Maylene’s story: from empty jar to jar half full

Read Maylene’s story, a 39 year old Philippino domestic worker in Singapore, from victim of abuse to recovery.  You’ll learn how little by little, she’s built her own path to fulfillment. Uplifters helped her ignite her self-belief and we are delighted of how she’s grown professionally, saved money and made friends along the way! 

Be inspired by her resilience… and also learn her special tricks to take care of elderly people 🙂 ! 

“Before I came abroad my life was like an empty jar and I didn’t know whether I could still dare to dream.

I was a victim of abuse when I was younger and I’m still learning to move on. It impacted my studies and I failed my degree because of it, because I couldn’t concentrate. I felt I had failed my mum too by failing my degree but thankfully my mum understood when I told her everything. I then went on to work, had my 3 children, but everything was very tough financially and personally. So after a few years I decided to move abroad to work. 

I care for elderly people here – I even had to revive my 1st employer 3 times after he had a heart attack! 

When I first arrived in Singapore 6 years ago, I didn’t have any experience caring for elderly people. My 1st employer had heart problems, I saw him having a heart attack and had to revive him myself but I had no training nor any experience of doing this. I learnt from watching YouTube videos and from watching the medics. In these situations I’ve learnt not to panic, stay calm and just call the medics.

I’ve also had to handle patients with very bad temper! I had a hard time, at the beginning especially. I kept telling myself that I needed to prove myself I could handle it and show patience, but it can be very hard with some elderly people!

My tip is that if they’re moody just leave them alone for a bit for them to calm down and then slowly slowly talk to them. They can often get frustrated because they can no longer do the things they used to do, so I remind them of the importance of letting go of some things  – it’s the circle of life. I try to find things to make them laugh, things we can share together. So over time I’ve discovered my own way of handling my patients’ bad mood”.  

In addition to the professional expertise she’s gained here working with the elderly, Maylene has also been able to provide for family back home. 

“Every month I send money home to my mum to help with medicine – I’m an only child. I also give my children an allowance but I only give them what they need. My husband is also working at home and I don’t want them to get too dependent on me. I discovered with Uplifters that I don’t need to be too soft in every situation and spoil them too much. I’ve also learnt that I don’t need to depend on others in my life.  

My dream house

I’m thinking of the future and of my business plan, which I think might be a food business. I’ve invested in some cows back home, some tricycles and I have a little bit of savings. 

Peer support is a big part of Uplifters’ courses, so in the process of learning money-management, she’s also been able to build friendships with her fellow students. 

“I joined Uplifters because I wanted to save money but I also wanted to make friends. I really enjoyed doing the Dare to Dream course because I was able to handle it in my own time. I learnt a lot about saving but I was also able to chat to other students and we kept in touch afterwards, especially with my fellow students from my first Dare to Dream course. It was great to be able to support each other during the course, great to hear about different people’s experiences and great to share ways to change things from negative to positive. We built up a friendship – we came from different countries, with different beliefs, and it has reinforced my respect for all cultures. I was so happy to meet them. I don’t have Sundays off so it can be difficult to meet up in person often but we’ve still managed to find a way to do it. 

So little by little I’ve been filling my jar with friends, learning and savings and I think it’s about half full now!” 

Thank you so much Maylene. Maylene is one of our Diamond team leaders who’s facilitated 10 sessions of “Dare to Dream”, Uplifters 3-week long signature online course on money management and personal growth.

Ayu in her journey of financial independence, self-discovery and personal growth

Ayu at Uplifters's 1st year anniversary
Ayu at Uplifters’s 1st year anniversary

Today meet Ayu, one of our very 1st students who pilot-tested our 1st program, and now one of our Diamond team leaders who’s facilitated 10 sessions of “Dare to Dream”, Uplifters 3-week signature online course on money management and personal growth.  She’s a 47 years old Indonesian domestic worker in Singapore, and mom to two young adults. 

