Why should you care about your domestic worker’s financial education?

By Marion Déchy

Chinese New Year is approaching and you are probably thinking of giving a red pocket to your domestic worker.  Do you know what she will do with it? Will she save it or is she going to spend it right away?

13 years ago, I arrived in Hong Kong from London, never had a domestic worker before and the concept of ‘maids’ was only a vague memory from my grandparents during the war! I was one of these young mothers thinking ‘I can do it all by myself, don’t need a domestic worker!’. Quicker than you can guess I came to realize that I could not avoid hiring a domestic worker to help me out with just about everything! We hired a domestic worker who stayed with us for 12 years. I learnt so much with her.

She was a great domestic worker but still, it took time to adjust, to “teach” her, to show how we were living which was different from previous families she’d worked for. She learnt how to cook and she became a great cook, an independent meal planner, and the best help when we had guests at home. She was a meticulous cleaner and home organizer, she was incredibly loving and patient with my kids. Oh well, I could go on and on. 

But even with the best domestic worker, you can’t avoid turmoil, that’s for sure.

When a loan shark calls you every day

We have had a couple of phone calls from money lenders after a couple of years. Then our domestic worker asked us for help when one of her ‘friend’ made her sign a guarantee letter for her loan and suddenly disappeared, leaving her to repay some crazy amounts. Then it was the friend she was sharing a SIM card with who disappeared leaving her to pay a 1,000 HK$ bill. We’ve always backed her up (not always happily though) since as her employers we were legally responsible for these misfortunes. A few years later we had even decided to change our phone number as a loan shark kept calling every day but our domestic worker was telling us it was a mistake. We’ve had a conversation at this time with her about this issue and we were quite firm on the fact that even though we loved her, we could not keep her if another situation like this was to be repeated. She confessed it was really difficult for her to say ‘no’ to her friends asking her help in making a loan. Sometime later when we spoke again about miscellaneous things, I asked her how she was doing with her friends, she told me she was no longer seeing any friends because she was too scared to be involved in another money issue. And believe me, I was under the impression that she was respected by other domestic workers, she was above 45 years old and had a lot of experience. I could not have imagined for one minute how tough peer pressure can be in the domestic workers’ community but it is a reality.

What my job taught me about domestic workers

Working in a recruitment domestic workers’ agency helped me understand a lot about domestic workers. I saw how incredibly grateful domestic workers were when I was giving them very simple tips for their interviews or trying to boost their confidence or just simply by listening to them.

How tough it is for them to have to deal with a different world far away from their families and outside of their comfort zone and how helpful you can be by just simply sharing tips with them.

In fact, I realized how we underestimate the needs of domestic workers on so many levels.

I have joined the non-profit organisation Uplifters last September. It’s a new non-profit in Hong Kong founded by Marie Kretz Di Meglio. They provide a free online money management course to domestic workers.

They learn how to prepare for the future, how to save money, how to avoid being ripped off by some malevolent people taking advantage and even how to say ‘no’ to unnecessary financial requests from their own family back home. In other words, all they need to know to break the cycle of poverty and build sustainable futures for themselves and their families.

We do learn about those tools in the ‘modern world’ and we decide to use them (or not). Domestic workers don’t have access to those tools and arrive unprepared in our cities to work for us. How can they possibly manage? Something’s not quite right!

Why employers should care?

As Uplifters is self-funded we started a crowdfunding campaign in January and this has probably been the most interesting journey of my years working in Hong Kong.

Recently and because of our communication about our crowdfunding campaign, I have been asked very interestingly and rightly so “why as an employer should I get involved about my domestic workers’ financial education, why should I sponsor it, why should I care at all? She is working for me and she is very busy, I don’t want to distract her, it’s already difficult enough sometimes to be on the same page so I’d rather not disturb our routine”.

So many employers naturally feel that way I thought I needed to write about this.

First of all as an employer, wouldn’t you want her to be concentrated on her job and doing it well rather than being stressed out and worried about money issues? Whatever your relationship with her, you would see on her face or her attitude when something is wrong with her, right? As an employer, you trust your domestic worker with your household and loved ones. So yes you do want your domestic worker to be responsible, reliable and be good at what she does! You do want her to succeed and reach her dreams. You do want her to be happy, pleasant and do a good job for you. As a mother, I think you do worry about your domestic worker taking care of your children when she is not feeling well, whether she is physically sick or mentally not there or depressed. 

It is proven that the helpers that are going through financial literacy programs get a better understanding of what is ahead of them and better plan for their future. That gives them confidence, a more positive mindset and give them a better way to cope with uncertainty and difficulties. It helps them defines their goals in life. Not only they dare speaking about their dreams but they also realize they can actually reach those dreams. As a result, they become more positive, motivated and happier and they find a better balance in their life in general.

How would you feel if one of these loan sharks come knocking at your door asking to repay the loan your domestic worker made a few months back, leaving you distressed, leaving her depressed and your relationship damaged?  

