid-19: Online Community Support in the Quarantine Era

Here is the transcript of our special episode of Antivirus for Domestic Workers, Mental Health under Covid-19: Online Community Support in the Quarantine Era on September 9th to help our community learn more about how to take care of our mental health in these trying times or under situations where we have to be isolated physically from others. This event is part of the #Equality4All campaign.

Hi, everyone, I am Camille, Uplifters’ head of programs. And thank you, everyone for joining me tonight. I will wait a little bit so we give time to everyone to join. And I’ll take that time to introduce who we are at Uplifters. And I’ll pause regularly so we make sure everyone you know has time to join us and then we can start with our guests once we have some of you there already. So Uplifters is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering underprivileged communities with online education and peer support.

We offer a free online money management course for domestic workers. So domestic workers who want to enroll in the program, just need to click Send Message on our Facebook page to enroll and start the course. So I’ll screen the information so you can have it there. Our objective with the antivirus video live is first to reply to your question, if we can at the moment or to collect this question and get back to you later if we cannot answer them directly. But secondly, and maybe most importantly, we just want to be here with you. Uplifters is first and foremost a community and we will go through these difficult COVID-19 times together. So this is the main reason why we’re doing the live so we are connected with each other and we can discuss issues that are of concern to all of us. So today’s the 13th episode of our antivirus series and we’re very happy to welcome again for the second time Doctors without Borders as our special guest.

So just a few words about who they are. Doctors Without Borders is an international medical humanitarian organization, which operates in more than 70 countries worldwide. They provide medical care to people affected by armed conflicts, natural disasters, exclusion from health care and epidemics and pandemics. So we’ll have today with us two psychologists from these organizations so we can learn more about how to take care of our mental health under quarantine in these Covid times or under situations where we have to be isolated physically from others. That will be the main topic we’ll be covering today. The reason why we decided to go with this topic is because more and more migrant domestic workers experienced quarantine or similarly strict isolation, it can be those who were hired from their home country and have to quarantine when they arrived in Hong Kong. Those who live in their employers’ house and are not allowed to go out on their day off, be they living in Singapore, in Hong Kong or in any other countries. And those who quarantine with their employer’s family who are coming back from abroad and maybe also situations that I’m not going to mention there specifically, but basically, we’re talking about situations when we have to stay home and limit the contact that we have with other people from the outside world. We also know that the domestic workers are disproportionately affected by this crisis. The fact that they’re separated from their families and have absolutely no control over when they’ll be able to see it again, make it just harder. And the isolation itself makes it very difficult as well. So I’m also catching up on how many people we have with us now. Quite a few. A lot of hello and good evening. Hello everybody, it’s good to have you there. I’m just going to screen them. So the idea of the live is that we’ll be having with us two experts. So tonight they’re two psychologists from the organization, Doctors without Borders, who will be sharing with us their insights about how to take care of our mental health, but it is really a discussion that we’re having with you. So any question that you want to ask them you just feel free to type the question in the comment box. And I’ll be regularly looking at the comments and asking the questions to our guests. And hopefully we’ll get answers for you. So one thing that I also wanted to share with you is that this episode is part of the Equality for All campaign which promote community engagement for equal rights and opportunities for all migrant domestic workers. So I will be screening the flyer here so you can see the next online events planned by our partners Enrich, Pathfinders and Equal Opportunity Commission. Yes, so I’ll screen it again at the end of the live. So there will be four events through the period of the campaign until December and in December there will be an online quiz that you will be able to take. So if you listen well to what we’ll be sharing today, but also and the other events then you’ll have a chance to win a prize.

I also want to share with you something important before we actually start. This is an information sharing broadcast about what anxiety and stress management can look like under COVID-19. This is not a therapy session. So if needed professional mental health support can be conducted by a qualified counselor, psychologist or therapist. So this is also the reason why I’m going to be screening now some information about who you can contact if you feel that you need help, professional help with your mental well being. Also, if you have a fever, cough and or difficulty breathing, we would recommend you to stay home and seek medical attention and if you are not exactly sure what to do, best thing is to contact your health center and follow the directions they will be giving to you. So similarly, here are the information about the health centers that you can contact. Hi everyone, I’m looking at the comments again. Yes, we’re in it together with the Equality for All campaign. Uplifters is very happy to be part of it. We really hope that with this campaign we’ll be able to raise awareness and share more and engage the community so migrant workers, domestic migrant workers can have the exact same rights like everyone else. So, again, our two guests today are psychologists working for Doctors without Borders and we will welcome them now.

Camille: How are you tonight? We’re very happy to have you. I think the first question that I do have in mind, but again, feel free to ask any questions that you who are watching us have so I can just relay what your main concerns are. But I like to start with this very basic question. It’s been three months now that we had you Guleed and another colleague from Doctors Without Borders. Last shared information about the pandemic and its impact on our mental health, but it has been already like eight months that it is in Hong Kong. So sometimes I’m wondering like, is it normal that we still feel stress about it? Is there any way we can just get used to it but it doesn’t feel like this is what is happening?

Guleed: Well quickly I can just say I can start by yeah, we have been in it for quite some time now. And it hasn’t really changed the situation in itself because we’re still exposed to uncertainty. Now, this uncertainty might not be the stress and the fear about the actual COVID. The COVID-19 in itself, we have a lot of information about that. But there are other things that have been fed into it now at this point. So there’s uncertainty of how long will it remain like this, about our traveling situation? What about our work situation, a lot of people have also been impacted financially. So I think it’s very normal for I would definitely say it’s to be expected that we’re still very stressed when we’re in the situation, but the stress and the fear has just been substituted with something else.

MSF Psychologist: And on top of that, a lot of the impact from COVID-19 is only being good to service right now. See, for example, sometimes people get affected financially, right. So maybe eight months before you don’t have that financial crisis. But right now you started to think about, Oh, do I have enough money for my family or for myself. So, yeah, I think it’s definitely normal to still feel stress at this point.

Camille: Definitely. I think it’s a mix of everything, right? Like, we don’t know what’s going to be happening next. It’s pretty hard because we would think that in a situation like this, it would be enough to look back at what happened before, to kind of anticipate and think about, like, what would be the appropriate reaction, be it at an individual level or like a society level that like what we’ve seen is that on the forums, IT tech are so different, so it’s hard. Thank you for sharing that. Something that we were also thinking could be useful to the community is maybe talking a little bit more about what are what we call signs of stress. I know that they can be physical, psychological, but I think we’ve been feeling, experiencing different things lately and sometimes we feel lost and it’s hard to kind of understand what’s actually happening within us.

MSF Psychologist: So stress has a lot of different signs and it could appear in various different forms. So as you mentioned, it could be physiological, including, like you have trouble sleeping, changing an appetite or you changing weight. Sometimes people have headaches, diarrhea, nauseous sometimes. So, um, one thing I do want to point out is that these stress symptoms could be different from everyone. The symptoms that appear on me when I’m stressed could be very different from another person. So it’s very important for you to understand yourself a little bit more, try to keep track of your sleeping and your eating habits that would be helpful to monitor yourself basically.

Guleed: And I guess on top of that also is, especially maybe in Hong Kong, and in many places in the world, we see spikes in cases and then they go down, which means that there might be a lot of restrictions, and then the restrictions might be lifted. And then the restrictions might be put on us again, which is very confusing. So you can get this sense of hopelessness or helplessness because you don’t really know where it’s going. Again, it’s beyond your control. So just acknowledge how you’re feeling and know that it is absolutely normal to be stressed by all of this uncertainty, because it is really beyond our control, and we’re going day by day with these things.

