“We must have the determination to improve ourselves. Every problem has a solution; we just need to discover it.”

Today we turn the spotlight on Nida Reyes Lontoc, one of Uplifters’ Team Leaders. She is an ambassador for PathFinders Hong Kong, a non-profit organisation that assists pregnant migrant workers, mothers and their babies born in Hong Kong. Here she talks about what motivates her to support fellow migrant workers in their empowerment journey.

“When I started the course, I was just curious about it and I thought it was a good way to keep myself busy. But when I met Uplifters’ team leader Lizz Natividad and shared how she manages her salary and her expenses during the pandemic, I got interested because I realized I was earning well. However, I’m still borrowing money from my friend’s. The first thing I did when I went home was to open the lessons again. I bought a notebook and pen to take down notes. I wanted to change my way of living. I realized no one could help me, but I need to be firm with my decisions for my future and my children. I value every centavo I earn and prioritize my needs over wants.

While I was doing the Make it Happen course, I joined the training class of Pathfinders and became one of its ambassadors. I am very happy during our outreach programmes as we meet and talk to different kinds of people. Through their experience, we learn about the struggles they face and how they cope. It has developed my sensitivity to their experiences and listen with respect and without judgement.

As Pathfinders ambassadors, our vision is for all migrant domestic workers to be informed and empowered. Many have been working here in Hongkong for many years now but still do not understand their rights. Our mission is to equip them with adequate knowledge on maternity protection and crucial information on love scams, common misconceptions and pregnancy discrimination. We promote awareness and empowerment to help them understand their rights and entitlements as part of the workforce in Hong Kong, particularly on maternity protection. In particular, I would like to highlight the following:

  • Migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong have the right to get pregnant. They must have their medical certificate before they inform their employer. The employer cannot terminate a domestic worker according to the law in Hong Kong. In case they encounter a disagreement with their employer, they can seek help from Pathfinders. The hotline number for migrant workers is +852 5190 4886. [NB. It’s not the case everywhere, for example in Singapore, pregnant domestic workers must by law be terminated and sent back to their home countries].
  • A migrant domestic worker who gets pregnant and legally employed is considered an “eligible person” and has access to subsidized medical services at public hospitals and is also entitled to maternity leave. The Hong Kong government extended the maternity leave from 10 weeks to 14 weeks for all working women, including migrant domestic workers. They can file a complaint at the Labor Department and Equal Commission Opportunities due to unlawful termination.

The courses of Uplifters helped me in my role as a Pathfinders ambassador. I became more motivated to share my knowledge with those who do not have a clear vision of their goals. I look forward to becoming one of Uplifters’ team leaders as it is my passion to help in any way that I can. To my fellow migrant workers, we must have the determination to improve ourselves. Every problem has a solution; we just need to discover it. ”

“Belonging to Uplifters’ community helped me see the importance of taking care of my well-being and finances.”

“I was just a migrant worker going through the daily motions of working to earn money. But when I became one of Uplifters’ students, I found out that I am also capable of making changes in my life. It taught me to come out of my shell and learn from the experiences of other women like me. I am happy to meet women who share the same views, aspirations, and hobbies, like hiking and reading books. My self-confidence grew when I started taking care of my health physically and emotionally. I learned to develop my morning routine based on Uplifters’ morning rituals because it makes me happy and eager to start my day with a smile.

Before, I just saved what was left from my income and I was content with it. The course taught me how to save more. Now I can save at least 20% of my income. I learned how to budget my money and make a list of my expenses every month. I am now fully aware of the interest accrued by the lending companies that I haven’t noticed before. I can identify my wants and needs, thus adding to my confidence that I will become financially stable in the future. Belonging to Uplifters’ community helped me see the importance of taking care of my well-being and finances. The encouragement of my Team Leader and fellow students inspired me to take action.

Don’t be afraid to make changes in your life. Don’t stop educating yourself because you have already stopped schooling. No matter how old you are, you can still find a way to add to your knowledge. Learning is fun, after all!”

– Michelle Agustin Ramiro is one of Uplifters’ Gold Team Leaders who has supported fellow domestic workers over five sessions of our Dare to Dream signature course.

“Uplifters paved the way for me to become a community leader.”

“Being a Team Leader at Uplifters gives me a sense of purpose and responsibility. It allowed me to improve not only my life but the lives of others too. I want to educate migrant workers on how to make their migration successful so they can empower others too.”

Ron Mendua has always been passionate about helping raise awareness of issues relevant to domestic workers and providing help and information through her Facebook groups, including Help & Support For HK Domestic Workers, where she actively supports the community. As one of our Gold Team Leaders, she has supported more than five sessions of ‘Dare to Dream,’ our free online course on money management, personal growth and mental well-being. For her, taking the courses of Uplifters helped her develop her leadership and communication skills so she can become more effective in helping others.

“I was looking to build a better future for myself and my family. Going abroad allowed me to get a good job, and although it was difficult to get used to, the adjustment paid off and now I work with a good family in Hong Kong and can support my family in the Philippines. I also get to learn more about the world and gain experiences that will help me in the future.

Being part of the Uplifters’ community, I did not only learn about money management and personal growth, but it also paved the way for me to become a community leader.”

“I learned the value of commitment that one must persist even in the face of challenges and lead by example. “

Today we want to spotlight Maria Nemy Lou Mejia, one of our Gold Team Leaders, who has supported fellow domestic workers over five sessions of our Dare to Dream signature course.

“I was in the midst of a financial crisis when I saw the online course Dare to Dream on Facebook. I had loans and debts at home and was always struggling to make ends meet. I was constantly feeling down and felt I was on the brink of depression. Uplifters came at a perfect time. I thought this course would help me get out of the quicksand that I was into.