Aren’t we a lot of employers experiencing the bad surprise to have to repay the loan of their domestic worker? My domestic worker made a loan of 1,000 HKD and ‘forgot’ about it. A few years later, we had to repay 6,000 HKD. This is a common story that unfortunately puts a lot of strain on the relationship.

If the domestic worker learns the pros and cons of loans, how interest rate works, how to budget and control her transfer of money to her family, they would have fewer risks to get into these delirious situations.

Secondly, it’s an opportunity to improve your relationship with her.

We asked students from the Uplifters course how did the course impact their relationship with their employer”. Here are a few replies:

Janelyn : “Now that I am more driven to my passion to learn and earn, I am more dedicated to my work, I am giving all of my efforts to learn new things and impress my employers. Now we have better communications.”

Rubi : “With my employer, it’s changed a lot of things as I am more confident when I speak English and I am more humble”

Cristina: “There was a great impact on how I managed my communication skills to understand each other’s.”

Maylin: “After my employer discovered that I took the Uplifters’ course, they did not worry that I would spend my money in unimportant ways and we started to build trust.”

Joan (I love her testimony!): “I believe that when your employers know that you are learning something to improve yourself you gain respect from them. It’s good that you let them know as well that you are productive in terms of learning new things as they won’t look down on you”

Finally, as a responsible employer, wouldn’t you want to provide your employee with these crucial life skills? I would say on a personal note that I would find it normal to care for people that work for you and are taking care of your home, your kids and is a part of your family life. Isn’t it the basics of management: care and consideration for your employees? Should it be different for domestic workers? As an employer, I would also want to know that the salary I give my domestic worker will contribute to retirement or part of an investment that will help her build a business when she decides to go back home for good.

Knowing her daughters will come to Hong Kong to work as domestic workers strangely does not have the same rewarding feeling, don’t you think? Don’t we all strive for the same achievement in life? Why would domestic workers not have the same dreams nor the same chances in life? They work all these years for us away from their family and their own children, don’t they deserve a little bit of our help to achieve their goals?

Not only employers should care but I do feel it is their duty to help their domestic workers get access to basic financial knowledge that will prevent them to fall into destructive traps.

·  In Hong Kong Enrich is the leading charity for domestic workers’ economic empowerment. They offer face to face sessions on Sundays as well as one to one financial counselling services for emergency cases. 

·  Uplifters offers a 3-weeks free online course. It is flexible, they can participate when they have time and it won’t disturb their day of work. Students are enrolled in group chats so they get important peer support. 

Overall those courses offer them a chance to learn important life skills, improve their chances in life and also build up healthy friendships. This is basically a win-win for them and for employers, that’s the beauty of it! 

Break your chains! You are not an elephant


As a man was passing elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.

He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to getaway. “Well,” trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before?

Failure is part of learning; we should never give up the struggle in life.

A 43 year old single mom, entrepreneur, 100 km distance runner and domestic worker

Milkha - Uplifters student Milkhatus, or Milkha as she’s known to her friends, made a big impression on me. She is an incredibly determined and hard-working woman. Milkha is a domestic worker in Hong Kong but she’s much more than that. She’s also an entrepreneur, a 100 km distance runner, and a single mom raising her son without any financial assistance. While her life circumstances are tough, she doesn’t let them defeat her.  Instead, she makes the most of them.

For me, she is the embodiment of the saying “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions” (Stephen Covey).

Meet Milka, Uplifters student

She is Indonesian, 43 years old and a single mother. When her son was 9, she decided to migrate to Hong Kong to work as a domestic worker in order to support him financially.

She has been working abroad for 10 years now and, in the course of that time, she has achieved so much! She learned two languages in just a few months, covered the costs of her son’s upbringing, supported her own siblings’ studies, invested in a small business in Indonesia in order to have an alternative source of income and, during her time off, still found the energy for intense sports activities like paddling and, most recently, running and hiking. In fact, she just took part in one of Hong Kong’s more challenging races: the 100 km Oxfam Trailwalker.  What an inspiration!

When I asked her if anyone, or any specific event, influenced her, she replied: “My hard life – it taught me to be practical and realistic and, most importantly, it taught me discipline.”

In truth, Milkha did not really need to participate in our Uplifters’ course “Dare to Dream” as she is already a strong, confident and wise woman who is preparing for the future and making the most of her stay abroad. However, the fact that she believes that this is a valuable program for her fellow domestic workers is very high praise and means a great deal to us.

In the following interview, you will read about the challenges she has overcome in her career as a domestic worker, why she decided to start running and how she kept herself motivated during the 100 km Trailwalker race – a gruelling challenge and the first race she’s ever done! She also shares some of her experience at Uplifters and important messages she has for fellow domestic workers and employers.

My interview with Milkha

Marie – Can you please tell us about the challenges you have faced in your life as a domestic worker?

Milkha – When I first arrived in Hong Kong, I could not speak Cantonese very well and my English was not very good either. So that was my first challenge living here: language. I had to improve my Cantonese at the same time as I worked on my English because my employer’s father was living with us and he didn’t speak any English. Mistakes and misunderstandings happened for sure, but I was still able to do my job well and I was lucky to have an understanding employer. My employer’s father taught me Chinese cooking on top of Cantonese!