Camille: So again, it’s all about like, not knowing what’s gonna be happening next day, right? Could you maybe develop a little bit about what are some signs related to how clearly we think because, like sleeping issues are sometimes easier to identify as something that you should be like. When it comes to our mind and how clearly we should think or how able we are to make a rational decision. These are all identified as being signs of stress, right?

Guleed: They definitely are, it can be very difficult to monitor that. I think once you start noticing the change in your behavior, that’s when you should be mindful and acknowledge a little bit that there might be something up. One of the things that is very important these days is to show yourself self compassion, because we do have a tendency of driving quite hard, especially because there’s so many situations that feel unfulfilled. We have a lot of plans that we wanted to do, we might have wanted to, you know, go traveling or seeing more people or we, if you’re working as a domestic worker, there’s a lot of plans that might have not been fulfilled because you couldn’t go home and see your loved ones. So you might try to overcompensate by doing other things. So really, really be mindful of not stretching yourself too thin in these days.

MSF Psychologist: And I was thinking about this as well. So aside from monitoring your own stress and own symptoms by itself, sometimes it’s very helpful if you have people around you, for example, your family or your friends. So sometimes, like for some of those concerns, you might not know it yourself, but then your friends and your family can resolve like you went close to you actually tell you that Oh, I’ve seen you lose weight recently. So these are, sometimes we might miss. So it’s always very helpful to have social support around you in life.

Guleed: Really make use of your community as well. I mean, there might be some days where you feel like you have a lot of energy, you have more to give up, then maybe utilize that with your surroundings, you know, your community, your friends, your loved ones, if they might be a little down and try to offer up some support. Maybe also share a little bit about what has worked for you. We’ve been in this pandemic for quite some time now. So what might work for you might work for the next person as well. So don’t hold back in giving out tips and coping strategies.

Camille: It’s a good tip as well. So it’s all about like being self aware as much as we can like being very much you know, listening at what changes we can notice but also looking at the people around us and also helping others to identify whether they’re doing okay or not. I know that we’ve heard this in here a lot. Resilience requires us to be sometime we tend to forget that resilience is not necessarily only about being, you know, the strongest at times, so it’s also good to be able to kind of, you know, share feelings and see that oh, well you were feeling that like a week ago this is exactly how I feel today. So maybe it has to do with the situation where all in, right? I would really encourage you to share if you have already questions like specific questions you’d like to ask to them also if you just want to share something related to what we just said like you felt for some of these symptoms. If you observe that around you, the household you work in. It would be interesting to hear from you on that. And then comes, you know, that question that we, you know, all of us like to be able to do well coping with that stress, like how do we cope with stress and anxiety under Covid-19 especially when we are being isolated from others. We all have, we all have our resources. I know that for myself, I talk a lot when I process my thoughts, but I could imagine when you’re in isolation that is getting more complicated to actually do. So if you would like to share some of the strategies in that?

MSF Psychologist: I think we can start with maintaining a regular routine or normal routine as much as possible, to get enough sleep, to get exercise. That’s very important as well. I’m not so sure about what the situation is like in Singapore. But then in Hong Kong recently, you can start like doing gym workouts and doing exercise outside. So I would suggest that is a very important coping strategy as well. Because when you start doing exercise your body releases a neurotransmitter that will make you feel good, like mentally it will make you feel good. And then eat healthy food, drink enough water, try to stay healthy. And then aside from that, monitor your own stress. And if you realize you have any stress symptoms, try to address it, try to talk to people about it. And if you feel like you’re being too stressed, there are different kinds of relaxing exercises that we can do. You can go online and look for deep breathing exercise for example, and that would probably help.

Guleed: Just to add on to that, just try to also make sure that you’re accessing your coping skills when you’re calm. We usually say all of these coping strategies they work best. It’s a little bit like martial arts, once you learn it and master it, when you’re not distressed, it’s easier to call them when you need them, so that it goes more fluidly. So if one coping strategy doesn’t necessarily work for you in the moment, try to park it for a little bit. And then instead of moving on to the next thing, because this is a task that you’re trying to figure out something that will work for you. Try it again when you’re a little more calm, and then see if it won’t work there.

MSF Psychologist: And on top of that, I was just having some thoughts in my mind. Maybe one thing would help is to decrease the exposure to social media and news. So I think it’s very important for you to monitor the situation in the city that you live in, but then sometimes we spend too much time on the phone looking through Facebook or different social media. And all these news in the social media could create a lot of stress. So try out like a time schedule or routine, maybe half an hour a day, one hour a day to go through those. And then the rest of the time just put it aside. Try not to think about it and not let it affect your mood too much.

Camille: Okay, they’re good tips. I really like what you said, Guleed, like some time you have all these good tips that you’ve been reading all over the place, because it’s all about coping with stress for like, eight months now, but it can we also want to avoid any feeling of guiltiness You know, when we want to, we feel stressed and then we want to manage the stress as good as we are said that it can actually could actually be, but sometimes things works for people. That doesn’t work for other people. So it comes back to what we were saying like it’s very important to take time to ask yourself what you really need when you, you know, agitation, I can see in the comments that are starting to share what they do when they stress. Let me screenshot some of them. So we have people saying listening to music can help. That’s a good one. Sometimes the most obvious one or the best one, we tend to forget how powerful music can be. I kind of very much agree with this one.

Guleed: Absolutely. A really good one, actually, because it’s also when you’re stressed. One of the things that you should try to do is also recall what brings me joy. You know, there was a life before COVID-19 and this whole pandemic and all these restrictions, we had hobbies, we’d have things that brought us joy, and trying to utilize that not as an actual but yeah, actually as a strategy as a coping strategy can also work because it’s quite familiar.

Camille: We have someone else saying about stress signs that insomnia is one so I think this is one of the first one that you mentioned, like not sleeping well, having trouble falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night or early morning. All of these are different kinds of sleeping trouble symptoms, right?

MSF Psychologist: On top of that, if you have like trouble sleeping, there are some tips that you can do for example try not to look at your phone before you sleep. That will help because like sometimes you get affected by the information that you intake from social media. So if you do that be Firstly, sometimes it will affect your mood. And if you then just keep thinking about it, so it makes it a little bit harder. Aside from that, good sleep and exercise as I mentioned before it would help and just like what the lead said before, the sense of routine is very important, like try to maintain a normal life that would help you to grab and have a bit of more like a sense of security in this difficult time because of the COVID-19 we all have been changed in our life a lot like sometimes it’s about the traveling ban, sometimes our work and all this stuff so if you can try to maintain a routine as much as possible, it would make you feel a bit better, huh?

Camille: Talking about routine. This is something that really, really encourage our students in our dare to dream course to do so we have what we call a morning and an evening routines, which are a mix of breathing exercise, smiling at your own face in the mirror. It can be also some stretching exercises. We’re currently working on putting together drawings that would show different yoga, but like very easy one and inclusive of everybody. So because again, it’s all about not falling into that guiltiness trap like I should do a, you know, like a yoga workout every morning. And then this morning, I just can’t reach my toes, and this is fine. So we really kind of want to balance and it comes back again to what you were saying Seraph, like social media can be really helpful, but they can also be harmful. So it’s all about what we feel we really need. And then as you were saying Guleed, testing is what one thing can work for a week and then week after because your state of mind would have changed. It’s not going to work anymore.