She was aware of Uplifters as she had met Uplifters’ Founder Marie when she was working at Aidha in Singapore, a non-profit organisation which helps foreign domestic workers and low-income Singaporean women achieve economic independence through financial education, wealth creation and entrepreneurship.

“I joined Uplifters almost 2 years ago and together with Aidha,it has helped me achieve a goal each year

– The 1st year my achievement was saving for my mom’s pilgrimage in UEA for her 74 years old present. 

– The 2nd year I bought my own piece of land. 

Ayu's dream tree house
Ayu’s dream tree house

This coming 3rd year I plan to build a small tree house on my land, with a bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen. That’s all I need. I don’t see the point of big houses as they cost you more money, but also time and energy to clean and take care of them!

I’m sharing this in the hope of inspiring more domestic workers to be successful by improving their financial knowledge. I really recommend this course because it teaches you important tools to fix the financial issues every family has. It’s a free and simple way to learn budgeting. I even teach it to my boss’s kids and they are very happy to learn about it because it teaches them that if we work hard when we are young, we’ll enjoy the fruit of our work when we retire and we won’t need to worry anymore

What’s also unique about Uplifters are the class chats where students can share their difficulties and motivate each other without fear of being judged. As a team leader I’ve also learnt how to encourage people to work together as a team. 

Ayu on her personal growth journeyManaging your mind and feelings is important too and helps you grow as a person.

Thanks to Uplifters “Dare to Dream” course I discovered a lot about myself: who I am and how can I control my mind to be in a more positive place. When you’re on a positive track, it helps you see things from a different perspective.

Life as a domestic worker is not easy and even if we look happy, it’s sometimes just a cover, as we often hide our struggles. It is hard to adjust to new employers demands whilst missing your own family.  And when we’re sick nobody really cares, the job still needs to be done, so we have to be physically and mentally strong.” 

This constant need to carry on and keep on growing despite the hardships thrown at you is captured beautifully by Ayu in this wonderful tree analogy: 

Tree“I was growing like a tree but my branches were always cut down by people around me. But I kept on growing to get more fruit to share with people in need. I got bigger but every so often my fruits, leaves and branches were chopped away again. But thankfully I know my roots are deep in the ground and help me to become strong and grow again.”

Discover more about Ayu in this video.

In Siti’s opinion, continuous learning is the key to success

Today meet Siti, one of our students and team leaders. She is a 33 year old Indonesian domestic worker in Singapore and proud single mom of two teenagers.

(N.B. All our Uplifters Team Leaders are alumni students supporting new ones in their studies and we’re so grateful for their help!)

“I have a message for my fellow Indonesian domestic workers. Dare more! Dare to join Uplifters and to try online courses.

I was a very shy person: really not confident because I did not have a high education level. My English was so bad and I thought I was not capable of much as I was “just” working as a domestic worker. So at first, I thought online courses were not for me but I am so happy I finally changed my mind because I was so wrong about it!

I came to Singapore in 2012 when the factory where I used to work in my hometown closed down.  It was really hard at first as I had an 8.5 months salary deduction to cover my hiring costs. I missed my two daughters a lot especially as I could only call them once a month. As a single mom, it was really difficult to leave them. My employers were fair but never cared so much about my feelings. 

 I heard about Uplifters thanks to my Facebook friends. I was excited to see it’s about empowerment as I had a big lack of confidence before. Now I feel much stronger and the confidence I gained at Uplifters I know want to share it with my fellow domestic workers as a way to give back. I am proud that recently I helped a friend find a new employer by herself (direct hire). I helped her post an ad, prepare for the interviews and supported her throughout the entire process. I am also volunteering my time at CDE (Center for Domestic Employees).

Thanks to Uplifters, I am able to communicate better and of course having more savings makes me feel better and happier. I have a real passion for learning and I believe that even if you are not born with many talents, nothing stops you from developing them.

In addition to Uplifters, I’m also a student and volunteer at Aidha (non-profit organisation helping domestic workers and low income women in Singapore to achieve financial independence through financial education) and I believe they are very complementary. Online courses make education available to those who cannot attend face-to-face classes.