Marie – Why did you start running?

Milkha – I started to run last August after a friend asked me if I wanted to join her Oxfam Trailwalker team. I’d never run before so I wasn’t very confident at first. Despite my lack of experience, I thought it would be an interesting adventure so I said okay and began training with them. At that time, my dragon boat team practices were on a break – for the past 3 years, I’ve been paddling in Hongkong for two different teams.

As I mentioned, running is a new experience for me and it’s been a good one: it keeps me active, fit and healthy. The Oxfam Trailwalker race was a challenge – especially since it’s the first race I’ve been in.

I still remember the first day of training – it was really hard! Despite all the blisters, bruises and pain I had all over my body, I still needed to do my job the next day. That was a long day!  But the training was a lot of fun and so I even enjoyed the sore muscles (hahaha).

Marie – How did you find the race? Did you feel like giving up during the race? If so, what motivated you to keep going?

Milkha – On the actual race day, our team was so eager to do it (especially me), that it kept our adrenaline pumping. We had so much fun on the trail. We met new friends and teamed up together as one – we really enjoyed the whole experience. From the starting line to checkpoint 8 we did well. However, from checkpoint 9 to the finish line I felt I had no more power – I felt sleepy, my legs were tired and I could feel the pain all over my body. But I kept saying to myself… don’t stop, stay hydrated and keep going… we’re almost there!!!  I remembered how hard the training was, how much time and effort we put in to get ready for this day… I think the whole team felt the same. While we didn’t run anymore, we walked fast and we did it! And, of course, thinking of my son and the support from my employer, friends, coach and everyone else who was involved kept me going. I’m very grateful to them all.

Marie – Why did you join the Uplifters’ course “Dare to Dream” and how did you hear about it?

Milkha – I heard about Uplifters from a Facebook friend and joined. I thought “Dare to Dream” sounded like a useful course for us, as domestic workers, because so many of us still do not dare to speak openly for ourselves. When we enter our employers’ homes, we think we must simply follow orders without thinking or offering our own suggestions – most of the agencies drilled this into us from the time we were at the training centre in Indonesia. For newcomers, cultural expectations and not understanding the subtleties of the language can make it really hard sometimes. Some employers are understanding about this, but I’d say most of them aren’t. So, in “Dare to Dream”, one of the important things we learn is how to open up by gaining both knowledge and the confidence to speak more freely.

Marie – What are your own dreams for the future?

Milkha – My own dream is to look after my little farmhouse, to stay healthy and fit, and to enjoy life. I also hope that my son learns about what’s important in life from my example.

Marie – What is your message for fellow domestic workers? And for employers?

Milkha – For my fellow domestic workers, I’d like to suggest that, if you aren’t already, you start doing more positive activities during your days off – things that feed your soul and help you grow as a person. For those of you who already do, keep up the good work! Try to learn new things and share what you learn with others.

In terms of employers, I hope more employers become willing to listen to their helpers and discuss things more openly. I also wish that working hours would become more reasonable and that living conditions for helpers could improve (such as a private room with easy access to basic facilities such as a toilet and shower for each helper).

Domestic workers:  to enrol for free in Dare to Dream, just private message our Facebook page  (click on Send a message at the top) or directly with our Facebook Chatbot here.

Employers: you can recommend your domestic worker to join our Facebook group More than Just a Maid where she will get all the information about our free courses.

The best gift you can give your domestic worker


Marion, our expert in creating a happy “domestic worker-employer” work relationship shares with us her top 5 gifts to give your domestic worker. For more tips and advice, subscribe to our newsletter and join our Facebook Support Group for employers!

After 12 years with the same domestic worker, I think I have been through it all, in terms of gift-giving. I have given her all sorts of presents I thought she would enjoy, beginning with things for her room (e.g. decorations, a rug, cushions).  I soon realised that, even though she politely thanked me, she was just not interested in this type of gift.  Let’s be realistic – most domestic workers simply don’t have space for many decorations and this type of gift may not be the most relevant to them.

My first ideas

After interior design items, I tried giving her jewellery and skincare products including earrings, manicure sets, hand cream for her work-worn skin, a gift box from l’Occitane but, once again, she didn’t seem to truly enjoy these types of gifts either.

Next, I thought “let’s do vouchers” – that way she can find herself what she wants or needs. The issue with some vouchers, however, is that she may have to add a bit of money to get exactly what she wants and that is not really the point of the gift.  So I thought, OK, cinemas offer vouchers and she can invite friends to go with her and do something fun. We gave her the movie vouchers but I’m not sure if they were ever used.

Friends gave me tips and I read stuff here and there on the internet but nothing seemed to be relevant for my domestic worker… You may be wondering “Is she really so difficult to buy for?” Nope, I don’t think so. I simply had not found THE perfect gift for her.

The fact is, as, with anyone, it’s sometimes hard to really know if our domestic workers are happy with the gifts we choose. However, if we understand where they’re coming from, what’s important to them, and who they are as individuals, it can help give us some direction.

