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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uplift your Night Episode #6: Goal setting and Planning

Here is the transcript of Uplift your Night Episode #6 on October 14th, 2020 with Don Hatch, coach and mentor and Head of Operations for a Startup Incubator.

Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining me tonight, I am very happy to be here. I will tell you a bit more about Uplifters and specifically, this Facebook Live series. I am the CEO and founder of Uplifters, which is a nonprofit organisation, empowering underprivileged communities with an online education and case reports. Essentially, we offer a free online course in money management and also a personal growth program for domestic workers. The first course is titled ‘Dare to dream’. Joining is very easy; you simply click ‘send message’ on our Facebook page! 

First and foremost, Uplifters is a community where we can learn and support one another. Tonight’s topic is ‘goal setting and planning’. As well as a lesson, this is also a discussion, so please feel free to ask any questions. Most of us have dreams and hopes for the future, but often we just forget to make a plan and set realistic goals. Then, as a result, nothing happens. So to help us navigate this important topic, we introduce our guest speaker Don. Don is the Head of Operations for a startup incubator in Europe. The company helps entrepreneurs develop their initial idea, then move to launch successful companies. Six years ago, Don started his own business, with more than 30 years of business and leadership experience, he’s also passionate about coaching and mentoring people to help achieve their fullest potential. So, please welcome Don!

Don: Thank you very much Marie, thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here.

Goal setting is very important and requires a plan. You need to figure out how to get from where you are, to where you want to be. In other words, you need to create a plan for achieving and evaluating the goal. When things don’t go according to plan, what’s important is that you take the time to evaluate the issue. I have a couple of quotes to demonstrate: former American president, Dwight Eisenhower, said “plans are worthless, but planning is everything” and an 18th-century German general said, “no plan ever survives the first shot of a battle”. To put these into context, is to say that life happens, and when things don’t go according to plan, we need to be able to adapt to a new situation. If you’ve already thought through your goal, and evaluated how to achieve this goal, then you have also already considered the variables; the things that could potentially change. Therefore, your response will be apt, and you will be able to adapt the plan to still achieving the final goal. Essentially, it’s about having a backup plan. My aim today is to help you fully understand how to set goals and how to create plans to achieve those goals. 

To do this, firstly, I’m going to talk about what goals are and are not. And then to give you some tips on how to plan out your goals and how to achieve them.

When I was first asked to give this presentation, I realised your life circumstances are very different from mine. I’m a middle-aged, white, American College-educated with a Masters degree in Business. I’m a business owner. We come from very different backgrounds, and you may be thinking I couldn’t possibly understand you and your life. So let me address this by sharing a little of my life journey. I want to help you understand some of the challenges I have experienced in my life, and how they have shaped the person that I am today. 

When I was eight years old, my parents, unfortunately, went from being very successful to losing everything they owned. We never really recovered, and it had a profound effect on my father’s self-confidence. I remember one shopping trip he asked the butcher for bones for the dog, but we didn’t actually have a dog! He wanted the bones to make soup stock to feed his family. He was too proud to admit we didn’t have enough money to pay for the groceries. At a later date, I found out my father was selling his blood to pay for groceries. And so I completely understand what it’s like to be in a situation, struggling to put food on the table. It is a challenge. 

I am also dyslexic, so school was very difficult. I just managed to graduate from high school, started working full time at 14 years old and was living on my own at 17. I worked for several companies, but when the recession hit in 2008, I found myself in a worrying financial situation. Between 2008 and 2011, I watched 20 years of wealth that I had accumulated completely disappear. I filed for bankruptcy in 2012. 

So, although I do not know your individual stories or circumstances, I do have my own major life events which I have fought to overcome. I hope from my story we can have empathy for each other, and my advice can be meaningful and helpful. 

Now let me tell you a little about my successes. I bought my first house when I was 19 years old, I started my first business when I was 27, which I ran for 18 years. At this stage in my life, I took my first vacation ever, I went to a different country and experienced a new culture, language and people. This was my first taste of travel, and since then, I have travelled to 45 different countries. 

At the age of 40, I decided to change the path of my journey and return to college. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree and also achieved an MBA from a top school. I decided to move to Europe, my goal being to start seeing the world as a citizen rather than just a tourist. I created a seven-year plan of how I was going to get into a  top 10 Business School, pay for it, and succeed at it. I won a scholarship and was able to graduate with zero debt. 

What are goals? Goals are tangible and achievable. They are not wishes, hopes or dreams such as “I wish that I had more hair”,  “I hope that I live to be 100 years old”,  “I dream to travel to another planet”. Their occurrence or outcome is completely out of my control. Alternatively, if I want to become a fluent Spanish speaker by January 2022, then this target is measurable, realistic, and has a specific timeframe. 

We introduce the SMART goal. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. 

Applying the SMART goal framework:

SPECIFIC: If you were to communicate your goal to somebody, would they be able to repeat it back to you? Were you specific enough? 

MEASURABLE: How can I measure the success of my actions towards my goal? In the case of learning fluent Spanish, I could take regular exams, or in the case of losing weight, I can measure how much weight I’ve lost per week.

ATTAINABLE: Is the goal realistically within your capacity? 

RELEVANT: This is another way of questioning whether something is meaningful.  Is it purposeful to you? 

TIME-BASED: In what time frame are you looking to achieve this goal?

Additionally, the goal needs to be clear and visible in your mind. It needs to be written down, posted on your wall, on your phone, and told to other people. That makes it visible, tangible and real. It needs to be reviewed and adjusted as things change over time. 

The goal you set must be important to you. If you simply set a goal for the sake of having a goal, e.g. you want to be an Olympic athlete, but you don’t really mean it, then it’s something that’s never really going to happen. The goal must be something that you’re willing to commit to, devote time and energy and give it life.

If your goals are truly important to you, if you’re committed to your goals, if you do the planning, keep your goals visible, and include others, help them, let them advise you to how to keep moving forward, you can achieve them. 

Let’s look at an example of losing weight. Most people say that they want to be in better shape, but they don’t necessarily have a plan of how to get there. They start making drastic changes to their routine. They change their diet or eat much less than usual. Perhaps they start exercising but don’t consider what type of exercise, how long, how often. They may even note some small results or changes. But the lack of structure or milestones usually fails. The goal needs to be more specific: To lose five kilos or to fit a particular dress size. Each requires a different strategy and planning. 

Let’s take another example, ‘sending your children to university’. How do we reverse engineer this goal? Firstly, is ’sending my children to university’ a SMART goal? Can we apply the SMART framework? Is it specific, which university? When? Is it measurable? How many of your children do you intend to send to university? Is it achievable? Do you have sufficient time to achieve this goal? 

Now amend the goal to ‘my goal is for my eldest daughter to graduate from a nursing program from an accredited university in 2029’. This goal is specific, clear and measurable. Um, so as far as the question, is this achievable? Is it something that you could make happen? That depends. If your oldest daughter is 17, currently in school and achieves good grades, then yes, it’s likely attainable. If the goal is to graduate from Harvard University, which has a tuition cost exceeding $120,000 a year, for five years, then this is probably not an achievable goal. Move the goalposts to a local university, with a tuition cost approximately $8,000 per year; then this is realistic. There are also other variables to consider, such as the willingness of your daughter to put in the work. 

The biggest roadblock for most people considering university is finances. How can you possibly commit to the cost for the five years? Typically, the advice is, to have two years of tuition fees saved before the start. Whilst loans may seem tempting, loans accrue interest, and this is an expensive method of raising money. I would strongly discourage loans. 

There are other questions to consider; Is scholarship an option, either from the school directly or a nonprofit organisation. Is the local university a good option? That would negate the need for housing. Could your daughter work part-time whilst at school?

All these deciding factors require time and research. There are numerous questions and variables, each one leading to a different outcome. You have to decide which is best suited to your situation and which is most achievable for you. An excellent way to weigh up the options is to draw a visual diagram, so it’s clear and easy to see where each path leads. My plan was written on a  whiteboard on my wall. It was always visible. Every week I would go through and evaluate the items. What do I need to change? What was the next step? 

Whilst at university, I fostered several meaningful relationships, not only with business leaders but also professors. I shared with them my goals and why they were important to me. These mentors became my ‘my personal advisory board’; they were people who advised me. I leant on their collective wisdom. For you, your support system could be trusted friends or family. But be warned, that if the advice being offered is something you are being asked to pay for, or being pushed in a particular direction, then this may not be genuine help.