In the next 2 years, I want to have my own land for my future dream: build a hydroponics farm. I want this farm not only to produce veggies but to also include an education center and a garden cafe for my community back home.

I am really happy that finally my hands are good at something and that I can have a positive impact on the people around me.”

Portrait of Evelyn, one of our amazing Team leaders…

By Marie Kretz Di Meglio, Uplifters Founder. “Today, I want to introduce you to Evelyn, one of our “gold team leaders” (alumni students supporting new ones) at Uplifters. I initially got to know Evelyn through a Facebook group for domestic workers in Singapore and I was really impressed by her sound advice to fellow domestic workers. She has a very balanced perspective on domestic workers – employers relationships and she does not hesitate to remind domestic workers that they came abroad to work, not for holidays and that they should also honor their part of the contract!
On top of guiding domestic workers online, Evelyn has been volunteering for a long time at Home and now the Centre for Domestic Employees – CDE. Her dedication to helping others is truly admirable.

Don’t be abused by her humbleness,she is one of a kind and a true inspiration for me.

I was genuinely interested in her feedback about our money management and personal growth courses and very happy she found them helpful for herself even though she was already well aware of these topics. Our Student Success Volunteer, Anne, interviewed her and I will let you now hear her story in her own words. “

Evelyn is a 47-year-old Filipino, single mother to 4 young adults. She describes herself as a shy person, who is usually quiet if not familiar with the people around her, but once she’s comfortable with her environment she becomes compassionate, empathetic, positive and passionate about helping others. And we can guarantee you the passionate side!

“I came from a poor family and didn’t have the means to go to college. When I had my kids, I vowed to myself that I would do everything to give them a better future. When the opportunity knocked, I jumped at it and became a migrant domestic worker.

I’ve been working here in Singapore for 17 years. When I first came to Singapore, it was pretty hard. I’ve faced lots of challenges, like culture shock, the language barrier, issues with settling in and homesickness. But the most difficult part has been being separated from the outside world. I’ve worked for 2 years without a day off, a phone, or permission to speak to neighbors…it’s been very hard.

I heard about Uplifters on social media. I like to learn new things and so I was desperate to find about their Financial Course. What attracted me the most to Uplifters is that it’s an online course, which is very convenient for me.
I’m hoping to achieve my financial independence in a few years and so far, I’ve already achieved freedom from debt.

Aside from money management, I’ve learned to say ‘no’ in a nice way.

Right now I’m only supporting my youngest son and my mother: my monthly remittance is for my son’s school fees and allowance, along with my mother’s medication, food and bills. I don’t have much in the way of savings. Over the years, most of my money has gone to supporting my family and paying for my four kids to get their education. 

My youngest son graduated from college this month, so now I will move on to my next goals: saving enough money to build my own house and keep using my free time wisely. Thanks to Uplifters courses I discovered my ability to control myself and stay focused in order to reach my goals.

I did recommend this free online course to my kids and to my niece because I want them to learn how to manage their own finances, become financially independent and to secure their own future. My kids now understand the value of money and the importance of savings for the rainy days.

Now, I really enjoy being a team leader.

I meet different people; learn different characters, personalities, perspectives and different life experiences.
I used to think that my experiences were worse than everyone else’s, but now I’ve learned to put things into perspective. It has taught me to stay positive no matter what. Not to mention that helping others is satisfying for the soul.”

Learn from our student how to get green fingers …

Our students got talent!

We told you a few weeks ago the story of three amazing domestic workers passionate about photography.

Today meet Bayti and discover her secret how to make any plant grow.

Bayti comes from Indonesia and has been working in Singapore for more than 4 years. She’s one of our wonderful Uplifters Gold Team Leaders : she has facilitated more than five sessions of “Dare to Dream”, our 3-weeks free online course!
Our team leaders are volunteers and dedicate their precious time-off to help fellow domestic workers build better futures for themselves.

On top of her long working hours and dedication volunteering at Uplifters , she is passionate about gardening and cooking. She combines her passions to grow herbs and things that she will use in her cooking. She learned to cook and garden by herself.
Her passion also helps her employer to save money!