Until one day, we had finally found a present  she liked

One day, I was with my family at the airport.  We were looking around the duty-free shop when my 7-year-old son turned to me holding a perfume bottle and said: “Mummy, let’s buy this for Yaya!”.  My response was ‘Hmmm. I’m not sure she would like that’ to which he replied ‘No, she will like it, Mummy. I promise! She told me’. When we offered her the bottle of perfume, she exclaimed ‘Oh, I love perfume!’. So that was it, we had finally found a present we knew she liked.

A good tip: give your children the mission to secretly find out what your domestic worker would like for Christmas!

The problem was that we were not going to buy her perfume for each Christmas and birthday so we still had to have other ideas to work with. Here are a few of the other gifts my domestic worker has enjoyed over the years (and one she’ll be getting this year – shhh!).

My top 5 gifts for my domestic worker

1. I think the number one present for domestic workers is cash. In some cultures, cash doesn’t represent any kind of effort and may be considered a ‘lazy’ gift. At the same time, we want our presents to have a long-lasting effect. However, cash is a meaningful and powerful gift to give a domestic worker.  One they can use in the way most relevant to their needs.  I also give a bit of cash for my domestic worker’s own children. Whether she saves it for them, gives it to them, or buys a gift for them with it is entirely up to her. I remember one of the first Christmases I did this.  She came back from the Philippines and showed me photos of the kids with the new toys she had bought for them with this cash. I could feel how happy and thankful she was to be able to treat her children.

2. Another great present is paid leave and an extra ticket back home. Check with her first and contact airline companies as they may have special offers for domestic workers that you wouldn’t see on their websites. Some domestic workers may not be willing to go home even if you pay for the ticket because they have no savings. It’s very common for domestic workers to actually borrow money before going back home. It’s hard for them to say no to their relatives’ money requests and come home with no gift to give. This is a good occasion for you to discuss her financial situation and encourage her to join a financial literacy course. Check our free online course Dare to Dream.

3. When I started to work with domestic workers, I noticed they were very grateful to get a body check. So this became something we ‘offered’ her and it was always very happily welcomed! I use Igoodlink (Hong Kong) for this – we like them because they have always been very reliable and professional and it is easy to arrange online. QHMS is another centre but I haven’t tried personally.

4. You can also choose to give the gift of health and kitchen happiness. In November, we met with Natalia Morrison who is a health consultant here in Hong Kong. She recently published a comprehensive cooking book which she wrote with her domestic worker. We highly recommend getting a copy for yourself and to consider offering one to your domestic worker as well. Check out our blog or Natalia’s website Home Cooking East & West where you will find details on how to get your copy.

5. Finally, the gift of a training course is a gift of growth and opening doors – it can build a domestic worker’s skills and strengthen her resume for future endeavours including when she decides to go back to her home country. The support a domestic worker gets for learning is empowering. It is a priceless gift and everyone benefits.

The best gift of all: the gift of education

In general, domestic workers are always grateful for their employer’s consideration, respect and generosity.  When we asked them to share what was the best thing their employer ever did for them, a great number of them replied that it was the fact that their employers encouraged them to do some training – to learn something different or new to widen their experience or improve their skills.

“I am a very lucky helper, I have a very good employer. They treat me like I am their own family, sponsor me to go study, help me to start my own business back home.” Susilowati M.

“They appreciate my hard work in looking after their kids, they care for my health and they support me to get more skill and improve my knowledge and they pay for my school fees.” Yuliani P.

In my opinion, one of the best gifts of all is offering the gift of education – it is priceless and, as Confucius says:

And remember that with as little as USD 10, you can sponsor one domestic worker’s free life skill course at Uplifters. With only USD 30, you sponsor her full free empowerment program.

Finally, don’t forget the power of a simple Christmas card pointing out your appreciation for all of her hard work and offering her your best wishes – having the whole family sign it is sure to make her feel appreciated. Shall I mention as well the odd bag of “give away” stuff that she is always excited and thankful to get? I wouldn’t really call this a “present” even though it feels like it when I give it to her.

Wishing you and your domestic worker a Merry Christmas!

Marion Déchy

Helper Hiring Fear Factor? Build Trust & Communicate

It takes a special person with a brave soul to agree to live and work in someone else’s home – often without a clear idea of what’s expected and what the living and working conditions will be like.  At the same time, it also takes a brave soul to welcome someone they don’t know into their home to live and work – without knowing how that person’s personality may change the dynamic of a family’s day-to-day life.

This is where we were just about 3½ years ago. We had just hired a live-in Domestic Helper for the first time and, after working for many years in Singapore for two different Chinese families, our Domestic Helper was coming to Hong Kong for the first time to work for a Western family. We all knew it would take time to build a positive, trusting relationship but we were determined it would happen.

For my family, the story actually began almost a decade ago when my husband (Allan) and I decided to leave our home in Canada to take our son on a one year family adventure to Japan where Al and I had lived many years before.

The one year stretched into 4 (we all loved it there!) and then my husband was recruited to work in Hong Kong – where we’ve now been for over 5 years.