Reach out to others who have already been through university, what was their way? What was their plan? This is a great learning tool, using peers as advisors. Use nonprofits such as Uplifters. Setting an ambitious goal, such as attending university, is easy when broken down into smaller steps. The big dreams then become attainable.

After thorough analysis, you may determine that you simply don’t have the time or resources for that specific goal. Perhaps consider changing the end goal, instead of attending a three-year nursing school programme, maybe a three-year medical tech, or a two-year assistant course?

I realise that was a lot of material, but hopefully breaking it down into steps has helped make it more digestible. I am now happy to answer any questions.

Thanks, it was very clear. I like the idea of a SMART goal. We have a question, from Kenny asking “what to do when an unexpected event happens and changes your plan?”

Don: This is the very essence of planning; things are going to change. But if you’ve thought about how you’re going to achieve the goal, and you’ve broken it down into its different parts, then you’ve taken the time to think about how to get there. Take the scholarship example, if you are not able to attain a scholarship, which is some of the money that you were relying on to pay for university, then the alternate, to that scenario, should already have been considered in your goal map. A simple example I can describe is a hiking trip I planned which was ten days long. Obviously, I couldn’t carry all the required food with me, so I planned out the trip, I set up various posts along the way and accounted for weather changes. My plan was adaptable.

Thank you, I think, especially in these COVID-19 times, we all have to make our plans flexible. Do you have any specific advice on how to stay motivated?

Don: I think it depends on the scale of the goal. Small goals, such as saving enough to buy a particular Christmas present for your children, are achievable. Other bigger goals, which are of great importance which, for me, was achieving my MBA, take time, sacrifices and energy. But again, they can be broken down into smaller pieces. I call this ‘sushi sizing’ the goal! Achieving little parts of your goal often helps to stay motivated and on track. Your goal must be important to you; otherwise, the motivation will wane, and you’ll never achieve it.

Thanks, that makes sense. You can see your progress, and you can adapt easier.

Don: There’s also nothing wrong with creating an adjustable goal. For example, I am a marathon runner, and since I’m very competitive, I decided I wanted to complete the marathon in a specific time. However, I also set a secondary goal, which, if I hit, I would feel satisfied. I would still have succeeded, and it was within my capacity. It’s about setting a ‘range’ for success. This is something I teach upcoming entrepreneurs. 

Nine out of 10 businesses fail. The success rate is very low. You may spend a great deal of time and money, but at some point, you have to take a step back and assess whether the right thing is to keep pushing forth. Maybe a change of direction is required. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. What I encourage these teams to do is not to say, ‘if we don’t hit this goal in six months, then we’re going to stop’. That is a very black and white, rigid goal. The key is to evaluate how achievable the goal is at regular intervals. Then decide whether to keep going or change the final goal post. Having a range for the goal is key here. 

Let’s look at an example of saving for a house if your goal is to put $150 every month into a savings account. But after six months, you’ve only been able to put $50 per month into that account. It’s quite obvious you’re never going to hit your initial goal. That doesn’t necessarily mean you must stop saving for a house, simply adjust the goal to match the new rate of savings. Consider what is achievable, in what timeframe. 

Thank you, Don. I’m delighted to have these Facebook live seminars and grateful to have you with us tonight. 

Don: Thank you very much. The pleasure was all mine, and I’m glad I could help. Hopefully, it’s helpful for everyone watching.

Uplift your Night Episode #5, Mental Health: Supporting yourself and others

Here is the transcript of Uplift your Night Episode #5 on October 8th, 2020 with Valencia Myint, Counsellor and Founder of Confide In.

Hello, everyone, nice to see you all tonight. I am Marie, I am Uplifters’ Founder and CEO. Thank you so much for joining me tonight. We will have a very special guest and I’m excited to introduce her to you. So let me introduce Valencia. Valencia is a counsellor and . a mental health advocate. She’s supporting people on their life journey, advocating to increase awareness on mental health topics to break the stigma in seeking help. She works with refugees, migrant workers, trafficking victims, abuse victims and people going through difficult times and currently providing support services online. We are super, super lucky to have someone like Valencia with us tonight.

Valencia: Hi Marie. Thanks for having me. Thank you for the introduction.

Let’s start with our first question for Valencia. How to recognize someone who struggled with mental health. So you can see they are stressed, maybe they seem anxious or depressed or lonely. But they haven’t  asked you for help. So how can you react?

Valencia: Before I answer, I just wanted to say good evening to everyone, wherever you are in Singapore or in Hong Kong, it’s really good to meet you all. And thanks for the first question. So not everyone will reach out for help, as we know, right? So for us to recognize someone who is struggling, it really does help to be observant about that person. So the first and foremost thing is to notice a change in the person, maybe they’re behaving differently to what you know before. So for example, maybe they are withdrawing from like social situations, for example, you’re not really seeing them so much anymore. Maybe there’s changes in their routines. So for example, changes in their sleep behavior, or like their appetite, maybe they’re eating a lot more or a lot less, feeling really fatigued, overly tired a lot of the time, a loss of enjoyment in the activities that they used to enjoy doing. So that’s kind of behavioral differences, or changes, but then there can also be very, like very much emotional changes as well. Maybe they are being more emotionally reactive, or non reactive. Maybe expressing more negative thoughts, for example, feeling hopeless, or worthless, or a loss in concentration, low mood, for example. Even things like suicidal ideation, or action plans. You notice maybe they’re more tense than they were before. So all of these things that are changes in your state, and it can also be a prolonged change in state as well. So for example, maybe this is taking place for like a few weeks or maybe even months then that’s also something to be aware about. So really, it’s kind of differences in people’s states. And if this is a prolonged state as well. The important thing also is to notice, not only differences in other people, but also in yourself as well. Just to be mindful of yourself, if there are things which you feel that things have changed for you and a little bit, it’s also good to be mindful about these changes, too. And maybe what led to it. Another thing which I wanted to touch on on this question as well is the stigma that is associated with mental health, particularly in certain communities. For example, like a lack of awareness, or knowledge of the topic, it’s something that we don’t talk about culturally, or even in our society, or even in our religion. All these kinds of differences can dictate maybe whether or not this is something that is normal to talk about. So on top of this, it’s also differences in language, maybe, because when it comes to talking about mental health, we talk about feelings a lot. And I know in some languages, a lot of the English words for our feelings may not be directly translatable. So it’s also kind of language barriers and talking about how we’re feeling or what we’re going through. So I think for that, it’s really the best to try to normalize conversations around mental health, try to talk about it as much as we can using language that is kind of similar to what we’re feeling, or at least to try to translate it in the best way that we can.

I think the first step is to acknowledge it and it’s not as easy as it seems. Just acknowledge that you’re not feeling well. Recognizing if it’s just a bad moment or if it’s something more serious can be difficult.  So what is the difference exactly between mental health and mental illness?

Valencia: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think a lot of people get a little bit kind of confused about this. And it’s important to differentiate between the two. So mental health is with everybody, right? Just like how physical health is with everybody. And mental health is defined as kind of an emotional and psychological well being. So good mental health relates to the ability to cope with the normal stresses of life. So mental health, I guess, we can think of it like it’s on a continuum. So it ranges between good mental health and maybe kind of mental health issues. So in a lifespan, we vary in this position on this continuum. So, for example, we have maybe good days, we have bad days, you know, we kind of go through ups and downs. And that’s very normal, right? I think, a lot of society right now, especially with social media, we don’t see the bad side, because a lot of most people want to, like showcase the good things which are going on, but really behind the scenes, like everyone experiences these good and bad moments. And when it comes to a mental illness, this is something that is diagnosable, remember. So a mental health, like problem or issue may not necessarily lead to an illness. So, for example, we speak about depression, a lot of anxiety and things like that. And these are illnesses, which are diagnosable, and they are also treatable, as well. So the important thing to remember is that mental health is really what everyone has, and it’s not something that is a bad thing. It’s just something to be mindful about and to acknowledge.

We have a question from team leader Ody. How can a simple person like me who is not a professional like you can express or support help to someone who reached out to me about emotional health? I just want to be sure I’m saying the right thing. I know the right thing to say is to ask a professional but not everyone is open to it. They are shy. What comforting words should I say to them?  And can I say that they need professional help? If everybody’s coming to you to ask for support, and at some point it’s just not your job, and you don’t know what to reply.