The plants she grows are basil, mint, chili and capiscum.

She wants to share some interesting tricks for those who are interested to do the same :

How to make a plant grow?

  1. Cut the stem and put in the water
  2. Wait until the root comes out
  3. Plant it in the soil (soil can be bought anywhere)
  4. Water the stem with rice water or water mixed with milk (that gives more nutrition to the plant)

Other general gardening tips :

  1. You have to take care of the plants with your heart. You can talk to them too because they can feel it.
  2. Water the plants twice every day with rice water and milk leftover
  3. If you notice anything unusual (like white sticky substance on the leaves), remove the sick leaves.
  4. Remove the seeds from the plant when you cook them (chili, tomato, lady’s fingers, capsicum, ginger, turmeric, galagal, etc)
  5. Grow something that you can use for cooking, this is more fun!
  6. Use compost mixed with normal soil for the plants.

Her message for those who may feel discouraged if it is not working:
Don’t give up if your plants don’t grow that well. Just keep trying and be patient, you will soon see results!

“As I love to cook, I find recipes on the internet, YouTube, Facebook groups, Pinterest and Twitter. The Internet is the best way to learn anything! Even if you cook something for the first time and it turns out not to be what you expected, you can find the adjustment (maybe there was too much of one ingredient, not enough of another…). Try different ways. Also learn about spices as this gives all the taste to a dish! Learn about timing too. Not too long, not too short to make sure you don’t kill the nutrition or the vitamins. Cook with love so it helps the food look and taste delicious!”

Her motto is: “If I can do it myself, I don’t need to buy it!”

Bayti is thinking about making her own fertilizer so she will not need to buy it in a shop. Not only are her crops useful on a daily basis and give a special taste to her cooking, but they also beautify her employer’s garden.

Now she is even considering making her own spice cultures like she had in Indonesia. “I like challenges that can make me grow every day. I also like crochet, knitting and drawing but I’m too busy now and have to make a choice. But I know I can come back to those anytime.” Bayti loves DIY in general and would rather do anything herself rather than buy it! “Plus I know where it comes from!” she says. Each time she changes employers she adapts herself to the new one and tries to learn what would please them, incorporating her talents.
Furthermore, Bayti also shares her knowledge with the Domestic Workers community , which is a precious act of generosity.

Credit Photos : Bayti

Thank you for sharing your passion and your tips. This can surely inspire a lot of people!

What would you do if your domestic worker was diagnosed with cancer?

Article originally published in Sassy Mama Singapore on May 13th 2019.

With the recent tragic case of Baby Jane Allas, we wanted to share with you another reaction from an employer whose domestic worker was facing a similar situation. Read on for her recommendations to fellow employers of domestic workers.

Christelle and her family have been living in Hong Kong for 12 years. They have two young children, ages 8 and 4, who were both born in Hong Kong.

Christelle works full time and sometimes long hours. Her husband started his own company and is also working full time away from home, so they heavily depend on their domestic worker.

Both children have medical conditions which require careful attention from the caregiver. Hiring a domestic worker who is healthy, conscientious, dynamic, reliable and attentive to the children’s safety and needs was one of their major concerns.

The couple hired a 38-year-old Filipino domestic worker in 2017 called Janice. She’d been working for them for a year when she started to feel pain in her breast.

The news and the following months

Janice found out she had breast cancer after she went for a check-up at the Tung Wah hospital due to the persistent pain she was feeling. The public hospital reacted quite quickly, proposing a date for the surgery two months later. Her sister, who was also working in Hong Kong, attended all of her medical appointments with her.

Meanwhile, Janice still had one year to go until the end of her contract with Christelle’s family.

Janice was devastated when she got the news and naturally thought about her children back home. Christelle and her husband reassured her that they were going to support her during her treatment. Unfortunately their insurance covered “any” emergency — except for cancer. So they had to cover all the medical expenses themselves.