During this adventure, my son and I really missed having a dog in our lives. Our landlords in Japan didn’t allow pets so, when our landlord here in Hong Kong said it was OK to have a dog, we were ecstatic! However, despite the fact we were looking at adopting an elderly dog who had been waiting for a home for 3 months, we discovered that the local Rescue wouldn’t let us adopt one of their dogs if someone wasn’t at home during the day. As my husband and I were working full-time and my son was at school during the day, we weren’t eligible to adopt a dog.

To make a long story short, we hired Elsa Amistad to come work for us and we’re so glad we did.  We got our dog, Max, and we were treated to incredible Filipino, Malaysian, Singaporean and Chinese dishes which I very quickly decided I wanted to learn how to make.





Above: Elsa (left) and Natalia (right) at home in the kitchen

My background is in health, food & nutrition. I was a dietitian for a couple of decades and had my own cooking school in Japan.  Luckily, Elsa was happy to share the secrets of her favourite recipes.  I watched and wrote these down.  I then showed her how to make the favourite dishes of my own family and friends – things she wasn’t familiar with making but which she said her own family and previous employers’ families would love to eat!

I collected our favourite recipes in one place to give both Elsa and I easy access to them. One thing led to another and we thought, why not share them with other people?  Together, Elsa and I chose over 160 of our favourite recipes to share in our book “Home Cooking East & West” – recipes which are almost equally divided between those from the East (Japan, Thailand, Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia) and those from the West.

We also thought it might be helpful to share some of our thoughts about working together since we had had some unexpected, and often amusing, incidents due to assumptions we had each made based on our own past experiences. And so was born a chapter and workbook to help employers and Domestic Helpers communicate effectively to promote “Kitchen Happiness” and nourishing, relaxed meals.

There’s also a chapter featuring a month of menus (based on recipes in the book) for days when people don’t want to think about what to cook for supper (or breakfast or lunch!) and information for healthy meal planning for days that they do.  We’ve also included some interesting kitchen tips and information on food safety.

I have a FB page you’re welcome to like and follow if you’re interested – I’ll be sharing recipes and health tips twice a month or so (I don’t want to overload anyone’s inbox!). You can find it at @NataliaMorrisonHealth.

The book is available at Swindon Books (TST), Kelly & Walsh (Landmark and Pacific Place), and Hong Kong Book Centre (Central). It is also available online by clicking on Swindon Online. You can also order directly from the authors by visiting the Home Cooking East & West website at https://www.homecookingeastandwest.com

By Natalia Morrisson


Create a positive work relationship with your domestic worker

I’ve employed domestic workers for more than ten years and encountered many different scenarios while working for four years in an ethical hiring agency for domestic workers.

I want to save you time and share with you the best management practices I have learned over the years and how to create a positive work relationship with your domestic worker. I will also give you information to better understand their backgrounds.

Adopt these 8 best management practices and create a positive work relationship with your domestic worker

1. Give clear guidelines and time to adjust

At the beginning of an employment contract, provide a schedule of tasks (daily, weekly or monthly schedules) and a clear understanding of your “house rules”. Discuss in-depth the way you do tasks, how you want her to take care of your children, your flat, your pet(s), how to plan meals, your grocery shopping habits, etc. Communication is key.

Give straightforward instructions that are easy to understand. Remember that she is not a native English speaker you may not be either. She might be shy to ask for clarification if she does not understand. Give her time (at least a few weeks) to adjust to the way your family works and to deal with homesickness if she is a newcomer.

In the long term, avoid micromanaging her. Once everything is on track, let your domestic worker try to do things on her own. Sit down regularly with her to discuss what is going well and what needs to be adjusted. At the beginning, you can do it weekly or monthly, then as often as needed and at least once a year for an annual performance review.

E.g. “Hey Julia, here is your weekly schedule. I don’t mind when things are done, I let you manage your time – as long as everything is done that’s great. I am here if you have any question or if you find it difficult to finish everything. We will discuss if you feel that it is too much for you, your input and suggestion are important to us, feel free to share them with us.”

2. Care about her

“Strictly professional” does not necessarily work with domestic workers.


She has left her family behind to work for yours. She will appreciate your genuine questions about her loved ones (not intensively, of course, keep an appropriate boundary). Small gifts for them is a nice way to reward your domestic worker and to show your appreciation. Help your domestic worker to build a better future for herself by suggesting courses she could attend to upgrade her skills.

Domestic worker Lisa mentions “my employers did lots of good things for me, they helped me with my children, always gave a present for my birthday, and bought a laptop for my daughter to help her in her studies. I’m very grateful as it’s a big help for me too”

Pay attention to her health. A domestic worker who is sick needs to see a doctor, rest and recover. In Hong Kong, employers must take health insurance for their domestic workers. In Singapore employers are required to cover all medical costs, so taking health insurance is highly recommended.

3. Be positive: praise and encourage her

Domestic workers are often not very self-confident and extremely sensitive to the comments they receive; both positive and negative! If you remember to praise your domestic worker regularly, she will feel motivated and will be willing to work better for you.