Guleed: It’s really also you know, as I mentioned before, just recapture your identity, pre-quarantine and pre- COVID-19 and then try something new because you’re a person who likes to do a lot of sports, for example, we always go back to you know, movement and sports, there might be not the same opportunities, the gym might be closed, you can’t go outside and go online and try something new. With the pandemic I mean, YouTube videos and online workout has just exploded at this point. There’s so many to choose from. And usually we’re not supposed to say that, well, at least I’m not the only one who’s suffering. But this is a global pandemic. So it might give you some sense of relief a little bit that you know, you’re not alone. I mean, millions of people are going through the same as what we’re all going through at this point. They might put it a little bit into perspective, because with restrictions and quarantining and not going out comes also isolation. And isolation has a tendency of really doing a lot of mind tricks on us. Especially if you don’t really feel you have the capacity to have a healthy internal dialogue with yourself.

Camille: There’s a little bit of a paradox, right? Like we’re alone at home, but at the same time, we have like half of humanity experiencing the exact same thing. Right? So it can also feel a little weird for sure. I’m looking at the comments that are coming in. We have good tips here. So let me screen some. Yeah, so someone just backing you up saying good nutrition and exercises help a lot. Someone saying they are very happy to hear from professionals because yes, not everyone knows how to handle stress. Definitely. It’s a skill that needs some practice. I think Guleed clearly said that. So again, take your time and learn what works best for you. I think this is the most important thing. We have someone watching from Dubai. Interesting. Hello, Esther Vargas. Yes, one more on social media, avoiding or controlling yourself in social media helps to avoid stress. Definitely. And we’ll talk a bit more about that because again, it’s all a question of balance, but at the same time, this is where they can also help like, for instance, the morning and evening rituals that was just mentioning that we have in our course, we also give the opportunity to our community on Facebook to practice live with our team leaders and also domestic workers. So you would, you know, be informed that every morning at this time you’ll be able to practice routine together while still staying at home. So these are good ways to be connected like to be physically distancing from others, but keeping this social connection that we all need so much. So yes, exercises again. Yeah, another one that we didn’t mention so much. But that is very helpful. We’re into that. Yoga and meditation. Deep breathing. This one I was about to say as an alternative to looking at your phone before going to sleep. Just taking a book, reading a book helps very much. This is the best.

Guleed: It really really is. I started practicing this myself a while ago. So if you for instance, for me, my alarm for waking up is my phone. And so you know, there’s a good excuse to have it beside you all the time. But now, it’s in my living room, fully charged very high so I hear it in the morning. Then I have a book with me. So that’s the last thing that I see. And you’re absolutely right Camille, you know, at one point you were one page in and you’re dozing off. It’s really going to help them.

MSF Psychologist: And I would also like to add on to that. I think a lot of the comments gave a really good advice. I think what’s important is that if you don’t know how to handle stress yourself, you might want to try some of those. Some will work better. Like for example, music might help me better but then for others it might be reading so it will be helpful to try out and see what works best for you. Because everyone is different in response to stress and on the coping strategy is different. So yoga, meditation, all the stuff, deep breathing, so I will suggest people who don’t have that practice, can try doing some of those stuff and see how you can see the effect drastically and quite fast to be honest.

Camille: So more comments saying social media is toxic. We’re basically using social media right now to be talking to each other. So it’s very interesting, right? But it shows that there is an awareness of how helpful it can be and harmful it can be. How do we navigate? That is not an easy thing for sure. I have a nice one here. I usually go to my vegetable garden each time I’m feeling heavy or stressed. I don’t know if psychological but I feel better seeing and breathing and the green fidgets. That’s a beautiful one.

Guleed: Amazing. That’s absolutely great. I wish I had a garden.

Camille: It helps you know, maybe even having some flowers in your flat can help actually. I found out lately.

MSF Psychologist: Getting fresh air, going outside, seeing all this greenery is fantastic. This is a very, very good tip.

Guleed: And also when we have, you know, if the restrictions get lifted for a little bit, then try to utilize those moments to go out and do the things that you want to do before. Because the sad truth is that things they change consistently. And so one day we might be able to go outside the next day, we might not one day we might be able to go out and in smaller groups the next day, only two people together. So really, in that sense, try to be updated with your surroundings, and then just adjust your everyday to it to make the most of it for yourself.

Camille: I agree. We also have Aileenmae who is watching motivational testimonial videos from Ted, TED talk, I guess. Yeah, definitely. It helps. I would even add podcasts. I’m a big fan of podcasts, you have plenty of them. And I’ll actually be happy to share a list of well being and you know mental health boosters podcast in the comment after the event itself because they are great. You can do you know something else while listening to someone just helping you to keep your motivation up. So, yeah, definitely using you know, other people, tips and inspirations. They’re talking about the rituals that we have in Dare to Dream. Again, music, watching from Hong Kong Singapore. Yeah, these fun, free things to be happy in the meeting after my walk help. This is something we could even do together at the end of the episode, but like gratitude really well. I do have my personal version of it. Every time I go to bed, I do gratitudes. I did. So I said, Thank you for two things that happened in my day. And I’m also encouraging myself with something that I feel proud about. So you can again, you know, like, just find your own combination of things that you feel to begin with

Guleed: That’s really, really good. Especially just feeling some kind of sense of fulfillment. I like the one with what you were proud of. Because, you know, in these days, it’s hard to achieve. A lot of things we can’t really plan anything. So the sense of achievement is definitely something that we’re looking for. So I like that mantra for sure.

MSF Psychologist: I think it’s really good. I think these are really, really good tips. list out the things that you have achieved in the day, or the things that you’re grateful for, you know, keeping a track of stuff like that. Random positive thoughts and positive feelings, all these things would come a long way in helping yourself in terms of the mental state. So thank you. I think this is really, really good.

Camille: I agree. So we have like, more Ted Talks, podcasts, Ebook and Kindle. So see, new technologies can help. Maybe differently but maybe as much as having the ability to go to a garden and see a vegetable growing. So everything that works is actually good. I have another one here. My stress reliever walking up early in the morning and going down for 15 minutes walking, jogging. And I have aerobic dance. Yeah, well that this is really good if you do that every morning and I admire that a lot. Good. Strolling in the park breathing, walking every day. Great. Online yoga. This is what you were saying free online workout. There is a lot like never before. So it’s also on us to take advantage of it and make it part of our routine. And sometimes it will take a little bit of time to find the right one, the one that we will feel comfortable with. But there are so many that it makes things easier.

Guleed: And you know, you shop around like you would normally, if you were going to different gyms or different training programs to find whatever suits for you. It’s the same now. And it’s forever evolving. And they have like online classes where it’s people who are logging in from all over to create a sense of community in this way as well. So, there’s plenty to choose from, which itself can be a little difficult to navigate and with all of these choices, but the list is there

MSF Psychologist: I mentioned about limiting use of social media. But then same thing with the online courses. The sense of community is very important. So I think at the end of the day, the most important thing is balance. Balance is the key thing here. You’re balancing the times and how do you use social media to find the sense of connection and community which helps as well. So I’m not saying cut off social media completely and don’t use the internet. But I think the most important thing is to figure out a healthy way for you to utilize it.

Camille: Yes, it really comes to the question that I was about to ask. I think we kind of covered some of the answers here. But like, what can domestic workers who have problems connecting with others due to the restriction of gathering do? What can they do? So it’s really about trying to find a community online, distinguishing social distancing and physical distancing. It’s not that easy because of that term being used again and again. But if you want to elaborate a bit on that I think that could be very helpful for our domestic workers who are now watching us.