J’s sister had also a history of fibrome which disappeared with plants and massages. Her sister insisted that J saw that same doctor she received the plant treatment from once she started to feel the pain in her breast. Her sister seemed to have played a crucial role as she pushed her to see that doctor (about S$60 twice a week for three months). Those expenses were covered by the employers.

The operation and treatment

J spoke to her family about chemo treatment and the operation. Her family put a lot of pressure on her, saying that if she did chemo, she would lose her hair. She got scared and refused the operation on the day the operation was supposed to take place. She simply did not show up for the operation. The employer realised afterwards that she did not go to the hospital. They realised later what was happening and had to talk to her, abruptly telling her that realistically, she could not be cured with plants – she had to have the operation.

They had to force her to go back to the hospital to see the doctor in QMH, who was able to reschedule the operation for 15 days later.

The employer had regular discussions with her during this period and discovered the pressure that her family had placed on her. They felt overwhelmed by the urgency of the situation and the fact that her family did not really play a supporting role, and almost jeopardised her life. They learnt, in the meantime, that the cancer had spread to her throat.

Finally the operation day arrived and J stayed in the surgery unit for 7 hours.

After the operation, she underwent six months of chemo and radiation therapy.

During her treatment, she was unable to work one week out of four. J was speaking easily with her employers during that period. She realised she was receiving a good level of treatment in Hong Kong, and preferred to stay there rather than return home to the Philippines.

Later after the treatment, she went back home. When she returned from the Philippines, she was shaken to hear about a fellow domestic worker from the same village who’d had breast cancer but had refused treatment. She died a few weeks later.

The logistics surrounding her illness

Christelle and her husband knew that Janice would be unable to cope with her work while having the heavy treatment, so they had no choice but to hire another domestic worker. Their other domestic worker, M., started with the family a couple of weeks after J’s operation.

The relationship between the two domestic workers was not great. But the second helper knew that it was temporary. In fact, the family discussed with Janice and they agreed that once the contract was finished she would find another family, health permitting.

But the main concern was that they would work as well as possible together. They needed to manage their time together and the balance was quickly difficult to maintain considering the circumstances.

Janice’s contract reached an end last year and she found another family to work for. They are still in touch. Today, thanks to her employer and the high quality healthcare she received, she is fine.

What to take away from the experience?

When I asked Christelle what she had learned from this experience, she answered “The satisfaction that Janice is cured and that she continues to support her family, as was her choice to do”

Their advice for employers encountering the same situation:

“Communicate well with her. It is very important to keep reassuring her on the fact that she would stay until the end of her contract and that she will get good medical treatment. We had small children so we had to take someone else but we never had a doubt about keeping her until the end of the treatment.

Beware of medical practices that can be harmful for their health and discuss the treatment and her medical appointments with her if you can’t accompany her. Ask about her family back home – how they deal with the news and if they support her.”

Additional tips for helper healthcare in Singapore:

  • Make sure your insurance is up to scratch – the bare minimum will probably not be sufficient should your domestic worker require treatment in hospital. Many insurance plans are less about the health of your helper and more about helping the employer.
  • Think about what you are able to help with financially, should there be a negative outcome.
  • Discuss with your domestic worker the possible outcomes, and what would happen.

The student who was accepted in a highly selective social fellowship

Marites, one of our students, is a 44 years old domestic worker from the Philippines. She has been working in Hong Kong for 13 years to support her 18 year old daughter and her father in the Philippines.  But she is way more than that.  Despite her long working hours, she learned by herself how to become a journalist and just got accepted in a highly selective social fellowship by the Resolve Foundation (do check their amazing impact). Discover what motivates her to always dare more and to give back to her community.

Marites Palma

After graduating from our money management and personal growth program, Marites has been one of Uplifters Team Leaders since February 2019. She likes hiking and describes herself as being self-reliant, hard working, and strong.

How I became a domestic worker

“I didn’t plan to become a migrant domestic worker, but when I had my daughter, my husband wasn’t supportive so I decided to work abroad as a domestic worker. I originally planned to work for two years only but I did not manage to save properly so I’m still here. I spent two years in Singapore, two years in Macau and I’ve been in Hong Kong for thirteen years looking after children. I love it.