Praising and encouragement are the most positive and effective impact you can have on your domestic worker.

E.g.: Your diner is excellent Marites, thank you so much!
Thank you for tidying up the kids’ room, it was a real mess in there!
You can even add if you feel like it “Thank God you’re here! Don’t know how I would cope without you!”

Domestic worker Yuliani confides “I like when my employers show how they appreciate my hard work”

4. Support her especially when she takes initiative, it will boost her confidence.

If the initiative is not of your liking, discuss it with her in a positive way on how to improve or the way you would want her to do it.

“Taking initiatives” is one of the top recruitment criteria (especially Western employers with small children at home). Each family is different, and your domestic worker may have had several employers in the past, therefore has various ways of doing things. She may have been encouraged and praised when taking initiatives or on the contrary, she may have been told off. Discuss this openly with her (it’s never too late).

E.g.: I noticed you’ve cleaned the silver today, that’s great I love your initiative. Just to let you know for next time, please do use that special product for silver polishing.

Domestic worker Tana says she appreciates her employers because they “encourage me to try new things and always support me”

5. Reward her hard work (money, extra time off, trip back home)

Salary, bonus, time off, rewards… It’s a never-ending discussion topic between employers! For all employees, rewards or bonuses are very motivating. Increasing the salary or giving a high salary will always be very much appreciated, but don’t expect a long-lasting impact. We recommend complementing with ad-hoc rewards for performance on a more regular basis.

Whether it is an extra banknote at the end of the month, a bonus at the end of the year, a return ticket to go back home or some extra time off, your domestic worker will appreciate it greatly! Small gifts for them is a nice way to reward your domestic worker and to show your appreciation.

E.g.: – You were up late last night while helping me with my guests. Please have half the day off tomorrow to rest!  Here is a little extra since you’ve worked hard this month

Domestic worker Sarah feels special and is motivated when “my employers reward me with giving me a present for my birthday and give me a bonus every end of the year”

6. Respect her time off and privacy

Respecting your domestic workers’ time off and privacy is essential for her well-being. We all need a break! It means a lot to them to know that they have this time for themselves and they won’t be disturbed. They will feel respected by their employer. The example below speaks for itself:

Domestic worker Adriana explains “when I finish my work and I am in my room, my employer won’t disturb me even if she needs something. Instead, she will write a note and put on the kitchen table and I will read it after I come out from my room”.

7. Always talk to her like you would want your boss to talk to you.

It’s always better to put things in perspective and switch roles for a moment to weigh the pros and cons. How would I react if my boss was speaking to me with that tone? How would I feel if my boss was criticising my work that way? How would I want my boss to address this issue?

The tone of our voice, our facial expression, the words we use are very important. To make sure our point is not taken the wrong way, keep it positive. You may give a quick explanation, so she can understand why you are asking her to do something or addressing an issue.

E.g.: Jocelyn, I wanted to ask you something. When you put the clean laundry back in the closet, would you mind putting the clean towels under the other ones that are already in the closet, please? That way we don’t always use the same towels.

Domestic worker Imelda describes “The things I like most about my employers is their positive attitude, their time management skills and how they acknowledge my work, encourage and trust me. For me, it is necessary to communicate openly to avoid misunderstandings.”

Domestic worker Ariyanty “my boss is a good leader. If there is an issue, they always solve the problem in a nice way”

8. Choose the right place and right way to address issues and mistakes

Remember that odd moment when your boss blamed you in the middle of a meeting in front of several people? It is unpleasant for most people and humiliating, as losing face is a strong concern in Asia. Choose an appropriate time to speak with your domestic worker, preferably a one-to-one conversation. Mention to her that you want to sit down and have a chat with her. Have her sit in front of you and try to connect with her in a positive and kind way. Invite her to share her opinions too. Take into account that because of cultural differences, your domestic worker may feel more comfortable with a female employer. She is more likely to share her views if her female employer speaks to her alone first. Start the discussion without labelling the situation as a mistake, give clear indications on what you expect. When there are issues at home, think about it like your own private company that you need to manage. You need everything to go smoothly. Teamwork is the best way to find solutions to problems.

Domestic worker Ayu loves the family she works for because “we work together and solve issues about the kids together”.

So whether it is a problem inside your ‘company’ or concerning one of your ‘staff’, it is time for a ‘meeting’! Choose an appropriate moment, be in a positive mindset and you will be more likely to succeed.

E.g.: Hi Marites, I’d like to talk with you about a couple of things, let’s talk tonight once the children sleep/ tomorrow morning when the children are at school?

Start positive: First of all, I want you to keep in mind that we really appreciate your work and everything you are doing for us.

Introduce the problem: There are a couple of things I’d like to discuss with you regarding cleaning the entrance/lobby. I was wondering if you had the right product to clean it up as I still find it quite dirty.

Discuss solutions with her: You can use the hoover and the mop in the kitchen, it’s ok. Don’t hesitate to let me know if there is another product you would need me to get for this.

Involve her and ask her for her input: Any suggestion you may have is always welcome.