Valencia: Yeah, we’re actually going to cover this a little bit later in quite a lot more texts. So maybe we could go directly to that in a way. I think that the first thing is that really, especially being in a community, I think a lot of people especially being a community leader, as well, a lot of people do come to you for emotional support, and things like that. So really anyone and everyone can help initially, it’s kind of like we call it a psychological first aid. And so it’s at the initial stages, maybe even before like professional help is sought, or maybe even some people may not be willing to seek professional help yet, but then you can always kind of be there as an initial support so that the person doesn’t feel alone, you know. So there is an acronym that can be used, which may be helpful in this kind of situation. And it’s called ALGEE, it’s  A, L, G, E, E. So it’s kind of like an an action plan, which is like a flexible thing, it’s not really something that you have to do in order, but it’s just a kind of guidance for people to be aware of. And if someone is coming to them with maybe an issue and you want to provide some initial support, then it’s some kind of a guideline, so to speak. So the A is  to approach about your concerns, and also to assess and assist with any mental health crisis. So what do we mean by approaching with your concerns, obviously, this is maybe someone that you know, that’s in your community, you have observed, maybe some changes in them, and you’re quite concerned about their well being. So you want to approach them with the concerns that you have? So the first thing to be mindful of is, I call it kind of the five W’s, you know, so who, what, why, when and where? Would you like, are you the best person to be approaching this person? Because maybe you recognize that there’s a change in this person. But then maybe there’s someone that might be better suited to approach them, because maybe they’re a bit closer, that kind of thing. So you have to think about whether you’re the right person to do so. And in terms of what are you going to be talking about, you know, like your observations on them your concerns? And why are you concerned, and when would be a good time to talk to them. So for example, in like a confidential place, somewhere that is comfortable for them, maybe not somewhere out in the open, where there’s a lot of other people around where maybe it’s a sensitive thing, they don’t really want to talk in such a big group. And  that leads to kind of where to talk about it, like are you going to go somewhere that’s a bit more private. And then, then that way, you kind of setting up the scene to talk to this person. And later on, we’ll come a little bit more in depth in terms of assessing and assisting with potential crises. So by crisis, it’s like someone who is in an urgent situation, maybe having some kind of suicidal ideation, and things like that. So the first thing would be to approach the person. The L, which is the second letter is to listen and to support non judgmentally. We want to really provide a kind of atmosphere where this person is being listened to. And they are not feeling like they’re being judged for what they’re feeling, maybe what they’re thinking or what they’re going through. So for example also, one thing to remember is that as humans, we are quite biased people, like we have our set values, our set biases, it’s important that when you’re approaching a person to kind of remember to maybe put those things aside, because maybe it can kind of impact how we respond to a person. So we want to make things quite open ended, very non judgmental, to listen actively, and to be respectful, you know, and be empathetic about their situation. And to maybe even normalize the situation, you know, like speak from your own past experience, like oh,  I’ve kind of felt something like that before, like, I knew someone who went through something like this before, and they were able to get through that as well. So it’s also kind of, you know, your language, both kind of verbally and your body language. And also to kind of try to empower the person as well, you know, remember that it’s not just listening, right? It’s more than just that. It’s more kind of active listening, I guess, like you are listening to them, you’re not being judgmental about their situation. And you are responding in a way that is very open, you’re letting them share their thoughts with you. But also to remember that you also need to kind of set boundaries for yourself, to know that, you know, what they’re telling you is not your responsibility to take on on your shoulders, you know, but you are there as a support. So this is the listening aspect. When someone kind of comes to you, then you, you’re providing that space, where someone is feeling like, oh, there is someone who cares about me who wants to listen to what I’m feeling or what I’m going through.

It’s easier said than done, right?  It’s very hard to listen to someone without, you know, being willing to give too many advice and then you’re not really listening. 

Valencia: I think maybe what people feel is that like, okay, someone’s coming to me with a problem. I feel like I have to solve this.. Yeah, there is that urge, right, the initial urge where you’re like, Okay, I want to get this person out of this. And, but then I think sometimes what we kind of oversee is that some problems are very difficult, or maybe not on you to solve as well. Because remember, like a person is telling you maybe just a portion of what’s going on, maybe they’re not at that point in time, maybe you don’t know the full story yet. So it’s kind of hard to also try and kind of solve this, because maybe it’s no, it’s also not your problem to solve, but it’s something that you are kind of supporting them with, you know, so it’s also like part of a bigger picture, which maybe, maybe you might not know, at that, like know about at that time. But yeah, I think that’s a very initial kind of urge that you have, especially because, I mean, obviously you care about the person, you want to help them. And so this would be how you would help them. But I think it’s just to be mindful of, you know, your kind of responsibility in this and whether or not it’s really for you to provide that solution so to speak. Yeah. And so this leads me on to the G which is to give support and information. So I think it’s also helpful to give the person options. Informing them that help is available to reassure them, you know that there is a hope for recovery, in that sense, a way to cope with things. And just going back to that emotional support, fact, you know, just to really kind of be there, show support, and just especially, because people can feel like they’re alone in these times, and it’s just good to know that you’re you’re not alone, I think that kind of gives a little bit of a boost, in that sense of a little bit of a motivator, that at least, you know, there is help out there. And that I’m not alone.

I think it’s the less is more approach. It seems we’re doing so little by just saying we’re here and not giving any advice that’s not diving in. But it’s more right? Just saying we’re here is actually more helpful than trying to solve the problem for the person.

Valencia: Yeah, exactly. And I think for us as maybe helpers, maybe you feel like you haven’t done so much. Because you haven’t seen anything that has changed or whatever it may be that you may want to see. But then for the person receiving it, I think it does speak volumes, just, like just looking at some of the comments. Just even being there to listen, is a great help. And sometimes it’s just really just a platform where okay, someone can just say whatever it is, and then that really sometimes is like a bit of a relief, because it’s like that emotional burden that you’re carrying and then it’s kind of a bit of a release for some people just to kind of talk about it, and have someone listen and be kind of open about it and not to judge you for what you’re going through.

We have a comment from Fidelisa. She says listening is the best way to comfort someone who is in depression. Fidelisa is also one of our team leaders. And they are doing so much amazing work for their peers and supporting them. We have another question: What is the best approach if the person urgently needs help but is hesitant to speak up?

Valencia: Well, I think if it’s quite urgent, then maybe you might have to take some measures,  it depends on what the urgent is, because if you’re talking about a crisis, for example, like there are maybe exhibiting quite suicidal tendencies, then maybe you may have to just kind of take more drastic action, right, like maybe to call emergency services. So if it’s very urgent like that, then you may have to take drastic action on behalf of that person. But if someone is kind of having maybe some issues, and it’s not that kind of urgent situation, but then they maybe don’t want to talk to you, or they don’t want to say anything, then I think that the best approach would maybe to just kind of like ask them, you know, like, why is it that you’re not willing to speak up? And just to continue being an encouragement for them to try to say something or encourage them to maybe speak to someone at least? If it’s not you, then maybe could it be someone else? Provide options. Is there someone that maybe you would be comfortable to speak to, if it’s not myself, then at least they will know of the other people they could speak potentially to, whether it’s the various organizations that can be contacted, or maybe even professional help, for example. So that’s also something to just kind of explore options with them and not to kind of force them to speak if they don’t want to, but to continue encouraging them and giving them the options and also following up with the person as well helps, maybe slowly, they will kind of get to a place where they’re feeling more comfortable, to speak up. 

So it’s for example, even if the person rejects you, it’s a good idea to just come back from time to time and check how the person is doing.

Valencia: I think so. It’s kind of like a caring approach as well. You want to make sure that they’re not getting much worse so to speak. And, of course, this really depends on the urgency of the situation. Like I said, if it’s a real crisis situation, you may have to take more drastic measures. But if it’s something that’s not so urgent in that sense, then it’s just kind of finding out maybe why they were reluctant.  And maybe trying to also help with the misconceptions, you know, like giving them the reassurance that there is help out there, if they are ready for there are options and then kind of following up and seeing just checking in like any friend would do really.