My dream of becoming a journalist

I’ve now been writing for 6 years as a contributor writer for The Sun Hong Kong, a Filipino newspaper.

Originally I have a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture majoring in Crop Science. I learnt how to write here in Hong Kong. This is how it started : 6 years ago I was invited to attend a news writing workshop and I started to write an article based on their standards. I was then invited to join The Sun Writers’ Club. Since then my life became very busy attending and covering different events of the Filipino Community in Hong Kong. I love what I’m doing because I can open the eyes of my fellow domestic workers to certain issues concerning our work such as basic rights like the minimum wage, the living conditions, the job description, medical benefits, etc.

It’s always been my dream to become a journalist since I was a child; the fulfillment came when I became a member of The Sun Writers Club.

Last March 10th I received an award by Labor Attache Jalilo Dela Torre from the Philippines Overseas Labor Office, as an appreciation for my positive impact on the lives of my fellow migrant workers by protecting and educating them about their rights and by advocating their welfare in various ways (

Award ceremony at the Philippines Overseas Labor Office, 10th March 2019

I never expected this award, I am just happy to help my fellow migrants. My mentor Ms Daisy Mandap, the chief editor of the The Sun Hong Kong, has been influencing me in raising awareness towards our fellow Filipinos here in Hong Kong.

click on the above picture to see the article from Coconuts Hong Kong

My experience as an Uplifters student

I took both “Dare To Dream” and “Become A Leader” classes from Uplifters and found them really inspiring and educational. I had attended seminars in the past and for me online class is a really challenging activity. I told my boss about my activities during my day off, they knew about my situation as a single mother, and they are very supportive. They treat me like being part of their family.

With the Uplifters classes, I learnt how to save money for myself and how to say no to financial requests. Furthermore what is very interesting is that you can learn at your own pace, it is entirely up to you to learn. Nobody is forcing you.

I also realised I wanted to help my fellow domestic workers and learnt how I could positively help and impact them. I really want to encourage more people to push their limits as I pushed mine.

Incredible things happening as a result

During the Uplifters course “Dare To Dream” we are challenged to try something new, something we’ve never done before, to get out of our comfort zone. That’s how I found the courage to apply to the 2019 Resolve Fellowship. Luckily I have been chosen as one of 20 people this year. It’s a life changing opportunity and a new challenge for me. It is also a blessing as I can empower myself and have a bigger impact on the community not only for the Filipino community but to all sorts of people staying in Hong Kong and specially the 385,000 migrant domestic workers.

What’s next?

My plan for the future depends on my daughter. After she finishes her college education and obtains a good job, I will go home for good. Until then I will continue helping my fellow workers with the grace of our Almighty God.”

We wish Marites the very best in her writing, every success in the Resolve fellowship program and wish to congratulate her for all the amazing actions she has accomplished. She is an inspiration for all of us to always dare more.

Maid of Heart and Sole pairing with Uplifters

Healthy minds in healthy bodies!

On 24th February 2019 Aleli, Eden, Milkha and Rosie will be running a 50 km race in Hong Kong for the benefit of Uplifters. Click here to participate.

Not only they will raise funds for Uplifters but they will also advertise the online education platform while running, raise awareness to fellow domestic workers about what Uplifters provides. 

Uplifters will be there to support them during the race and we are so honoured, proud and excited that such inspiring women chose our cause to run the Victoria 162-H50 this year!

Thank you ladies!

Who are Maid of Heart and Sole?

They are a racing team composed of two Indonesian and two Filipino runners:

 Aleli Pena (also called Thana by her friends), is a 40 year old filipino mother of 2 children (16 year old daughter and 4 year old son). She has been working in Hong Kong for 14 years as a domestic workers. Aleli started hiking with the MeetUp group (Hong Kong Meet Up). She later decided to try the 100 km Oxfam trailwalker under their sponsorship. That’s when she started to run and discovered she had a passion for trail running. She trained every Sunday. Her employers are flexible and she does not take care of children anymore so she can also run early in the morning.