Do you want to keep a copy of these best management practices? Download our free “Happy work relationship” guide here. You will get additional information about your domestic worker’s background and useful resources in Hong Kong and Singapore.

To ask all your questions about your domestic worker, join our “Support for Employers of Foreign Domestic Workers” Facebook Group.


By Marion Déchy – Before joining Uplifters, Marion worked for an ethical domestic worker agency in Hong Kong for 4 years. She is very familiar with issues faced by both migrant domestic workers and their employers.

Reprogram your brain for happiness in 3 simple steps

little moments for happiness

Happiness is something you can build. Little by little, each time someone says something mean to us or ignore us, it creates a “hole in our hearts” and makes us less confident and less happy in the long-term. But a simple way exists to change your brain into a positive mood.

Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says as simple as it may sound, brain science backs the well-known popular wisdom, “positive brings positive.”

Positive brings positive

During a talk, “Taking in the Good” for Chicago Ideas Week in 2013, he explained how to create positive connections in our brains.

He said that as a child he was repetitively bullied by other children. He did not face any major life trauma but still, years later, he realized during his studies that those negative moments had changed him and made him feel empty inside. Hanson said he felt like he had “…a hole in my heart.”

One of our basic needs is to feel valued, included, recognized and appreciated. Hanson said he began to notice a reaction that seemed amazing at first.

“If someone was nice to me, or wanted me on their team, or hired me, or if a good thing happened, and if I stayed with the experience by focusing on the good, I started gradually feeling better,” he said.

The longer you stay with a happy feeling or memory, the stronger the connection will become in your brain and gradually, you will reprogram your brain to be happier.

3 steps to happiness

To “reprogram” your brain to happiness is very simple. Follow these 3 good practices:

  1. Appreciate little pleasures of life even when it is hard: a nice flower, a good moment with a friend, the taste of coffee. Finding the good in small things, day by day, is not naïve but a way to change your brain.
  2. Don’t rush. When you live a happy experience, take the time to really feel it in your body for at least 10 seconds. This way, a good small fact will become a great memory.
  3. Make a conscious effort to remember happy experiences. (We suggest to write them down in a notebook). If you practice those methods day by day, you will be able to close your eyes and think of a good memory or loving experience very easily!

To finish, if you choose to concentrate on the good each day, you will fill yourself with calm, joy and confidence. It is good for you but also good for the people you know and love.

More about Rick Hanson: he is the author of Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha’s Brain and Just One Thin – books that have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He is also a senior fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley and founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom in San Rafael, California.

Build your life wisely : the story of the old carpenter

build life

Each day, we build our own life, and sometimes without realizing it. The story of the old carpenter is a good example…

An old carpenter wanted to retire. He told his employer about his plans.

The employer was sorry to see his good carpenter leave and he asked him if he could build just one more house. The carpenter said yes, but it was easy to see that his heart was not into it. He was clearly not doing his best.

When the carpenter finished his work, his employer came. He handed the front-door key to the carpenter and said, “This is your house… my gift to thank you.”

The carpenter was shocked!

What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all much better.

Same happens with our lives. We build our lives, day after day, without doing our best. Then, with a shock, we realize we must live in the house we have built. If we could do it over, we would do it much differently.

But, you cannot go back. You are the carpenter, and every day you hammer a nail, place a window, or erect a wall. Someone once said, “Life is a do-it-yourself project.” Your attitude, and the choices you make today, help build the “house” you will live in tomorrow. Therefore, build wisely!

What does this story inspire you to do differently?

You want to become a decision master? Find out here 6 steps to follow.

Job interviews : the rules to get better and succeed

job interviews

Get better at job interviews and find the best employer for you!

8 things to know before

  1. Ask for advice on good ethical agencies, try free platforms like Helper Choice, HelperPlace,  or direct hire so you don’t have to pay fees. Always check if the agency is licensed and how much they will charge you (it is maximum 10% of your monthly salary in Hong Kong and 2 months salary  in Singapore)
  2. Start interviewing two months before the end of your contract or as soon as possible so you have enough time for job interviews and don’t feel pressured.
  3. Look at the job offer. Only accept job interviews if you really consider the offer and if your profile meets the employer’s requirements. Don’t waste your time and employer’s time if you already know that you or they will say no.
  4. Go to all job interviews with employers that you are happy to consider. Don’t wait for an answer before accepting another interview. Employers do the same with domestic workers, so you don’t have to feel uncomfortable. Don’t hesitate to register in an agency (with no fee for domestic workers) even if you may find trough direct hire. You don’t have to feel bad for the agent.
  5. Let friends know where you go for job interviews (give address and interview time) so they can react in case of an emergency. Send them a message afterwards, so they know you are safe. Don’t go to an interview in a private place if you feel the employer is strange. If you want to come with a friend, don’t let the employers know about it. She should wait for you outside.
  6. Be on time, search on Google maps before for directions and allow 15 minutes extra buffer time in case you get lost. If you need to cancel, try to do it at least 24 hours in advance.
  7. If you are running late, don’t cancel, send a message or call “I am really sorry I am running late. I will be there in … minutes. If that’s not possible for you, can we please reschedule? Many thanks and all my apologies again.”
  8. Prepare your answers to questions employers generally ask to domestic workers (see below) and come with copies of your referral letters and certificates if you have some.