MSF Psychologist: So under the pandemic, we are in quarantine. A lot of times we don’t want to go out with friends like we used to anymore, because we have this like social distancing. But I think, more importantly, is to keep safe in terms of the physical distancing. But we don’t have to be socially distanced from others or isolating yourself. So being able to differentiate now we don’t get to see people face to face doesn’t mean that we don’t get to talk to people or connect with people. There are lots of news from the internet, social media texting, there’s still a long way for you to maintain the connection. And that is a key thing into managing your stress, basically, to have social support to know that people are going through the same thing as you do. You’re not alone. Sometimes you guys can share tips, just like what you’re doing in the comments sessions. It’s really good. Then you can share it with your friends and talk about it. So these are all the things that you can do under the pandemic.

Guleed: Just to add on to that as well, it’s also a way of trying to become comfortable with the uncomfortable, or the uncertainty of it all, you know, it’s the more we’re exposed to this, we buy all of these strategies and the coping mechanisms we can, it becomes a little less hard to be in this uncertainty, and it’ll help us change our mindset of self, you know, saying I am the person living in a pandemic, but also more getting back to that there are good days and there will be bad days and try to rekindle a little bit about who you were before the pandemic and acknowledged it as well.

Camille: Yeah, yeah. And, I mean, we’re talking about like, you know, online training or, you know, social media specific programs, but like, also, sometimes it’s really remembering that it’s just a text that we could send to someone. Like a quick call. Sometimes with this situation where we’re all supposed to be in that same, you know, pandemic situation, but also situations from one country to another are very different. And sometimes you can feel that gap widening, depending on you know, what the government of the country you are living in is doing in response as compared to the response in the country your family is living in. And it’s very important to maintain these connections, even if we can have different feelings, like resentment, even jealousy because we would like to be in another country and who is dealing with that, and maybe not necessarily better because at least here in Hong Kong, they’re doing good but maybe different. And we don’t want that to kind of interfere with the connection we are having with our families back home or like, you know, friends living in other countries as well.

Guleed: Absolutely. And it’s all you know, try to find substitutes. If you can’t really meet up with your friends or your loved ones physically like you could before, try alternatives, you know, we will talk a lot about schooling. I guess our new normal that we’re talking about, we hear that term as well as social distancing. The new normal, the new normal is what we’re doing right now. video video chatting. So people they’re having birthdays online, they’re having Zoom online, they’re having lunches online. You know, there’s so many things that we might not be able to do right now. But try to work around them so that you remain connected.

Camille: Yeah. And it can be like yeah, as you said, like a big event that we still won’t be celebrating together or like very, you know, little funny things, everyday life kind of anecdotes. And sometimes it’s, you know, reliving the burden of having that one big conversation about what’s the situation in your country and how are you exactly doing. I remember the very beginning of the pandemic, it was a lot of cartoon being shared, and now humoristic goal, you know, kind of things and that was kind of lifting up a little bit of a mindset that we want to keep, right?

Guleed: Absolutely. Because there’s also you know, that there’s a term called Cobra fatigue or pandemic fatigue. People are drained at this point we’ve been in it for so long, we kind of feel like the conversations are going the same. There’s no news, there’s only uncertainty.. So when we are connecting with our loved ones, or friends or colleagues or whoever we are, don’t let Covid you know, take over the whole conversation. Try to tell them your story or you know, life is also going on. You are experiencing other things besides the pandemic as well. So try to remember that when you’re interacting as well.

MSF Psychologist: Yeah, I think a really good point in terms of like, trying to find the normal in this is crazy madness right here. So if you are able to find things in your life right now to talk about aside from just COVID, you know, this kind of support that you’re offering to your friends and family could become very important for them as well. So right now, because of the pandemic, we are all being deeply affected. So, you know, being able to take our mind off of it from time to time would probably help as well.

Camille: Exactly. So I’m gonna go back to the comments. I think it’s an important topic for the community. I will screen some of them right? I’m very busy. I don’t even notice there’s coronavirus, I’m on Dare to Dream class. Yes, It can be a coping strategy just to focus on something else then COVID-19. Ody is writing poems. Yeah, doing a lot of art. teaching people how to write. It’s time to find your passion, develop it and share it. I used to attend seminars like in Doctors Without Borders. What I learned, I’m sharing. I saw one of the gentlemen, I think it was Guleed for the last workshop. Again, it can be you know, it’s okay. It’s perfectly okay to say, well, I’m fed up. I want to just move to something else and stop talking to me about Covid. It is here anyway, so yes, sure. Thank you for sharing that.

Guleed: Great example Ody. Absolutely and sometimes you might have the energy to throw yourself into all of these activities and that’s absolutely great and sometimes you might be a little low or have a lot of energy, feeling sad or frustrated, that’s okay too. There’s no actual plan on how to behave during the pandemic. There are only ways that you can cater to your wellbeing and make sure that you go through the days with more ease and less stress. And that’s where some of the tips that Seraph have made examples of them and myself as well can help to help navigate a little better.

Camille: So we also have testimonies of domestic workers seeing how challenging it can be to be far away from our loved one. The inconsistency of almost everything now make the lives of foreign domestic workers really challenging. It’s great to have people offering help and inspiration like Uplifters do. Again, this is really about connecting you with each other, actually so it’s basically a platform for community. You can uplift each other on the platform that we’re offering. Zoom and video call. I usually do hiking alone. If I feel stressed, I let my voice out loud make me feel better. So the fresh air positivity and always pray to God, definitely. Religion can help.

MSF Psychologist: Going back to the previous comment about inconsistency in life, there’s another tip that I would like to talk about is to be able to recognize what other things in life that we cannot control. For example, the Covid pandemic, this is something that we cannot control. So realizing that we cannot control everything in life. Maybe make a list of things that we can control, for example our lifestyle. That goes a long way because if you just try to control the virus outbreak and all these things, those things will accumulate and give you stress because you cannot control it at the end of the day. So being able to list down the things that you can control can better manage your life and your routine, your schedule will probably help.

Camille: That’s a good tip. Being able to make the difference.

MSF Psychologist: Acknowledge the frustration and disappointment that you’re experiencing. You know, the first step of solving any problem is to recognize there’s one and if that problem is not something that you can control, just put it aside, you know, work out a plan, what are the things that you can help yourself and others and try not to control every other aspect. Camille: I’m not gonna be able to read them all but it’s very active. I’m very grateful I thank you very much for all your participation. What it shows is how diverse these coping strategies can be. They’re just a reflection of how diverse we are as human beings. So again, as we said earlier, you know, talk to each other. Maybe one of your friends tried something that worked very well and that will be working on you. Share yourself what felt good to your friends so they can also get that as inspiration. I will screen this one because I think it’s an important one. We touched on that before. Talking less of COVID-19 in family conversation is a great idea. I had this friend when we were like, right into the third wave. And now I’m using numbers. And she had this role like when she was having a phone call with a friend, she was timing the time allowed to speak about Covid, and then and then after we had to move to something else otherwise she would just, you know, stop the conversation. She was like really radical. But she explained that she was like, I need that I just need to talk to you about something else.

Guleed: Absolutely. I have a friend from home where, you know, first I have to say, it’s okay to talk about it, of course, but just don’t let it take precedents for everything. And I had a friend back home in Denmark, where they started having it as a swear jar, that COVID-19 or pandemic was a swear word. So every time we needed to put you know, coin or something in the swear jar. So suddenly, you know, you try to stay away from the topic and then just have a conversation about something else about you guys. Or whatever brings you joy or or you know, helps rekindle the connections. I guess definitely also there’s a lot of the people who are with Uplifters who are away from home. And so definitely utilize that time to reconnect with your love back home. And not just the pandemic, because life is still going on. We’re still living.