We have another question from Fidelisa. When anxiety affects someone. I’m not sure if you mean what you should do or how you can detect it. Maybe we can reply a little bit around these lines? 

Valencia:  Absolutely. I think with anxiety, it’s typically when you’re finding a kind of shift in your daily routine, like you’re finding your daily routine a little bit more difficult to carry out. This may be when anxiety is affecting you a little bit like for example, maybe you’re withdrawing from certain situations, or you are avoiding certain situations. Maybe when you’re feeling the effects of anxiety, like emotional stress, or physically you are feeling some changes, like for example, with anxiety, some of the physical changes can be like a fast heart rate, or your breathing is faster. You start sweating, feeling quite uncomfortable. I think maybe this is when you can be a bit mindful about anxiety, like what it is that you’re feeling. And also knowing what it might be that’s triggering that, like is it the situation you’re in, or maybe some thoughts that you’re having that’s leading to that? Typically, anxiety comes from the fear of something. So it’s good to ask yourself what is it that I’m afraid of, or worried about or feeling uncertain about? And if you’re finding that this is really affecting your daily routine, then this is something to just recognize in yourself, you know, if you’re sleeping not so great, your eating, appetite is changing. Yeah, these kind of changes. It’s also good to be mindful about.

Thanks, that is very helpful. We have another question that is a little bit related. So I’m just going to show it now, how to distinguish between the experience of stress and the experience of mental illness? 

Valencia: I think with mental illness as such, it is something like I said earlier that it is diagnosable. Typically, it’s something that maybe you’re experiencing for a prolonged time, for example, months, on ends, you know, like a very consistent state that you’re feeling. And so just to clarify that the experience of stress does not mean that you are mentally ill. Right? So stress is a very normal reaction. For humans, or for animals, actually,

it’s like a protective mechanism, right? So, for example, if we, if we face danger, then we have a stress response because we have to either protect ourselves, or we have to run away to try to protect ourselves, right? So stress is a very normal reaction for people. It’s only when it can be like, a negative effect on us, maybe we’re always feeling stressed out for things, which maybe,  it’s kind of  a prolonged kind of state of stress, then that’s when it can become like a negative effect on us. So, yeah, so stress, it can be something that feels like short term, and then once like the situation kind of gets a bit more settled, then maybe we feel less stressed, right. So, stress can be like very much ups and downs. We feel stressed on some days because maybe something is coming up, like, we have some big presentation to do or we have to talk in front of a big group of people. This can be like a period of stress, but then maybe once that is over, then we’re not feeling so stressed anymore. So, yeah, so then these kind of stressful moments, it does not mean that you are having like a serious mental illness.

Thanks a lot for the distinction.  It’s a very important topic for our community and we can show it in the number of viewers tonight which is very high. We were going through the AGLEE model a little bit earlier, and how to help people who come to you for support. So we had gone through the A for approach, L for listen non judgmentally, G for give support and information. And we were at the E, which is I think, quite related about when you can’t really support anymore.

Valencia: So E is encouragement of  appropriate professional help. So I think that the word appropriate is quite important here. Because for you being the initial kind of contact to this person, I guess you would be the person that would also know the story. So if you feel like maybe the help is not, maybe they would need a bit more help, then it’s just the encouragement of that there is professional support out there. And that there is appropriate professional help as well. So according to the situation, maybe they may need to go to like a doctor to get a referral or maybe to see a counselor, that kind of thing, or even to be referred to, you know, one of the organizations which can refer them on as well, because maybe you may not know where exactly to go. But then these organizations, for example, you guys Uplifters are the organizations helping migrant workers would have the knowledge of kind of where to refer people to and kind of following on from that, it’s also encouraging other support as well. So for example, your community support. Also support of  friends, family, religious group members, people who are kind of within the social network that you have, that can provide a kind of social support. widen and also on top of that, it’s also the self care, taking care of yourself and implementing this kind of self care routine, which is also helpful as well, just to like, for example, to maintain a balanced diet, to do exercise, things like that. It’s also just to take care of yourself. That’s another thing we sometimes forget about.

Thanks a lot. That was very comprehensive. I would just look at the comments before we move on. We have a lot of questions. I’m not sure we’re going to cover everything.  So I suggest we’re going to concentrate on our listeners’ questions tonight. Because it’s important that we are here for you tonight. Don’t hesitate to ask your questions and the things you wanted to discuss and we can always reschedule another one. It’s an important topic.

Valencia: Yes, exactly. What should we do if we are suffering from anxiety? I think it’s first and foremost, it’s good that the person is recognizing what it is that they are feeling or thinking leading to anxiety. So, some of the things which may help is to utilize relaxation techniques or grounding techniques when it comes to the feeling of anxiety because oftentimes, maybe we are forgetting to breathe, our breathing is very quick, we’re not getting enough oxygen in and with that our mind kind of becomes a bit, you know, racing with many thoughts and things like that. So, a technique is like a deep breathing technique, which may help in terms of relaxation to ground yourself. And what I mean by this is to pay attention to your breathing, to take deeper breaths, and it may even help to kind of count the breathing. So when you breathe in, it’s like counting to three, and then releasing after the count, and then counting to three again. So, sometimes this may help. Again, it’s not something that may help everybody but it is something that is used as a relaxation technique. And a few of the techniques to do with grounding is also mindfulness. I know some people use mindfulness meditation techniques as well, and that’s really something that can be helpful. Of course it takes time to practice, right? Like don’t expect mindfulness to come in like one night. It will take a lot of practice in terms of being aware of the present, like to be present with yourself. And more importantly, without the judgment, you know, maybe we feel frustrated with ourselves, why am I not able to do this. And we get frustrated with ourselves and that’s, I think mindfulness is something that needs to be practiced. And without having judgment on yourself, like maybe your mind is wandering and then you’re frustrated with yourself, why is my mind wandering but then that’s okay. You know, like try to bring it back to the present because the thing with anxiety also with that is a lot of thoughts to do with maybe the past or the future, you know, like something that’s stressed us out in the past and maybe it will do this again in the future. And this is kind of bringing it down to, to the present, to be present with yourself. Like you can do it in your daily routine, just to check in with yourself in the morning or in the evening. Even like when you’re doing your walking, your daily routine, you’re brushing your teeth just to practice that during this daily routine. Because sometimes these actions it’s so like on autopilot we just do it without even thinking about it. So when we’re doing it, we’re thinking about all these other things which may lead to anxiety and it’s just kind of bringing things back down to the present really.

I guess that’s also the same advice if you want to prevent depression, right? These kinds of techniques and mindfulness. The fact is it’s not in the middle of the storm that you learn how to swim, right? So you need to practice before.

Valencia: Yes, exactly. In terms of prevention, it’s also being able to kind of educate yourself on what, what depression is, and also taking care of your own mental health, trying to incorporate these self care routines as well which help in terms of prevention, taking care of yourself, practicing that kind of self compassion as well. You know, like treating yourself like how you would treat a friend or a loved one. And also like being aware of, you know, what are the kind of things which make you feel bad or make you feel stressed out and how to kind of cope with certain situations. Another thing is to try to increase kind of emotional resilience, to be able to cope with a stressful situation and to kind of go back to how you were like before this crisis. So having that emotional resilience is also something, which is kind of preventative as well. But then these kinds of things, it does kind of take some time to build up as well. 

We have so many things that we could explore. Furthering resilience is clearly a big topic, right? We have a question from Janelyn and I think it’s an important one for everyone. What do you do when you listen to someone’s stories and you hear both his difficulties and you get affected and you feel for them and so how can you protect yourself? 

