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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about her in this interview.

What prompted you to join the course?

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

How were you before? How do you feel now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When we stop learning, we stop growing.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about her in this excerpt from our interview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A journey of a thousand miles between with a single step.”

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

Liezel Fernandez Marcos is one of the graduates of our May 2020 batch. She is from the Philippines and a proud mother to two children. Before coming to Hong Kong, she worked in a daycare centre in her hometown. She loves children and enjoyed teaching.

Read more about her in this interview.

What prompted you to join the course?

I was scrolling on Facebook when I read about Uplifters. I was interested in their free online class and sent a message to sign up.

Why did you join?

I felt so down and depressed. I have no savings in my account. I carried so much burden in my life. I wanted a change so I enrolled in Uplifters’ 3-week online class about money management and personal growth.

How do you feel now?

I feel better and wiser. Dare to Dream challenged me and changed my mindset on personal growth and managing my money wisely. I am more confident now. New doors are opening for me to grow. One is the Horizons Facebook group which helps me to bring back my love for writing poems. Uplifters’ team leader Ody Munson inspired and motivated me a lot. My fellow Uplifters’ alumni Naicy Wordstring invited me to participate in a Facebook group called Daily Life in Covid-19 and I’m so grateful to accept this. It’s a community of migrant workers where we share our thoughts and activities during Covid-19. I have also started reading uplifting books instead of sitting down and thinking about my problems. I watch videos of motivational speaker Jay Shetty which helps motivate me. I attend church regularly to nourish my spiritual needs.

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

I have a notebook where I write all the lessons I have learned. I am making a budget so that I can monitor and keep track of where my salary goes. I posted my dream board on my wall to keep me motivated. I am practising the morning and evening rituals to start and end my day on a positive note.

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

For my fellow migrant workers, just give it a try. Join Uplifters and enrol in our free online class. You don’t need to pay anything so grab this opportunity to use your free time to study. I assure you that you will fall in love with this course. It’s a big help not only to yourself but also to your whole family. I am so grateful I found a family-like Uplifters. I have invited my friends to join so that they too can benefit from the course. I would like to share my favourite quote with all of you. “A journey of a thousand miles between with a single step.”

“Work hard in silence. Let your success be your noise.

We are happy to feature Eden Hontucan, Uplifters alumni. She is a Filipina working as a domestic worker in Singapore. She finished the courses Dare to Dream in September 2019 and Make it Happen in February 2020.

“I was a volunteer at the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants & Itinerant People (ACMI) in Singapore when my friend recommended Uplifters to me. I joined because I was curious and wanted to know how online learning works. I love that it is flexible and there is no need to go to a class. It has contributed to who I am now.

Uplifters helped me improve my personality. I learned to become positive and motivated, to have a proper plan and make my dreams come true. Before taking the course, I made plans for the future but I did not make a monthly budget. I wanted to learn how to make one but it never crossed my mind. But now, I learned how to monitor my expenses and I know how important it is to have an emergency fund that we can use in times of crisis. Most importantly I learned the value of self-discipline and saving for the future while I am still working abroad. Self-discipline is necessary so that I can avoid the temptation to buy unnecessary things.

Taking care of oneself is important. Uplifters taught me that I should find ways to improve and take care of myself. I am a person who is eager to learn. I took several skills-training courses, as I wanted to make my days off productive. The courses have equipped me with skills that can help me start my own business. The first training that I took was an International Cooking Cuisine at Felodep Singapore. I also took courses in basic computer skills, dressmaking and advanced business craft at Trinity Church, where I was awarded as one of the best students.

To all my fellow domestic workers, I highly recommend the courses at Uplifters. They will help you become motivated to reach your dreams in life and develop yourself. We all know that we cannot work overseas for the rest of our lives. We can make our dreams come true if we know how to plan well and follow the lessons we learned to succeed in the future.

Thank you Uplifters for nurturing me and moulding me into a better person. I have no worries if I go home. The knowledge that I learned will be my foundation to succeed in life. I would like to share my favourite quote with all of you. “Work hard in silence. Let your success be your noise.” 

“Be strong and resilient like the coconut tree.”