Camille: I’m mindful of the time but I think the discussion we had on social media is a very important one. So when we say we want to minimize the exposure to news and social media, I think we all understood that it was a question of balance and also learning how to navigate, you know, between things that would feel good and things that would just hurt us or stress us, especially before going to bed. But if you could maybe share a little bit about like the news aspect on social media because we had all this information, but not only how to take care about your mental health, what is COVID-19 or what it was not, and maybe less now, but it’s been very hard to kind of knowing to what extent the information was accurate or not. So are there any tips that you’d be able to share so we could help the community to identify whether you know an information is reliable or not basically?

MSF Psychologist: I can share one of the experiences that I had, I did a number of workshops in terms of mental health before. So one of the participants asked me, can I wash my hands with bleach? To sort of clean by hand, so I was like, No, you couldn’t, because if you use your hand, if you use bleach to wash your hand, and then you eat with your hand, you might actually ingest some of the bleach. And that could be very dangerous. So I asked her, where did you get this information from? And she told me, oh, I read it online and Facebook. So going back it’s very important for people to be able to filter out what is the correct information. So go for the government officials information, go for some news site that has, like a credibility on it. Just in case maybe some of your friends or your colleagues say, oh, this is good for you. You might want to do a little bit of research before actually trying to train it on yourself or to spread it. So I think this is very important to be able to filter out what is actually a good news and what is not, especially in social media because we can all share different points. So I think one of the tips that I can offer is to do research. You know, just go online, on Google. See if that’s really the case.

Guleed: And limit it to maybe one outlet or two, there is the World Health Organization that you can go ahead if you need specific information or updates, that’s a legit website and an organization that you can use. Try to limit when you go in and do check ins because if you go online, you can actually see that now there’s 1000 new cases. 10 minutes later, there’s 1200 new cases, you know, so it’s like a count up and a count down, which is a stressor in itself, and it’s not really conducive for you to go in and check so much. You can do it in the morning. Don’t do it just before you fall asleep and also ask yourself how much of this information do you actually need. Stay up to date but you know, everybody is an expert at this point. There’re so many theories flying around. That might also feed into the stress. Should I wear masks or should I not wear a mask? This outlet says that I should, this outlet says that it doesn’t help for anything. I will be able to go traveling but then that’s a hoax. So you know, you get your hopes up for something and then it gets diminished again. So be mindful of how much of the news you go in and look at and where you look at it more importantly.

Camille: Thank you. I think it’s very important. This is something that we are trying also to build as a skill to have this ability to think you know, by yourself and for yourself. We’re talking about critical thinking, but it’s a big word just to say that. Sometimes just asking yourself first, what is it that you’re looking for, can really help and then this is when you can start. Selecting which media you want to go to, or which exact question you want to be asking, and to who, and then after you need to gather all this information, but again, it will be only easier for you to kind of sort out information if you know in the first place what is this information that you’re really looking for, like at that specific time.

Guleed: And how legit it is because you know, if you are in a stressful mindset or feeling hopeless, or helpless, there’s so much information and news out there that of course, if you have a chance, you’ll select the ones that fits the narrative that you’re looking for. So if you were hopeful that you want to travel, you go out and see the news outlets that are giving you out. There might be a travel bubble or there might be something here, but it might not be actual news. It might be you know, a hoax, that points to the news outlets that you know, are legit and then stick to those.

Camille: Definitely it’s kind of projecting the implications it will have to think A or B also would help and and also as you said, I think looking for other perspectives is always a good thing to do so bit another media outlet but sometimes it’s just about like rumors starting to spread then maybe you’ll have one of your friends sharing a news article on social media and then depending on how many likes or you know sharing that this article will have then you might consider that as the truth but it’s always wanted to have you know, someone else opinion and not necessarily another alternative media. It can be it has to be sure but it’s also asking people around you what do they think of that because when you’re completely lost, sometimes it helps.

MSF Psychologist: Sometimes, it can be hard for people to do research and to figure out what is correct and what’s not, especially in social media. As Camille mentioned, they could have like, thousands or millions of like on one wrong piece of information. So maybe ask professionals, if you have any friends that work in the medical field, or if you don’t contact organizations like Uplifters to ask if this piece of information is correct, can I follow the instructions? Does that make sense? So go for the professionals. I think that is the safest route to go.

Camille: Thank you for that. We have Nhelz saying how helpful is the topic and the advice thanking you two. This is a nice one. I’m mindful of the time so I think I’ll ask your last question, which is what should we do if we continue to feel stress? And if it seems like it’s getting worse. So back to those signs, and if we feel that we’re kind of really losing control, what would be your advice?

MSF Psychologist: I would advise to seek for professional help if things get out of control, so I think there are different steps. So firstly, if you start realizing you have some symptoms of stress, try to manage that by doing all the tips that we offered on you know, changing your living habits, you know, sleep better, eat regularly. If that doesn’t work, ask people around you to give you support to create a sense of community to contact different organizations like NGO that provide a platform or your ambassadors or your community leaders in your community. If that doesn’t work, if it goes please go look for professional help. There are a lot of free hotlines out there that you can call and sometimes in some of the hotlines they actually refer you to a professional therapist or counselor as well. So you might want to do that because sometimes in these difficult times we cannot handle everything on our own. We need help from time to time. So getting a proper help from a professional is very crucial and important.

Camille: Yes, thank you. I’ll just want to mention that all like the information that I’m screening, I will also make that available properly on the Facebook group and the Facebook page so everyone has a chance to go back and look at that properly. Thank you Seraph. I will check the comments one more time. Speaking of social media, I use it to my advantage. I love to read updates and current events about the pandemic but I stick to reliable sources. If the source is not my usual source of info, I just ignore it. Thank you everyone. It was very active. It was really insightful. It was really good to actually have this discussion and sharing tips to each other. Very interesting also to see how diverse those coping strategies are. I think one thing that we should remember if there is one key takeaway is be self aware. Take your time to find what works best for you. Help each other and make that difference between physical distancing, is you do not have to cut all your relationships or social distancing doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot be connected to your loved one. ones are just your friends around that is for sure. Maybe the last one I want to say is also never forget that as domestic workers, you already have a very, very high ability to adapt. I mean, I’m not going to write the whole story again, but working abroad far from your loved ones, having the ability to adapt to a new culture or speaking another language, meeting very unfamiliar employers expectations. So you do have this capacity to adapt. And this is why you might want to be using to adapt these challenging times. Okay, I’ll screen the two last comments and I think I’ll wrap up. Be safe everyone, my employer’s missing here being alone and not often going out. I choose to stay home. I am enjoying doing my fashion design every day and learning Dare to Dream class. I’m very happy to actually note how helpful Dare to Dream can be in these times as well. People are starting to see bye bye and thank you. So I think it’s time to slowly come to an end. I want to thank you both. Maybe just before we say goodbye for good. I’d like to hear from you if there are filial joys that you’d like to share with us if there are, you know, things that made you happy today that you’d be happy to share with us. This is part of the routine that we usually do so if there are some things that happened to you today be they big or small that made you happy. Do you want to share that with us?

Guleed: I think here in Hong Kong we are, some of the restrictions have been lifted, which means that we are able to go outside and exercise, the gyms are open, and you can run outside with a mask on. And that has been a bit of a hurdle for me not being able to do that. Because I’ve been exercising. My eating way too much. So it’s nice to be able to exercise and expel a little bit of that. So that’s made me continuously happy.