Valencia: That’s a great question. Thank you, JaneLyn, I think you know, when we have spoken so much about how to help people and that sometimes we forget about ourselves and I think the first thing to remember is to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. Right? So even before, you know, we are helping someone, we need to also make sure that we ourselves like we are okay. And that, you know, we’re taking care of ourselves like even before, during and after supporting someone emotionally. The thing with emotional support is that it is very emotional. It can be very taxing, it can be very emotionally draining. So it’s good to be aware of ourselves, you know, our emotional states, like how we’re feeling because helping others who are in distress can make us feel very worn out. You know, maybe we’re feeling very frustrated, we’re very angry. But we can be angry. We can be stressed out. And this is something that I think we do need to deal with. And in terms of, by protecting ourselves, it’s also helpful for us to to also reach out for help when we needed, you know, like to also maybe talk to someone else of course maintaining the confidentiality, the other person, but you know, like knowing that there are people around you as also, you know, sometimes for the ambassadors, for the leaders, knowing that there is support for you as well, that, you know, you are having this role to support the community, but it’s also knowing that you yourself, like you have that support too. And it’s, it’s important to deal with something like that, because if we notice that and we don’t deal with it, then it can cloud your judgment and how, how you’re dealing with people in the, in the future. Maybe like you’re getting like compassion fatigue, for example, like you’re getting quite tired. And that can also affect, you know, your ability to help others, to be empathetic, to be able to listen and respond in that way that we spoke about, you know? So again, I think the same things also apply like practicing what is good for your mental health and for your moods, like talking to someone, physical activity, maintaining a balanced routine, implementing relaxation techniques or even sometimes journaling, like writing things can help people as well. It can be cathartic. But it’s also important, I think, to know and create the boundaries. You know, like if someone is telling you something, you need to know that it’s not your responsibility to take on, on your shoulders and that there are boundaries, you know, like there are things which that person needs to be taking responsibility for, and it’s not on you to shoulder that burden. And it’s not on you to solve their problems, it’s for you to provide that support and provide some options for the person and to make sure that they’re not in like a crisis situation. So it’s also good to maintain, I think the boundary setting is very important as well. 

Well, I guess that’s always a challenge, right?. Because we all want to help so much and to recognize the moment it’s okay to say no, I think it’s a challenge for most of us. 

Valencia: Yeah, it is. And that’s very understandable. And I think it’s just very normal to feel that way, so don’t feel stressed out or feel bad that you’re feeling this way and that maybe you’re feeling a bit tired. Like that’s okay. I think emotions get the better of ourselves at times. And it’s okay to kind of just take a step back from it sometimes and seek some support yourself and then go back to it when you’re in a better kind of mindset. I think it’s important to take a break and then during that time, you can always like, that person can always be referred to someone else within the community as well. 

That’s a lot of very good advice. It’s almost 10:45 so we’re going to take maybe one more question before we wrap up.  One comment is how you can handle it if you receive bad news from your family and you’re struggling working with your own employer. 

Valencia: That’s definitely a lot that’s going on because it’s things which are happening in your personal life and also in your professional life. And I think particularly with times like this, it’s important to know what support is around you, which is why I really go back to that support. Like during these times, I think it’s really easy to feel like a person or you yourself is feeling really alone. You cannot just stop in this situation. And of course your family is back home. It’s hard to get back to them straight away, particularly with this current time with travel restrictions and everything. And there was a problem going on at home as well. So during these times, it’s good to know what support is out there in terms of like reaching out and also to be mindful of as well of like maybe the changes that you are experiencing, like maybe are you finding it difficult to work as well? Or are you just finding it difficult to maybe wake up or get out of bed? Things like that, like your daily routine, is it becoming more effortful or difficult for you to get through, maybe changes in your routine as well. And knowing that there are people within your community and also organizations of Uplifters and others which you can potentially reach out to. And sometimes I think just talking through things like knowing about maybe what kind of options you might have it’s also good to explore as well and sometimes in this situation, if you’re finding it very very difficult then seeking help is also an option as well. And I know that there is also a fear in doing that. But it’s something that I think within the community as well, we need to kind of try to normalize these conversations to talk about it a bit more and maybe clarifying some of the fear that you’re feeling like, what is it that you’re fearing and what is it that you’re scared about? And maybe it’s something that we can kind of, you know,  to help with that fear, because maybe some of it is kind of a misconception about seeking professional help as well. So yeah, it does help to kind of normalize the conversation. 

One very last question. What is a mental health crisis and what do you do if we see someone who is in a crisis? From Lovely corner. She’s just an amazing woman doing so much for the community. She is asking what do you do when someone  is hurting herself when she is angry, does she need professional help? 

Valencia: Thanks. Lovely corner. I know who you are. So yes, I think that this, this would fall under what, what would be a mental health crisis, so to speak. So the crisis is someone who is in emergency needs, for example, before I was saying, Oh, like someone is having suicidal behavior or thoughts maybe non-suicidal, self-injury like hurting themselves and things like that. So I think with self-injury or self-harm there could be many reasons why a person is doing this. And sometimes so this comes with just educating ourselves on maybe what his reasons can be. So for example, some of the common reasons might be to manage feelings of distress. Maybe it’s a way for a person. Maybe it’s a way for them to punish themselves or to communicate personal distress to others. So of course for this kind of situation, we would kind of follow the action plan that I mentioned earlier. And it’s really kind of assessing as well,  like when you see it, don’t ignore that or don’t ignore the signs, for example, if it’s cutting or if it’s bruising or burns, for example. So it’s good to assess the situation. Like if it’s a really critical situation, like it’s really needing, you know emergency services, then I think that that would be something that would need to be sought out initially,  to contact emergency services, but it’s to kind of approach the person with your concerns. I think the important thing is to be calm and to be accepting of the person and their behavior, to discuss options again which would potentially  include seeking professional help because maybe for something like this it could be something that would more likely lead to the seeking of professional help. And this comes with, you know, discussing the options or discussing alternative options you know, to find maybe healthy ways to reduce their distress. But in most cases it would be the encouragement of seeking professional help for something like this. Particularly if it’s something that is a continuing behavior but then I think first and foremost it’s just important to be there and to be having a very calm and kind of open and accepting conversation about your concerns about this, if you’re observing it.

Can you please remind us what a crisis is exactly? 

Valencia: A crisis is when someone is in need of very urgent help. So if it’s if it’s suicidal behavior or thoughts for example, maybe someone is threatening to hurt themselves or kill themselves, maybe they’re having an action plan, experience or like expressing feelings of hopelessness, maybe like having a little reason to live. Like I said earlier, self-injury as well, so harm can be a crisis situation. Maybe panic attacks can be a crisis situation as well or you know, the effects of like drug and alcohol use which can lead to a crisis situation at that point too. So these kinds of situations where there is a need for an urgent help where maybe you, you may need to consider seeking for, you know, more emergency services. This would be included as a potential crisis situation.

Thanks a lot. It’s very, very nice to have such a good view of these complicated and sensitive topics to you again. Thanks to you, we have gained much clarity about it.  I think the time has slowly come to an end. We will go back to the comments later on and try to reply to all of you. Thank you so much Valencia for your time. It was very informative, very reassuring.

Valencia: You’re so welcome. Thank you so much for inviting me. And I know there’s so many questions to answer, but I think we’ll just have to go through them slowly later.

Uplift your Night Episode #3

Here is the transcript of Uplift your Night Episode #3 on July 23rd, 2020 with Uplifters’ team leader Janelyn Dupingay to help provide advice and inspiration to our community.

Hi everyone. Thank you for joining me tonight. I am Jenely, Community Building Officer for Uplifters. Thank you so much 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 and personal growth course for domestic workers. You just need to click “ Send Message” on our Facebook page to enrol. This is the second episode of our Uplift Your Night series, and we are delighted to be here with you tonight.

Our first objective with this Uplift Your Night Facebook Live is to be there with you. Uplifters is first and foremost a community. Secondly, we want to keep learning together and support each other.

We are pleased to have Janelyn Dupingay as our special guest tonight. Jane is one of Uplifters’ Diamond Team Leaders. She has facilitated more than ten sessions of our 3-week online course Dare to Dream on money management and personal growth. She is also one of our Social Media Correspondents in our Uplift your Life Facebook group.