Achievement unlocked.” This is one of the favourite phrases from Fidelisa Sarol Delima, an Uplifters’ alumni and a mother to four sons. She has been working in Hong Kong for the past eight years.

“Growing up in a poor family, I thought it was impossible for me to achieve my dreams. I wanted to finish my studies but I was not able to do so due to our circumstances. I decided to work abroad to provide a better future for my children. As a mother, my focus was only on my family, I have always put myself last. I felt empty inside and I didn’t have a clear direction in life. My attitude was always to go with the flow. I was content with sending money to my family back home, helping my siblings and paying for my children’s school fees.

Lisa’s dream house in Cebu, Philippines

Uplifters changed my life. The Dare to Dream course enlightened me and made me realize the value of taking care of myself. I am happier now because I learned that by looking after myself, I am helping myself and others as well. I learned how to budget and save money. I started to think about my goals and made plans on how I can achieve them. I studied every lesson in the course and applied it in my daily life. As a result, I was able to build a dream house in the Philippines. I am also grateful to have loving and responsible children. Three of them have already graduated from college.

Now I’m taking care of myself by learning new things and adding to my skills and knowledge. I love studying. I took caregiving, cooking and first aid courses. I have recently started taking guitar lessons too.

My advice to my fellow migrant domestic workers is to be strong like the coconut tree, in spite of the difficulties you may face in life. Never stop learning. Never stop dreaming.”

“Take action if you want real change in your life.”

Meet Willa Mae Erejer Arbon, Uplifters’ alumni and social media correspondent. She has been working in Hong Kong for the past six years. In her free time, she loves cooking, hiking and watching motivational videos.

“I joined Dare to Dream because I wanted to change. I wanted to improve my physical and mental health. I wanted to educate myself about money management and personal development.

Uplifters changed how I manage money. One of the best things I learned from the course is to always have a plan. I was impulsive and always acted without a plan. Now I’m a person with a clear purpose and a direction on how I can make my dreams come true.

The courses helped me in my personal growth journey. It gave me the answers to all the questions I have asked myself. I used to be disorganized, too soft and understanding, bashful and fearful of so many things.

I feel so proud of who I am now. I found myself. I am happy, positive, productive and motivated. I have managed to overcome my negative thoughts and conquer my weaknesses.

If I had to pick an image to illustrate my life before and after Uplifters, I will say that now I am like a bamboo tree. Flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking. Like bamboo, I am resilient. I can bounce back even from the most difficult times.

My dream for the future is to own a restaurant to feed thousands of people. To live in another country with my children and to start a new life with them. I’ve always dreamed of raising my kids while working. Raising them in the way I want them to become. I also dream to help people who are in need. I want to help my family, especially my siblings and help other people who are in need.

My advice to women is to stop asking yourself why and blaming someone else. Take action if you want real change in your life.“

“Dream more and never give up. Do not stop learning.”

Meet Uplifters’ alumni, Lynn Lavilla. She is from Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental in Mindanao, Philippines. She has three beautiful daughters ages 25, 23 and 19.

“I decided to take the Dare to Dream course out of curiosity and to pass the time. But in the middle of the course, I realized that it would help me a lot. I was amazed by the lessons they taught me about handling family problems, making friends, how to gain confidence and most especially, about managing money and making a budget. The course made a big impact in my life. Previously I would buy anything that I wanted because I thought it would make me feel better about myself. I used to give everything to my family to make them happy. After the course, I realized the value of taking care of myself and saving for my future.

My life greatly improved after Uplifters. We have put up a “sari-sari store” business. We also breed chickens for egg production and sell animal feeds. Having our own business was our lifelong dream. We thought that we couldn’t do it but we were able to do so. We plan to buy a lot so that we can turn into a farm next year.

We are a very close and fun-loving family. We are a team and with God’s guidance we can accomplish more. My two daughters have already graduated from college and they now have stable jobs. I am so proud of them. With the help of Uplifters’ team leaders, mentors, my husband and my children, our lifestyle changed and my dreams are coming true.

My advice to my fellow migrant domestic workers is to never forget where you came from. Dream more and never give up. Do not stop learning. Seize every opportunity to widen your knowledge. In Uplifters your life will become better if you will use and apply what you have learned. Thank you so much Uplifters.