MSF Psychologist: For me I listen to music a lot as well. So, you know, looking back at the previous comment, I’ll often say that music helps. It does really do help for me as well. And sometimes I write music just to help me to express some of my feelings, to let it out basically. Camille: Well, thank you for sharing that. I think something that I really enjoyed today is that I actually went for lunch on my own to one of these small rare restaurants that I had in the village I live and it was like, it was like a real pause. So it was both enjoying being on my own and also taking some fresh air. So it was a very simple, local Chinese restaurant, but the fact that it was outside and that I really left my smartphone at home really helped me, you know, kind of reboot and start a good afternoon. All right. So this is time to say bye bye. Thank you again, just before I end the broadcast for good, I’ll just share again this information about the Equality for All campaign so you will have a chance to look at the next upcoming online events. And we’ll have the poster of the campaign shared on Facebook as well so you’ll have time to properly look at that. Thank you, everyone for joining us tonight and stay safe. Take care, and don’t forget to connect around you.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself; life is about creating yourself.”

Today we turn the spotlight on Uplifters’ team leader Haidee Roiles. 

“I am from Cebu, Philippines. I finished my Dare to Dream Course in February 2020 and completed the Become a Leader Course in July 2020.  I have been working in Singapore for almost four years. It is my first time to work abroad away from my loved ones back home. 

When I was young, I was full of aspirations and did my best in making them come true. But I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I lost track of how I could achieve my dreams and l made mistakes that changed the direction of my life. I had a family at 19 years old, which was difficult. I worked in call centres and a semiconductor electronics firm but none of it went well. I decided to come to Singapore to turn my life around and work as a domestic worker, not even knowing how much work it would be. Thankfully, my employers are kind and patiently taught me how to run the household. I won’t say it was a smooth journey; I am learning from the challenges I faced. 

Uplifters helped me a lot more than I anticipated. I signed up for their free online course when I saw their ad on Facebook with Uplifters’ team leader Janelyn Dupingay. I’ve known her on various platforms here in Singapore. I also took a Caregivers  Course at Aims Learning International School,  a six month instructional and interactive class, and 56 hours of volunteering in the Home for the Aged. I made it to the first rank amongst 68 aspiring fellow migrants too.

Being a team leader makes me happy and excited about facilitating the class chat. We learn together, we share real-life experiences, and we motivate each other to achieve our goals.  Listening to their own stories is very empowering for me. It is my way of giving back to others by uplifting them and by being there for them. 

I feel a sense of belonging in this community. The camaraderie and teamwork are overwhelming. There is the spirit of togetherness and the strong motivation to support each other. Learning and growing every day together in the spectrum of our virtual bond feels like home, and I feel a change within myself. The people who know me saw changes in me. I became more confident to speak up for my rights. I open up more about my thoughts and feelings. I became more focused and have developed a habit of doing things I love to do, like continuing to be a team leader in this community to be able to touch and make footprints in their lives. I have also been able to share and write literary pieces in various platforms for migrants, such as  Migrant Writers of Singapore, and also sharing my writings in Hong Kong through a migrants’ community named Horizons. We never know of the positive impact when they hear the messages of our compositions.

My humble advice to my fellow domestic workers is to be brave when facing challenges. Always carry your dreams with you. We came this far with little hope, initially a step forward to give our loved ones a promising future, that’s our main goal of coming to a foreign land.  Don’t get lost along the way of chasing your dreams. Find it deep in your heart. Believe. Become what you wish. I’d like to share my favourite quotes: “Life isn’t about finding yourself; life is about creating yourself” by George Bernard Shaw and “Dream, Believe, Become.”

My heartfelt gratitude to our Uplifters Community, thank you for this opportunity that you gave me, as a medium of touching and moving my life to the path of enlightenment, personal growth and money management insights. I find this very useful and meaningful in the tricky process of reaching our goals. Kudos to all of you. Long live Uplifters. Spread Love.”

“There is no harm in trying. See for yourself how Uplifters can help you to build and guide your goals.”

Meet Julie Ann Tabigne, Uplifters’ alumni from the Philippines. She has been working in Singapore as a domestic worker for the past seven years.

“I decided to move to Singapore because I knew it would be easier for me to achieve my dreams. I am a single mother and it was hard for me to leave my only son but I endured the longing and homesickness to give him and my family a better future. I want them to have a better life, and working abroad was the only way to make it happen.

My family is simple, they live in a coastal area and my father is a fisherman. My mother is a housewife and I have four siblings. Two of them have their own families and two are still going to school.

I saw Uplifters on my Facebook feed and it kept reappearing. I hesitated signing up because I did not know anything about it. When my close friend enrolled, she told me that it was a very good platform that helps fellow domestic workers learn more about personal growth and financial management. I became eager to try it so I clicked the send message button on their Facebook page to sign up.

I enrolled in Dare to Dream in February, and it helped me get through this time of uncertainties. It lit the fire of eagerness to study again. It was a great way to improve myself. I learned a lot of things, especially about handling finances and dealing with the people around me. It helped me to believe in myself again. I also finished the Become a Leader course in July and facilitated my third batch of students.

Before, I never knew how to handle my money properly. I did not know where my money went. It seemed to have gone with the wind in an instant, and then I did not know what to do. I kept giving money to people and granting all their requests, then at the end of the day, I was broke. I was so kind and generous that people were taking advantage of me. I did not want that to happen again, so now I think of my own future first because nobody will do it for me. I am slowly building my savings and trying to invest in a small business that will help me once I decide to go home for good.

My motto that I would like to share with my fellow women is “Dream, believe and make it happen.” When we dream something for ourselves we need to believe it with all our heart and work hard to make them all come true. I share my poems on the Facebook groups Migrant Writers of Singapore and Horizons: home for talented migrant workers. Through writing, I can express my emotions and let it be heard. Sometimes we do not know who will we inspire.

My advice to my fellow domestic workers is to click the send message button in the Uplifters’ page. There is no harm in trying. See for yourself how Uplifters can help you to build and guide your goals. Maybe this is the answer to all your questions about why you still have not started building your savings and eventually you will realize you need to gain more confidence in yourself. I was so timid before. I was afraid of people but now I am rocking the virtual world to tell you the importance of believing in yourself because nobody will do it for you, it’s just you.”

“We need people to remind us that life may be difficult, but the difficulties are just temporary.”

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

Joan Santillan Amurao is one of the graduates of our April 2020 batch. She is from Caloocan City, Philippines and a mother of two lovely daughters ages 21 and 11.  She has been working in Johor Bahru, Malaysia for the past ten years.  

“Uplifters helped me to be more focused to make my goals come true. I am now financially stable. I have more savings.  I was also able to help my siblings during the Covid-19 pandemic.

I joined Uplifters to gain and enhance my knowledge of money management and personal growth.  For me, Uplifters offers a user-friendly medium for learning. I love the chatbot, Robot Joy. The platform is very easy to navigate, plus the team leaders and my classmates are very approachable. I enjoyed the course and learned a lot at the same time.

Before, I was a little too generous with spending my money. Dare to Dream made me stricter in managing my money.  I plan and calculate how much I can spend in advance before buying anything.

In my free time, I am a volunteer transcriber and translator on YouTube. I have my own YouTube channel called “Prinzest Joan.” My content is basically all about life and poetry. I love gardening and taking care of pets too. I enjoy singing and composing my own Christian songs. My dream is to publish a poetry book. For the time being, I am gathering more ideas, and I write during my free time.

To my fellow domestic workers, I salute you all for your great sacrifice and love for your family. Indeed, being a foreign worker is a noble job. We don’t know what lies ahead in our workplace; we don’t know whether we are going to be lucky with our employer or not.  I would like to encourage you all to keep praying. Homesickness and depression are common problems of migrant workers. I would like to advise you all to have a good friend or family member to share your burdens with. Surround yourself with people that have a positive mindset. Avoid friends who will bring you down.  We need people to remind us that life may be difficult, but the difficulties are just temporary.  Do something that will make you happy. If you need a friend to listen to you, I am just a chat away.