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

Hi everyone, my name is Janelyn and I came from the Philippines. I’m from the province of Nueva Vizcaya and I grew up with a very loving family. And I am an Ifugao by blood, but then I grew up in Nueva Vizcaya, so that’s why I speak Ilocano. But both my parents are from Ifugao but I can understand my parents dialect. And I came to Singapore way back 2015. April 27, to be exact. Yeah,I arrived at my EA on that day. And then my employer took me from my agency on the date of May 2. Then I joined this family, and I am with this family for more than five years now. It wasn’t difficult for me to adjust in the new environment because I have a supportive employer and they really are very understanding when it comes to my shortcomings because it is understood that when you when you arrive in a new place, there are so many things that you really need to learn, you really need to catch up, you need to learn their daily routines, the work flow. I cannot avoid that I made some mistakes during my first years here. But the good thing there is that they are very, very patient when it comes to me so that is really what I appreciate most about my employer. About my journey with Uplifters, I came to know about Uplifters from a friend. She was a Team Leader before. And her name is Isa. And I got curious, I asked her what Uplifters was about. And then she said, she just mentioned to me that it’s all about an online course. That time I was moderating in one of the biggest Facebook group here in Singapore, which is the Domestic Helpers’ forum and Marie posted about Uplifters in that forum and then I really scan really, really wanted to know what their objectives are and then I found myself clicking the Send Message. I was lucky to have a spot in October and I finished their degree in October 2018 under the team leaders Bayti and Amy. They are really very very helpful throughout the course. They are amazing. Who I am now is how they molded me as a Team Leader,  it’s a reflection of how they trained me as a student. And hopefully they are proud of me. After the Dare to Dream course, Helene asked me if I wanted to join the Become a leader course. And yeah, of course I’m very much willing to join. So I joined it and I got my certificate in December 2018. Then while doing the course I was still enrolled on Make it Happen in which I got my certificate so I became a leader. My first exposure was in January 2019 and I was paired with Melanie Villar. She was like a team leader trainee and that time there weren’t a lot of students enrolling yet compared to now that we are having 20 students before we are just having like a maximum of 10. It was really a very great journey and I am very happy to see that I am a part of how Uplifters grew and so on. I grew up with this community and I love it. Older. Yeah, as I get older in this community, I become more empowered. And even my employers say that Uplifters saved me. Although I was thinking how did Uplifters save me? But yes, because I was like I have those negative attitudes also before I joined Uplifters. I’m not very good at controlling my emotions and my temper. I was not really good at managing emotions and then eventually when I became a leader I came to understand more about how the emotions become your strength in dealing with your life so I’m very very grateful to Uplifters and that’s my journey. Then I joined the social media team. I became a social media correspondent last December 2019. Actually that time I messaged our founder Marie and asked her maybe I can give some suggestions on what Uplifters can do. I was Team Leader already and then I told her about one thing about the interview of alumni students so I said why don’t we bring those students into an interview. We do an interview to show the community that those students are having progress in their lives and that Uplifters has somehow changed them. It helped the Uplifters community and had a great impact on them. Then Marie asked me why don’t you just join social media as an associate to get more involved, and then to share whatever things that I know that can be beneficial or helpful to the community. From December 2019, I became a social media correspondent. And now I am here with you.

We have a question from the comments. How do you spend your time after work and how do you make yourself productive even when you’re tired from work?

Janelyn: How do I spend my time after work? I wake up in the morning at six o’clock and six o’clock starts my work and sometimes the earliest time that I can finish my work it depends on how fast they are in, in finishing their dinner so sometimes I can finish at around eight, so after eight so I need to freshen up also and then check messengers. Of course I check first about my family if there are some important things to tackle and then I come in

if there is a Dare to Dream class. I’m also checking but not so much during the day because I also have some limitations when it comes to using the phone during daytime so I cannot be at one corner and just look at my phone. No, no, no, I don’t do that. But when I am outside, I have a different routine each week. So for example this week I am the one who is going to bring the little girl on her outside classes so I have some more time to check on my Facebook to write. But when I dont bring the child outside I need to stay at home and manage the work because we are living here in the house. We are two helpers here. So this is a big house. So during the day, I really cannot compromise myself. I usually have during the night, but, um, from eight until like 11 that is my time to check on the community, to check on my students. I allot 20 minutes of my time during the night to read some books, especially those that I always borrow from my ma’am. And then some of my time is spent on monitoring students  if I  commit myself to become a leader during the Dare to Dream. So, because I was really loaded like there are so many commitments, sometimes I asked Helene, can I take a break for this, but it seldom happens, only when there are so many things also from work that I need to take a break to manage my time. So, I asked for a break, but I only did that I think twice. So, now I am focused on communicating with our students. And then another one is we have a group also which is the Daily life in Covid 19. I also need to monitor how the group is running because I am the admin. If I need to share my point of views also about some matters that need my opinion so yeah, I really allot 20 minutes of my time to give time for myself, to really reflect all the things that happened during the day. What am I doing? Is there any progress about myself? I know most of us are busy during the day because of work. It’s very helpful also to give a little time to check on yourself. What are you doing today? Are you sad? Are you okay? What do you need to do? I know most of us are physically tired after a long day, but then this is a different feeling. My commitments are my, like my energy booster. Yeah, connecting with the community and seeing those people, seeing those fellow women, monitoring them connecting with them. And it’s like having an attachment with them eases the tiredness from the daytime work and it’s like I admit that I’m also tired physically but then I’m just thankful that during the night I can have enough rest. Yeah, I still can manage my time to make myself productive and after my work. Do not compromise your health to do other things. You need your rest, our health is our foundation.

Your passion to help energize you and thank you for those great tips Jane, we learn a lot from you. You’re also a very talented writer. Your poems have been featured in other organizations and on our page as well. How did you start writing? Can you give us your advice to budding writers?

Janelyn: When it comes to writing because there are so many areas when you talk about poetry when you talk about writing. There are many phases of writing. For now, I am using my own strategy. If people can observe especially those who are reading my written words and those are just my own way of expressing myself so I don’t really follow the guidelines when it comes to writing because I have a limited knowledge about the different forms of poems because no matter how much I wanted to read more I am involved in other commitments. Those written poems are all my own emotions. Those are my own expressions on what I wanted to say to the community because before I write, I need to think. What is the message that I wanted to send to the people? What do I want them to know, what do I want them to feel? Do I want them to feel that they are loved? Do I want them to feel that they are beautiful? They are amazing. Before I start writing, I need to think about it. I need to think about the message that I wanted to send to the people. When did I start writing? I started writing when I became a team leader. From writing motivational pieces exclusively for my students, and sometimes I think I share that in our Uplifters community and on my Facebook also and sometimes I post some motivational pieces And it began there. But when it comes to writing poems, I started only last year. Yeah, and I think I opened during one of our lives here in Uplifters that I started writing. I wrote my first ever poem, and it’s all about my Dad and I can remember that was February 2019. My first ever poem and it talks about my feelings about the loss of my dad, about him passing away and then from that time onwards I followed a group on Facebook, which is the Migrant Writers of Singapore.

And yeah, and then I came to like, why not I go and  see what are those activities that they are doing. The first ever activity that I witnessed is a Carnival of Poetry which was headed also by Team Leader Nhelz, from that time onwards I got involved in some of their activities. I also took their photography. You walk in one of the islands here in Singapore. From that time on, I kept writing poems and then some of it also featured them, so that was the beginning of my writing journey with Migrant writers of Singapore. And now I am really totally hands on working together with them to be more engaged in activities also in our migrants in Singapore community and we have this Daily life in Covid-19 group where we also share about our literary pieces.

What I can say for those who are aspiring to be a writer. I think we are a discovery. I heard from one of my stories that there is no wrong in writing when it is written from here from the heart. I always think of this when I feel insecure or when I feel like my writing is not good. So what I wrote is not good, but no, when it comes from the heart, they will never be wrong. And one of my motto, so it’s like, I write to express. I don’t write to Impress. That is the least thing I want for my writing journey. I don’t really get flattered when people comment that you are good. So, for those of you who want to start their writing journey, you don’t need to emulate me. I want to publish my own because as you go deeper to writing then you can think about this for now, for those of you who didn’t start writing yet just get a pen and a paper, 

you write down feelings.I am angry  Because you tried to leave it like this, so I am angry. You will come to express your own self. Like not thinking about other people around or thinking that someone will like that you are not good or what, just keep on writing it keep on writing, take the pen. And if you want to further your writing skills, there are many workshops that you can join and learn more about the techniques in writing. In the Migrant Writers of Singapore also we are conducting some workshops for those who want to learn more about storytelling or writing poems. you  can try to browse on the internet, make use of your phone to search in Google. Very helpful if you really want to further your knowledge when it comes to writing in those are some ways that they can say that can be helpful for you to join the workshop to read other literary pieces if you have time. But if you find yourself to be cleared from your emotions, you can start scribbling and you can start writing. You can start journaling. Write what happened to you during the day, you will see the progress on every notebook that you write. So keep on writing. And write from the heart. 