Aleli is the team leader of Team 0262  ‘Maid of Heart and Sole’ which consist of four domestic helpers who run with her and participate to help raise funds for Oxfam. They want to represent the Domestic Workers community in Hong Kong and promote their ability, determination and enthusiasm to excel. 

 Rosie Rusinah, is a 35 years old Indonesian from Java. She has been in HK for 13 years. She started to run in 2010. Her Chinese employer was very sporty and she was running regularly. Looking at her employer influenced her to be more fit and healthy. She also realised that Hong Kong had a lot to offer and was also attracted by the beautiful sights while hiking. To have flexible employers is very important to pursue this quest in her opinion.

“I want to promote Uplifters as I always support good actions for domestic helpers.”

 Eden Marciano is 39 years old and is from the Philippines. She is a single mother of an almost 5 years old boy. She has been working in Hong Kong for 15 years. Her friend introduced her to running in 2011. They usually run at night after her work is done.

“I want to run for the benefit of Uplifters to raise funds and support its amazing platform for empowerment of migrants domestic workers. My tips to fellow domestic workers: just notice the small pleasures in life and appreciate them. SMILE and do regular exercise. It’s the best way to improve our mood and it helps us both physically and mentally.”

Milkhatus Sholikah is Indonesian, 43 years old and a single mother. When her son was 9, she decided to migrate to Hong Kong as a domestic worker in order to support him financially. She started to run in August 2018 after a friend asked her if she wanted to join her for the Oxfam Trailwalker. She’d never run before and despite her lack of experience, she began training with them. She has also paddled for the last 3 years for 2 different dragon boat teams. She is an Uplifters alumni student.

“The reason why I decided to run for Uplifters is because as an alumni student I want to help and give back to the community. Besides I hope my activities could inspire other Uplifters students as well.”

Their Oxfam trail extraordinary achievement:

They ran for the Oxfam trail last year under No 262 which is their lucky number! Their team is called Maid of Heart and Soul and can be followed on their Facebook page.

They finished the Oxfam trailwalker 100 km in 24 hours and 55 minutes. They were ranked 10th of all female teams and 226th of all teams. Their official Oxfam fundraising page is always in need to support good actions for domestic workers.


Why fundraise for Uplifters?

Aleli : “I can do something by running and promoting sports as well as raise awareness on health and with Uplifters, it is a great opportunity to learn, improve and prepare for the future for all domestic workers. We want to promote the good actions that are helping helpers.

We want to encourage domestic helpers to pursue what they are passionate about, it can be through sports, through studies and why not both! Healthy minds in healthy bodies!

I think Uplifters is an amazing idea and gives another purpose for what to do on a very hot or rainy day. Helpers need to do something meaningful on their day off and learning about financial literacy, cooking or any other skill is important. I believe that as soon as you open their eyes, they would want to learn more.”

The 24th February race: Victoria 162 2019 – H50

On 24th February, Aleli, Milha, Eden and Rosie will be running 50 km for the race Victoria 162 (H50) departing from Quarry Bay at 8am and finishing at Kennedy Town.

General Info:

  • Distance: 31.9 miles
  • Minimum Elevation: 76 feet / Maximum Elevation: 1685 feet
  • Total climb: 7170 feet / Total descent: 7165 feet.
  • H0 Quarry Bay 鰂涌
  • H1 Windy Gap 大風
  • H2a H2b – Wong Nai Chung 陽明
  • H3 Coombe Road 甘道
  • H4 The Peak 山頂
  • H5 Kennedy Town 堅城

Click here to participate

Uplifters wishes best of luck to Maid of Heart and Sole and thank them for their generosity and enthusiasm!

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 sport 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 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 looong 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 start line to check point 8 we did well. However, from check point 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’s 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 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.


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   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 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 favorite 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 talks to you in a rude way and don’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 immediately 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 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 for your family”.

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