To those who have recently enrolled in Dare to Dream, this is a great start. Keep on learning and apply everything you have learned in your life. Always focus on your dream board. Don’t stop learning. Practice the morning and evening rituals because they are essential to have a positive outlook in life. Enjoy learning, and don’t be pressured.” 

“Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for it to happen and take steps to make it happen.”

Today we turn the spotlight on Ester Vargas, Uplifters’ first-team leader from Dubai.  She grew up in Tondo, Manila but settled down in Lapulapu City, Cebu. She has ten years of work experience in accounting and previously worked for SHARP Philippines Corporation. She describes herself as a business-minded person and a proud mother to four children.

“My small restaurant business was bankrupt and I couldn’t bear the pain of losing it. I was buried in debt and the savings intended for my children’s education were all used up. Though I never wanted to leave them, I needed to find a way to start anew and recover the losses. My sister invited me to come to Dubai for a visit and check it out.

I was scrolling through Facebook one time and saw Uplifters ads. I had just finished a caregiving and culinary course. I really love to learn but since the pandemic started, the schools have been closed. I am supposed to take the IELTS review since I am planning to move to Canada. So with nowhere to go and nothing to do, I thought that joining Uplifters would keep me busy. While waiting for the September opening of “Dare to Dream”, I also became active in the Facebook group Horizons: Home for Talented Workers in Hong Kong founded by team leader Ody Munson. I wrote poems and short stories, a talent that I only discovered during the pandemic. I find it to be the perfect platform to release my anxieties. I feel better each time I write my thoughts and feelings.

Uplifters taught me how to make blueprints on my dream boards. The budget plan is the tool that I needed to make my dreams a reality. The best thing I learned from Uplifters was to save ahead monthly for a specific number of years so that I will hit my target. While I’m in the middle of the Dare to Dream course, I learned about investing in life insurance and mutual funds. It was eye-opening to realize how important it would be to protect my family in case something happened to me at work. Thanks to what I’ve learned, I now have life insurance for my family. My children will receive a certain amount of money that they can use to continue their education even in my potential absence.

Before Uplifters, I was a carefree individual and used to buy things that I didn’t need. After Uplifters, I became a responsible and wise spender and learned how to be content with what I have. The clothes I wear, the food I eat and my activities, I tried to make them simple and within my budget and I began to invest my hard-earned money in mutual funds and insurance. I no longer do impulsive shopping and overspending anymore and I leave my ATM card in my room when I go out.

I feel more fulfilled now because though I have a change in my career, I can still do the thing that I love most. It’s always my passion to help people. I’m active in the missionary programs of our church in the Philippines, such as sharing the gospel to those who are in unreachable places like in the mountains without roads.

Being a team leader at Uplifters, I can still help even while I am inside the solitude of my room. The most fulfilling thing that I like about being a team leader is that I can support them and listen to their stories. I always get emotional when they open up about their hardships and their personal family problems. I need to be strong and give them wise suggestions, but deep inside I feel like bursting into tears. I also like that I can teach them how to manage their finances the right way so when they go home for good, they won’t go back empty-handed. I enjoy being silly with the students and laughing with them to help relieve stress. I’m now more active in the Filipino community here in Dubai. I’m the community coordinator in my area, in charge of facilitating the relief goods for distressed workers. I would like to share my motto to everyone, “Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for it to happen and take steps to make it happen.” 💛💛💛

“It’s never too late to learn and start a new page in life. “

Meet Yulia Endang. She is from West Java, Indonesia. She finished her Dare to Dream course in September 2019 and enrolled in the Become a Leader course in April 2020.

“Uplifters has helped me so much, especially the Become a Leader course. I was an introverted person and always had difficulties with communication and public speaking. I was a very insecure person who often thought that I wasn’t good at anything. During the Dare to Dream and Make it Happen course, I was too shy to interact with my classmates or the team leader. I chose to do it all on my own and realized that I had difficulties interacting with groups of people as I am so shy. However, despite my shyness, I decided to continue learning with the Uplifters’ courses and I signed up for the Become a Leader course and gained so much more than just learning about money management.

Uplifters was the first and only class I enrolled in to learn about money management. I have enrolled in other classes but they are in different fields. Just like many other domestic workers, I wanted to make plans for my future and I had no idea how to begin. Learning how to communicate my plan with my family, I feel better and less burdened when I have to be strict on spending and saying no to what I think is not necessary to purchase. People around me, especially my family noticed positive changes in me.

I started to spend my day off more productively. I met some Indonesian ladies at school who love writing. I joined them and that was how my writing journey began. I began to publish anthology books in Bahasa Indonesia. For some reason, I stopped writing in 2015 and did more activities such as modelling and makeup and I ended up loving photography. At the end of 2017, I was invited to attend the Migrant Poetry Competition and was able to get to know different writing communities. I began to write and read my poem on stage and I joined competitions as well. I also love taking photos and I thought of combining writing and photography.

I have two favourite quotes that I heard from the family I was working for. These quotes are: “Be kind to others and the universe will do the same” and “If you cannot be right, then be kind”. Currently, I’m trying to maximize sharing my activities on my social media, YuliAShares, which I find is a great way to learn and share.

I would like to let our fellow domestic workers know that it’s never too late to learn and start a new page in life. Let’s use this opportunity that Uplifters offers us to make a better plan for our future. I would like to thank the Uplifters community for creating an extremely beneficial program to help us.”

“Uplifters empowers women all around the world. Just give it a try, and you will see the positive impact that it will bring into your life.”

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

Aileenmae Ramos is one of the graduates of our June 2020 batch and is now enrolled in our Make It Happen follow-up online course. She is from Isabela, Philippines and a proud mother to two children ages 15 and 14. She started working in Hong Kong as a domestic worker in 2010.

Read more about her in this interview.

What prompted you to join the course?

Ailenemae: I received an invitation to join the Uplift Your Life Facebook group from my childhood friend Liezel Marcos. She encouraged me to enrol in the free course they offer to domestic workers. Without any questions, I clicked the join button and kept browsing the group, as well as their Facebook page. I felt motivated by what I saw and read, so I decided to enrol in the online course.

How were you before? How do you feel now?

Ailenemae: I was so depressed, anxious and heartbroken before. I was in the midst of darkness. I felt overwhelmed, especially about financial issues. I did not know where and how to begin again. I went back to the Philippines after I lost my job in August 2019. I used all of my savings and accumulated debt. Fortunately, I found a new job in Hong Kong in November of the same year.

I am now slowly gaining trust and confidence in myself to start a new chapter in life. I have challenged myself to forget my problems through the online course and the class group chat.

I found a community in Uplifters. I started following team leaders Nelly Bautista, Ody Munson and Janelyn Dupingay after watching their live broadcast on the Facebook group. I became inspired to write short stories and poems. I felt more peaceful after expressing my emotions through writing, which helped me to alleviate some anguish deep inside my heart. I am also now a part of other Facebook groups that helped me to form friendships with other women and develop my talents. I started to enrol in other free online courses as well. I love learning new things and feel like I am studying in school again.

How are you going to make sure to put into practice what you just learned?

Ailenemae: I have been so organised since I started my Dare to Dream class. I made sure to keep separate notes on every topic, hard and soft copies, and every so often I review them to refresh my mind. The children I am taking care of even helped me draw my Dream Board, SAVED Visualization graph and post it in my wall.
I am able to monitor my expenses by listing every single amount I spend. I am slowly adding to my savings while I am paying my debts and my housing loan.