These have been very trying times for all of us. What is your advice to those who are struggling? 

Jane – If any of you who are watching right now who are suffering, you don’t need to suffer in silence. That’s all I can say, you don’t need to suffer in silence, you don’t need to keep to yourself because you have a community with you, you have people around you. All you have to do is to reach out to the people who can help you with your situation, with your struggle. No one will know that you are suffering unless you let it out. Before I saw it when I was a moderator in the forum, so many who suffer from different working conditions, we always advise them to speak up no matter if it’s not easy.  Because you will not gonna be able to get any help from other people if you don’t communicate, if you don’t try to find a way to express yourself, that you are not feeling good, you don’t need to suffer in silence and torture your mind. Especially now we’re all in a very difficult situation, when you have a way and you just only need to speak up. It really helps to connect with other people. Sometimes when you are having a problem and you’re talking to someone you can trust, sometimes talking to a stranger, it gives you more peace of mind. Because there are some women in the community who come to my messenger asking for some advice, especially for very difficult situations. For example, one of our sisters, she has been working with her employer and she has so many things in her mind, like not liking the rules, she thinks it’s too much. But just by telling me her condition, I told her she needs to tell this to the person to say her honest situation. You don’t need to deny or lie about it. It will lead you to heavier situations if you lie. You just need to be honest with people because they can advise you. They can give you the proper advice when you are honest. 

Going back to that woman, I told her that I can contact my family. Did you try to talk to your employer about it? It doesn’t make you less when you calm yourself in talking to other people. Just speaking calmly does make a lot of difference. So that’s why I advise you to be honest. You need to try to communicate first rather than poisoning your mind of probable scenarios. And with your situation there are a lot of people who can help you. You can private message me, the admins, the community. Because our Uplifters community has a lot of contacts to experts who can help a lot. 

How can we develop resilience and optimism?

Janelyn:  Before I was a low self esteemed person. When I experienced challenges, I just ran, cried. But now instead of crying, I think what have i done? Instead of crying, I think of ways to develop resilience. You can start by thinking about challenges. If you are taking all those challenges especially when you fail to achieve expectations and goals. Don’t take it against yourself. It’s like a learning stage for you. That sometimes we fail but then if you are also constantly thinking that you are not good, that you are a failure. You’re making yourself more down. It will be more difficult for you to lift yourself, because you are making it harder on yourself. Accept it. No matter how hard. What can you do to get up from it? It’s making it hard for us because we’re making it hard for ourselves. Just because we weren’t able to achieve what we were aiming for. What I learned is that you yourself can uplift yourself. Remember you are special in your own way. You need to think positively about yourself. Irregardless of the mistakes you’ve committed. Nobody’s perfect. 

Find a reason to get out of the bed, to face reality. That reason will be the thing that drives you, no matter what. For example, if you are lazy, overweight, you convince yourself to lift yourself up no matter how hard it is for you, that dream, that goal will keep you motivated. Just like the story of Mona in Uplifters, It somehow resonates with that same spectrum. You have to set your goal. You should picture yourself living what you want to live in the future. Those things in your mind will keep you going. Don’t stress yourself about something that is uncontrollable. Just like now, with everything that’s happening, it’s out of our control but we can control our mind, you accept things. There’s no need for you to exert any effort or waste your energy in something uncontrollable. Focus your energy on something you can control. Managing your emotions, your money, something like that. Those are just some basic tips on how you can develop resilience. Being positive is a choice. It is your choice. 

Let’s talk about your favorite book. Could you tell us the book that made a positive impact on you?

Janelyn:  It’s actually the first Psychology book I’ve ever read. I borrowed it. The title is “Emotional Clearing” by John Ruskan. Because I’m the type of person that believes that emotion is one of the strong foundations to reach greater heights, to be more successful. To have stable emotions, not being impulsive in making your decisions. I want to share a part of it and it’s all about acceptance and I always share this to everyone I encounter with. It’s somehow related to our Dare to dream story. The “Maria Story” who keeps on resisting everything that’s happening. Keeps on running away and nothing happens. Nothing will happen to you in your life, you won’t be able to move on with your life if you keep on hiding from those emotions. It is really hard. Easier said than done. But if you start accepting it, you will learn that it is a part of your journey and how to live your life. I suddenly remember a poem as it also talks about acceptance. Be a good guest to those emotions who want to visit you. You need to deal with it, acknowledge them, because if you don’t it will always come back. You might think that it’s nothing but no, you need to accept and heal from those emotions. For you to know the solutions by finding what are the causes of those emotions. Finding the things that get you upset, angry etc. You will be able to deal with it properly if you know the source. There is always a reason what’s causing those emotions. 

What’s your favorite challenge in our Dare to Dream course?

Jane – It’s all about the dreamboard. Really enjoyed making it and found it challenging as well. From the moment I started making it, I was able to really visualize the things that I want to achieve in my life. From living my life since I started working here in Singapore, there has not been much improvement. But when I started creating my dreamboard, it impacted me a lot. I began to dream, I started to have a clearer vision of everything that I want to achieve for myself and my family. When I began it back in 2018, the first thing I had there was all about having my dream house, savings, insurance and all those things. The challenge there is how to apply it in reality. It took me a year to achieve all of it. Insurance for me and my family, now just waiting for some confirmations from my brother so we can start on building our house. Achieved savings. Last January I started with my new dream board and sharing it with my students and put there completing my caregiving course. The second thing is still about my house and one is about being a motivational speaker. All the classes right now are suspended due to the pandemic. We need to be flexible and adapt, so I enrolled in baking and sewing classes to keep me busy and productive. And now I am kinda achieving to be a motivational speaker by speaking here, and at least try to motivate and share my experiences and lessons I learned in my life. It also brings out more self confidence. 

What is your advice to our community?

Janelyn: I will start with the first advice that I also give to everyone else, no matter how difficult the situation is you have to find a good thing out of that difficult situation, as it will keep you going. There is always something positive in any difficult situation we’re in. 

The next thing is believe in yourself, before other people will believe in you, you must believe in yourself first. You are extraordinary. You need to give yourself that affirmation that you are beautiful, special, you have the power to change yourself. Don’t put any limit to what you can achieve. Keep on trying even when you fail, you need to find ways to achieve your goals. Believe in yourself. Never stop trying. Experience life and make every moment count. You need to make your everyday worthwhile. Set and reach your goals. Visualize it for it to guide you. Lastly, be happy! Because no one deserves to be less happy. We all deserve happiness. Stay happy, stay positive and enjoy life. 

Uplift your Night Episode #2

Here is the transcript of Uplift your Night Episode #2 with Lizz Natividad on July 9th, 2020 to help provide advice and inspiration to our community.

Hello, everyone, nice to see you all tonight. I am Jenely, Community Building Officer for Uplifters. Thank you so much 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 and personal growth course for domestic workers. You just need to click “ Send Message” on our Facebook page to enrol. This is the second episode of our Uplift Your Night series, and we are delighted to be here with you tonight. 

Our first objective with this Uplift Your Night Facebook Live is to be there with you. Uplifters is first and foremost a community. Secondly, we want to keep learning together and support each other.

We are pleased to have Lizz Natividad as our special guest tonight. Lizz is one of Uplifters’ Diamond Team Leaders. She has facilitated more than ten sessions of our 3-week online course Dare to Dream on money management and personal growth. She is also one of our Social Media Correspondents in our Uplift your Life Facebook group. 

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

Hi everyone. My name is Lizz and I’m from the Philippines.  I’ve been working overseas for 22 years. I’ve worked in Singapore, my first experience overseas, I went to work there for three years. And then after Singapore, I have been here since 1996 before the hangover. I stayed with the same employer for 20 years. In my current employer I have been employed for two and a half years. One thing I can say is, even though I stay longer in Hong Kong, I don’t have a family back home to support. I mean, I support but then not like the rest of my friends do like every month they have to do this, they have to struggle to send their kids to school, or whatever. But then because I was a big spender I was thinking, well, I’m alone, no one’s gonna use my money. So I’m gonna enjoy this one. So, when I joined Uplifters in 2018 it really enhanced what I read or what I already know. I’m very happy to be with Uplifters. 

What do you like doing in your free time? 

Lizz: During my free time I always find some places where I can join classes and learn something.. I joined a sewing class, a Cantonese class. I go hiking. I attend a church in Chai Wan. I’ve been with them for over 10 years. That is where I can feel that I have a family away from home. 