Know how to answer these questions

  • Experience – Describe a day with your current employer. What is your schedule? What do you like/dislike? Do you think your work is too easy or too hard? How many employers have you had and how long have you worked for them? Can I contact them?  Do you have referral letters? Why are you looking to change employer or not renewing your current contract? If it is your employer’s decision, explain why.
  • Cooking – What kind of food do you know how to cook? (Western, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, vegetarian …?) Did your employers ask you to follow recipes before and how (in a cookbook, on YouTube?). What are your favourite recipes? Can you explain 1 recipe now?
  • Children / Elderly people. What experience do you have (how many years taking care of children / elderly people). What qualifications and certificates do you have? Did you attend any specific training/classes here or in your country of origin? Do you know first aid?
    • Children. How old were the children you took care of? Did you already take care of a baby? If my child falls on his head and then seems sleepy, what would you do? If my child is talking to you in a rude way and doesn’t accept your orders, what would you do?
    • Elderly people. How old where the elderly people you took care of before? What did you have to do to help them? What would you do I my old mother falls and does not reply to you?
  • What are you better at? Household chores, children, elderly people, cooking? What do you like best?
  • Salary – What is your current salary? What do you want? If it is above minimum salary, what makes you think you are worth more?
  • Are there other things you could do for us (sewing/baking bread …)?
  • Are you autonomous, willing to take initiatives or do you prefer to be told exactly what you should do hour by hour? How would you describe yourself or how would your friends describe you?
  • What are your interests and hobbies? What do you during your days off?
  • Why do you work as a domestic worker? How long do you plan to work abroad?

3 rules during job interviews

  1. Tell the truth. For example, don’t say you can cook if you can’t. Your employer will quickly find out and be disappointed. If you think you cannot do what they ask, just let them know. There will be many other employers who may be looking for you.
  2. Ask questions about the family and the job. The job interview is not only for the employer to know if they want to hire you but also for you to decide if you want to work for them. Ask questions about what they expect of their domestic worker, how old are the children… Don’t ask immediate questions about the salary and days off, employers will think you are only after the money and an easy job. It’s better to let them tell you first about the salary or only ask about it after they made you an offer. However, it’s fine to ask where you would sleep, food arrangements if you are allowed to practice your religion if you want to pray during the day and/or fast.
  3. Don’t give in to pressure. Take time to decide, don’t say yes during the job interview. Once employers have made you an offer, it’s time to ask all your remaining questions. You need to have a clear idea of the job duties and the working conditions if they haven’t told you about it already (salary, approximate schedule, days off and national holidays…) Don’t hesitate to negotiate the salary if you have experience and don’t accept a lower salary than your actual one unless specific circumstances (very high actual salary, no more time…).

Making your decision

  • Don’t say yes and sign a contract to say no afterwards because you find an employer you like better. Wait for answers from all the employers you liked, then say yes to the best one for you.
  • Write down all you remember from the job interview, so you can easily compare job offers in the future. If you go to many job interviews, you may forget who said what otherwise.
  • Consider the duties and the salary but even more importantly the working conditions and the employer’s attitude: are they respectful? Do they seem kind people?
  • If you are waiting for another employer’s decision, reply politely: “Many thanks for your kind offer. I am happy that you liked my profile. I want to take a little bit of time before deciding, but I will quickly let you know my answer. I know you can’t wait long.”
  • Once you’ve made your decision, say politely no to other employers who offered you a job: “I want to thank you once again for your offer. I really took the time to think about it. I made my decision and I am sorry to say no. I wish you the best for finding the perfect helper for you.” If they ask you why just say “Your offer was good and I am really grateful but I liked their offer better”. If they insist, say that you already signed the contract.
  • Show your happiness to the employer who is hiring you: “I am really happy to accept your offer. I am looking forward to working with your family”.

Good luck with job hunting and share your experience and advice here as well!

Develop your confidence and boldness easily


Confidence can be in ourselves when we born, but if not, it is possible to develop it. You don’t need long training, only make some exercises and you will feel much more boldness!

Dare to challenge yourself

Be kind with yourself but don’t accept fatality. Being shy or reserved is totally ok but if you want to become more confident, this is something you can learn as well! In order to be successful, you need to learn to stand up for yourself and dare more.

For that, psychologists found that the best technique is to give yourself regularly some new challenges to accomplish, things that you are a bit afraid of but are not totally impossible and out of your reach.

It will be different for each person but what is important is to do these challenges alone.

Some ideas to help you to develop your confidence

  • eating alone at the restaurant.
  • going alone to a place where you’ve never been.
  • going into a luxury shop (like CHANEL or DIOR), ask to try some products or clothes and of course not buying them.
  • Talking to a stranger in the bus

Self-confidence is an important mindset to realize your dreams. 

Did you do it? How did it make you feel?