Since I started with Uplifters, I found the courage to create a plan and come up with a very strict target amount and specific time for my emergency savings fund. I believe I can get through all this and can reach my goals in God’s perfect time. I did not finish college due to financial problems, so I made a promise to myself that no matter what happens, I will make sure I will support my children so they can finish their studies.

What is your message for fellow migrant workers who hesitate to join?

Ailenemae: I thought that this was just a basic course when I first read about it. But I found myself enjoying the course while I was learning. I was wrong thinking that I know everything about managing my salary and saving money. The course taught us a lot of things that we think we already know, but the truth is, we still have a lot to learn.

I want to encourage each and everyone to enrol in Dare to Dream. Experience the positive mindset that we all experienced after finishing the course.

As domestic workers working far away from our families to provide them with a better life and help them achieve their dreams, we all go through similar circumstances. We need to challenge our perceptions and discover more ideas to help us succeed. Here, we will be able to learn how to handle financial issues and improve our self-confidence. We will learn how to get our families to help us manage our money and communicate with them without hurting their feelings.

Uplifts empowers women all around the world. Just give it a try, and you will see the positive impact it will bring into your life. I am happier and healthier. For me, it all started with Uplifters. 

“When we stop learning, we stop growing.”

Today meet Helen Mae, Uplifters’ alumni from Ilocos Norte in the Philippines. She came to Hong Kong eight years ago so she could provide a better future for her daughter.

“I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook when I saw a post from a good friend of mine about the free online course at Uplifters. I was curious about it, so I asked my friend to send the link to me. As a keen learner, I always find ways to explore and learn new things, especially during this pandemic. Online courses are a great way to make our time productive, even if we are stuck at home.

In 2015, I attended a financial literacy seminar here in Hong Kong, and that is where my financial education started. Though I have built a house for my daughter and started her educational fund, I realised that these are not enough. I started to save money for my emergency fund and my retirement, so I would not be a burden to my family. I also continued to look for courses to continue my education on financial literacy and entrepreneurship.

Uplifters’ Dare to Dream course helped me become more focused and clear on my goals. One of the challenges in the course is to make your own Dream Board. It helped me to have a concrete vision of what I want to achieve. Uplifters has had a huge impact on me. I feel so excited every day whenever I see my dream board. Some of the people around me saw the changes in me since I started to focus on my goals. I did not buy unnecessary things, and I now choose simplicity over luxury. I value my hard-earned money because I am not getting any younger. I’m so thankful to my family for all their support and understanding.

In my free time, I volunteer as one of the coordinators of Jalastig Photography, an organisation that teaches photography to Overseas Filipino Workers in Hong Kong. I can say that I am helping my fellow domestic workers to find their passion and improve their skills. This is a simple way for me to help them when they go home to the Philippines if they decide to be a freelance photographer or start their own business.

To my fellow domestic workers, never stop learning. I would like to share my favourite quote, “When we stop learning, we stop growing.” Be an influence of creating a great life, be a role model, give others the desire to succeed and be a motivator for lifting others.

Thanks a million to Uplifters for helping and empowering domestic workers around the world, especially in financial management.” 

“Help yourself, you will feel happiness, but help others, you will feel fulfilled.”

We are very proud to feature one of Uplifters’ amazing Diamond Team Leaders, Elli Verdol Libre. She is from the Philippines and a proud mother of three children.

Our Diamond Team Leaders have facilitated 10 sessions of our 3-week online course Dare to Dream on money management and personal growth. 

Read more about her in this excerpt from our interview:

“My friends call me Elli. I am 41 years old. I was born and raised in Caloocan City in the Philippines, but my children are now living with their father in Pangasinan province. I have been working here in Singapore for almost a decade. I came here on January 26, 2011.

After my father died in 2009, life became very difficult, especially my financial .situation I kept forcing my husband to find a job so we could support our children in their everyday needs, but he seemed content with what we had at that time. So I made the difficult decision of sacrificing time with my children to work abroad in order to give them a better future. It was a difficult decision to move to Singapore when my youngest child had just turned three.

Homesickness is the number one challenge I faced. Even while I was still in the Philippines and processing my documents, I already felt homesick. When I finally arrived in Singapore, a tremendous feeling of loneliness came over me. I asked myself how I am going to handle being alone here for the rest of my 2-year contract. But because it is for my children’s future, I endured everything.

The first five years were so difficult. I only had one or two days off per month from 10 am to 5 pm only. I felt that it was not enough because I was busy working for six days in their home. I had a bad experience being looked down on by my first employer, monitoring how much food I was eating, and my sleep schedule from 11 PM and waking up at 5 AM. The worst for me was when their sons did not respect me. But thankfully, things changed when I began working for my current employer, and everything has run smoothly. It is a busy household, but they treat me like a family member, and there is trust, honesty and appreciation in our home. I could not ask for more.

On my days off I like going to the non-profit organisation https://www.aidha.org/. I graduated from their course last year, but I continue to go to the campus to assist and guide the new students. I am like their big sister. I also volunteer during their events. I am one of the ambassadors for Help Her Do Better and attend their yoga classes and mentor students.

When I feel homesick, I call my kids and talk to them. That’s my best cure. Apart from that, I have been helping some of my friends who have issues with their employer, giving them advice, making them laugh and forget their worries. I love doing it. I make myself busy with different things, like sewing, gardening and playing with the daughter of my employer.

I learned about Uplifters when my mentor at Aidha posted their link on our group chat. He asked us if we wanted to join their free online course. I was curious about it and found the Dare to Dream course quite exciting as it is connected to some of the lessons in Aidha. I continued and became active in the class chat with my fellow members.

The course helped me to be patient and have a deep understanding of every negative situation that happens in everyday life. Being in Uplifters, I learned to always see the positive side of things. Uplifters has made a big impact on my life as a foreign domestic worker (FDW). I became closer to many FDWs in Singapore. I became more committed to my responsibilities to help mentor and guide students.

If I have to pick an image to illustrate my life before Uplifters and my life after having done the course, I would choose a flower that has not bloomed yet. I was not able to see the beauty of the world around me. After Uplifters, I became a fully bloomed flower, ready to show everyone my capacity and ability to give support and encouragement.

The people around me also saw that I have changed. I notice that so many women are approaching me, telling me they admire how I carry myself. Even those who did not like me before have become my close friends once they got to know me.

Being an Uplifters’ team leader helped me to see my value and gain self-confidence that I did not have before. I enjoy talking to our members and encouraging them to do all the things that we have learned in the online course. I am thrilled every time I see them finish the course and hearing them say thank you at the end of every batch.

Yes, of course, I am proud of being a domestic worker, but I don’t want to be a domestic worker for the rest of my life.

Thinking about the future, I want to get a degree so I could become qualified in the hospitality industry, which I really love. I am planning to take a business management course in the university here in Singapore that will be accredited by any company that I will apply to. Apart from that, I want to take my children with me wherever I will go. I want to be with them again.

I am grateful for the people who have inspired me. The first person is the Egyptian wife of my second employer. She is a very strong woman who fights for the rights of every woman in her country. She is the founder of an organisation that fights against women’s violations and harassment. She is the one who taught me to stand for my rights. Second is Simon Sinek, the author of multiple bestselling books and a motivational speaker. Being optimistic is one of the things I like about him. His books guide me to become a good leader.

My advice to women who are struggling is to always see the positive side. Don’t count all the bad and negative things that happened to us; instead, count all the good things. There is always a rainbow after the rain. I would also like to share my favourite motto, “Help yourself, you will feel happiness, but help others, you will feel fulfilled.”