What is your inspiration? Who do you look up to? 

Lizz: You know, we women have a mother’s intuition. We always like to care. I think it’s natural for us to care for somebody. And then at this time I’m also a Christian I’m a practicing Christian. So I always held my belief you know, always do some love. Do you know when you do something is like, you’re doing it not because you want something, or you’re doing it because you want to serve something. Yeah, that. Yeah. And that is what I’m always doing with my friends, and also my youngest in my family. So I always want something to

to be around people. In the family,  I have six big sisters and three big brothers, I’m the youngest one. So I always want to be around people. Having 10 kids in your house you know, cousins and nieces and everything there because I have nieces that has like a two years gap from me.  Because of that I always want to play being a big sister as well. 

I really admire your passion to help, empower and support our community.

When I joined the community, especially the Uplifters community, I didn’t really know what my purpose was. I just started because I was always curious about studying and I wanted to learn something. And then I realized these things that we’re learning in uplifters can really lift up somebody else, you know, if I’m here and I already know it, I really want to reach out and tell them about the good things that we can get here and because I can really feel it, I can see that it’s really working. Before you can really uplift someone, you must go in there doing the work and do it by yourself. And then I realized that this thing really works for me. I can say that I didn’t know about other people but I have a lot of friends, I talk to them. One thing that is so difficult is really to save money. To say no is the number one thing because our Filipino value is we always think about our family. We cannot say no to our family.  Because if we say no, we think that we are being bad people or just because you’re working abroad you have money. We have a big family like, aside from your kids, you have nieces, your brothers and sisters right. Before you know it, your family is so huge. When we are in the Philippines, we don’t really know about these things. But when we are working abroad, we learn a lot from other people’s cultures. And you can see when we send gifts, we really give gifts. For them one chocolate or one t-shirt and that’s enough.  It’s also a stressful thing, like when we go back for a holiday. I realized that a lot of people have that kind of problem. And so I started talking, I say I started three years ago. I want to tell you this a little bit. Eight years ago, I did an experiment. I went back home to the Philippines with a thousand pesos.

I wanna feel if I don’t give anything, let’s see what will happen. I didn’t tell anybody. It was painful but at the same time my eyes opened.. My nephew and my nieces, they all gathered and all of us went to the cinema, they paid for it. I said I don’t have any money. I’m not gonna spend on anything. The only money I had was my plane ticket coming back to Hong Kong. But then I realised that sometimes it’s only in our mind. When I realized that I feel like a big person. I started to open up really. And no one can put me down already because I know my value. My value is not a dollar sign on my forehead, my family loves me. Also, to most of you, your family really loves you. We just think if you don’t give to your family they do not value you. It’s not true. You are loved. 

I feel so privileged to know women from our community. They are my inspiration. I talk to a lot of them. They left their kids when they’re very young and they can sometimes become emotional when I hear their story. I don’t have my own kids but I can really relate to their sacrifices especially if they are single parents. It was really inspiring. And so don’t think that you are just an ATM machine. I always hear that “oh my kids or my family just think that I’m their ATM machine.” Your family loves you more than you can give.  You have to open your mind and heart and you have to accept it. You are not their ATM machine. 

I have had the privilege to have a group before and they always say that sometimes it’s very hard to connect with their kids, especially when their kids are very young. And the only thing that they can communicate with them is when they give something, like a prize for example, “I will talk to you tomorrow. If you don’t answer you will not get your mobile phone, something like that. And I said, you don’t bribe your kids to talk to you. So I think it’s the communication part. But things are better now because we have all this media, we have Facebook, it’s free. We have everything we need to communicate and I think everyday communication is important. I don’t have kids but I communicate with my family every day. 

Can you share with us some inspiring stories that you know about migrant domestic workers?

Lizz: She worked with my employer’s mother. She has been here for 12 years. She’s a single mom. She had three kids and she sent them to school all by herself. One is a lawyer, one is a mechanical engineer and one is a CPA. But suddenly one morning Ate Elma cannot get up. I have no idea what her sickness is. But she went back to the Philippines. She’s in the Philippines right now. But because the way she takes care of her kids and those times the communication is so expensive because we don’t have Facebook before but then she managed to talk to them every week until the kids knew how they love her. I also have one student that worked in Singapore before but then she suffered. She has an operation and she’s not allowed to go back to Singapore. She applied to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is easier to apply in. In Singapore every six months you have to do a medical examination. You’re not allowed to get pregnant, you’re not allowed to get sued. You’re not allowed to get an operation there. And, you know why they are doing it? I mean, we know what people in Saudi Arabia are going through, right? It’s very hard. We always think that it’s very hard to work there. But some people say they have a good life there and they have a good boss.. But of course, the majority of what we know is what we learned in the news because it’s bad news. So that is what we thought. There’s a lot of women that I talked to that said they’re doing great. They’re superwomen. I get my inspiration from them.

What do you love most about being a team leader? 

Lizz: In uplifting others, I uplift myself. Because the way I uplift them is I uplift myself, you know? I was saying earlier that when I started, I have no idea what Uplifters is. I was just curious and then suddenly when I realized that it really works, I practiced it. I thought that Marie, the CEO, said if she can uplift one life she’s happy. She’s not even Filipino. She’s not even Indonesian and she’s thinking about that. Then I can uplift them more because I can relate to these people. We have the same heartaches, we have the same problem. We have the same issues in life.  And so I thought, if I can uplift one life, one woman each month. We uplift others when we uplift ourselves. Can I tell you my story about how I give? I will call home because I miss them or I’m feeling homesick and when they say life is so hard here, I just give because I feel they are asking already. That is how I feel. After our conversation I will just send the money. They don’t really ask me but they always say “life is so hard, we don’t have this, it is so difficult.” And that is how I hear it, that they are already asking.  When I started saving I already talked to some of my sisters because my older sister died three years ago. Because she needs to go on dialysis and that will cost money. I told my other sisters that because I feel that it’s my responsibility. I always felt like that because we’re working abroad and we earn more than them, right? And so occasionally that is why we always fail, so I talked to my sisters and I told them that I need to save money and start saving for myself. This is what I want to do. If I don’t send, will you think that I’m a bad person? You know they all cried because they said oh, you already gave us so much, you must take care of yourself. I’m so grateful to my sisters. They are so full of love and you know what I find out that they’re really worried about me. They said you are alone there, if you are sick and alone no one will look after you. If you’re hungry no one is cooking for you. I feel so blessed. My family never says I love you. But after that we started telling each other we love each other. That’s why communication is very important. When you really talk to them, you know how they feel and you also have to tell them how you feel if you’re unhappy if you’re angry. There is no need to assume. Life becomes so meaningful with good communication. 

Can you share with us the book that made a positive impact on you?

Lizz: One of my favorite books is The Carrot Seed. It has no words, just a few pictures. It’s a childrens’ book actually. I read it in the library in Causeway Bay. It’s about one seed the boy planted and his own family said it might not grow. The little boy kept putting water in the soil and his family kept saying it will never grow. The boy never lost hope. One day, when suddenly there’s a sprout, there’s a green sprout on the seed and everybody is so happy. It’s been with me for 10 years since I read that book. It becomes my favorite because sometimes your family is your critic. You know that book really reflects that. If I wanted to read something inspirational I have this book called The blessing of the Lord by Kenneth Copeland. As a Filipino, we always hear that money is the root of all evil, right? And it’s like, if you are rich, if you have money, you change your attitude like for me, like for us, we are working abroad for money. And when we say no, that’s a big thing. So when we’re saying no, you’re a bad person. The first thing is, they don’t tell you that you’re a bad person. It depends on how we think. So we need to form what we think once we are open. And we know the word we value. We read the Bible, from where you get your inspiration, you will see your value. Once you know your value, nothing can put you down. No one can put you down and nothing can change you, you know, I mean, you get hurt, you get sick, you get lonely, it’s normal but you will always spring up. You can always bounce back. Don’t lose that value. You have to find it. You have to find your value as a woman, as a mother, as a sister, as a friend.

What is your advice to migrant domestic workers? 

Keep learning. If you learn you must take action because knowing alone will not bring you to your goals. The best thing you can do is when you learn something you have to do it to bring you closer to your goals. 

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.”