I can say I was not very wise when it comes to managing money. I had goals, but I was not sure how to achieve them. I could not focus because of strings that were pulling me backward. The course helped me improve my financial situation. I learned how to budget, spend and save money. It changed my perspectives on many things. Despite difficulties due to my work schedules, I felt that it was an accomplishment when I finished the course. It motivated me to continue and complete the next course, which is Make It Happen.

Uplifters empowered me with the positive mindset that nothing is impossible as long as you believe you can do it. I became the butterfly that I am now. My struggles made me tougher and more confident than I ever was. I spread my wings and explored what life has to offer me, leading me to create the Migrant Writers of Hong Kong Facebook group. I wanted to share my passion for writing with other women and provide a platform to share and develop their talents.

Uplifters built up the leader in me. I learned the value of commitment that one must persist even in the face of challenges and lead by example. Being a Team Leader is truly rewarding. I enjoy learning again and again with my students. I have a deep admiration for them.

“Without the budgeting and planning skills I learned at Uplifters, I wouldn’t have managed my business correctly.”

Today we want to turn the spotlight on Eni Kusrini, one of our Gold Team Leaders, who has facilitated over five of our ‘Dare to Dream’, signature courses. ‘Dare to Dream’ is our free online course on money management and personal growth.

Eni is from Indonesia and has been working in Singapore for the past seven years. “I did not know how to manage my money before I joined Uplifters. I struggled with saving my hard-earned money. I have many dreams, but I did not know how to achieve them. The course helped me learn how to run the cafe and bar that I jointly opened with my brother in Indonesia. Without the budgeting and planning skills I learned at Uplifters, I wouldn’t have managed the business correctly. Unfortunately, we were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, so we had to close after two years. In my free time, I volunteer for the Institute of Mental Health in Singapore. I wanted to make a difference. The patients are happy when I’m singing, playing music or just being with them. I am also part of a traditional music group in Singapore; I thought it is a good way to share my talents.

As one of Uplifters’ team leaders, I am grateful for the opportunity to support my fellow domestic workers, some of whom have become my close friends. I am happy to be part of a community that empowers each other. I would like to share my message to our community: We are not going to work abroad forever, so we must learn how to manage our money for our future. Some people may look down on us and our jobs, but we must not be discouraged. We can be successful. Have patience and always remember your dreams. You can make them happen!”

“Poverty did not stop me from dreaming.”

“Poverty is always the number one reason many of us choose to work abroad, and I’m not exempt from that. But this did not stop me from dreaming. I also have dreams that I want to achieve and that is to become a successful entrepreneur and not worry about financial stability anymore.” These dreams are what inspire Uplifters’ alumni, Julie Ann Tabigne, to work hard. She moved to Singapore to work as a domestic worker for her nine-year-old son. It was not an easy journey for her. Now she is one of our Diamond Team Leaders supporting more than ten sessions of Dare to Dream, our free online course in money management, personal growth and mental well-being.

Read more about her story here:

“Working abroad is not as easy it seems. I had experienced silently crying when my employers raised their voices when I made mistakes, yet I accepted them all without arguing, so it wouldn’t worsen the situation. I tried my best to adjust and learn from these situations. I admitted that I was on the verge of giving up a few times, yet I held on to my purpose of why I am making all these sacrifices. I realized I needed to accept this reality and learn to love my job. Whenever I face difficulties, this mindset helps me bounce back and persevere. There is no such thing as an easy job, and I’m aware of that. My priority is my family and my son. They are the reason why I’m doing my best to do my job well. And of course, I do not forget to pamper myself, so I feed my soul with beautiful sceneries during my off-days. I volunteer and catch up with friends to fight feelings of loneliness and homesickness. It helps me to relax and, at the same time, energizes me.

I was curious about Uplifters, but I did not dare to ask about it because I have experienced scams before until one day, a friend of mine shared her incredible journey in Dare to dream. That’s when I got interested in joining. I enjoyed the 3-week session and every week is new learning and discovery for me that I am capable of doing more in the future if I take it seriously. Before taking the course, I did not care where my salary went as long as I fulfilled my responsibility to my family and saved a little bit, and the rest I don’t remember anymore. I don’t have a concrete plan for my future though I keep saving little by little, yet I don’t know when or where to invest it. Now I am equipped with the proper knowledge. Thanks to my dream board which became my guide and motivation to make my dreams a reality. I was able to buy my first property, a 400 sqm land, which I plan to develop one day. My life has changed a lot since February 2020 because I allowed changes in myself and happily embraced this learning opportunity.

I enrolled in Become a Leader to give back to the community. My heart goes to all the domestic workers I get to know, especially when they open up about their difficulties. I try my best to become a good leader so that they will trust me with whatever they want to tell me. It’s empowering. I might get tired one day, but this will not be my reason to give up. Hearing their sincere gratitude is enough reason to continue supporting them. Aside from Uplifters, I am a volunteer member of Migrant Writers of Singapore, a community that encourages everyone to write down their emotions. We need to find ways to express ourselves and our feelings, especially during this pandemic. We conduct workshops too, to enhance our ability in writing. The most exciting part is when we perform our own written piece in person or video recording.

To all my fellow domestic workers, hang in there. This is a very challenging period, but you can divert your attention to other important things to lessen your worries. You will not go wrong in every decision you will make in the future if you trust yourself. Be patient. Work hard and be compassionate to others. You are a strong woman who is more than capable of reaching your dreams. Give thanks for every blessing and guidance you have received and lastly, be kind to yourself. Do not worry too much. That is unnecessary. Dream, believe and make it happen.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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