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 two 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.
This coming 3rd year, I plan to build a small treehouse 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 to budget. 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.
Managing 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:
“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.”
Meet three talented domestic workers who were attracted to photography out of nowhere and soon became passionate about it. These dedicated women saved for months to invest in a camera and so learnt about an interest which gradually became their passion.
Yanthi, Eni and Sugi were the official photographers for our first-anniversary party in Singapore.
I’m Yanthi from Central Indonesia. I am 46 years old. I have 2 brothers and two sisters and I am the youngest in the family. My father was a farmer & my mother is a housewife. Sadly my father passed away last year.
I’ve been working in Singapore for 20 years for the same employer. I have learned so much with my employer. When I arrived, I didn’t know how to speak English and I felt so lonely.
To overcome these overwhelming feelings, I took some English courses and also studied computer & entrepreneurship at Aidha. The English course helped me to communicate better with my employers and their kids. I realised how I love to learn new things; it feels like I am upgrading myself!
To stay with one employer is great because you don’t have to adapt yourself over and over again. The best thing my employer did for me is to allow me to study & upgrade myself.
When I first arrived, I didn’t have a day off for 2 years. After 2 years, my employers gave me a day off every Sunday. I used this time to study and do some volunteering work. I don’t like to waste my time. My motto is to keep learning and don’t give up.
To stay with the same employer, it is a must to develop a good relationship between the two parties. Both employer and employee need to be understanding and accept the weaknesses and the strengths of the other.
I’ve been passionate about photography since high school. I learnt by myself by capturing people, friends or nature. The more you take photos, the better you become. I started to use a digital camera (DSLR) after I graduated from Aidha. There, I learnt about budgeting and saving so I managed to save enough to buy my Nikon D5200 in 2012. It took me 2 years to save up to buy my digital camera. I joined a group of photography events because I could not afford to go on a photography course.
In order to photograph models, you need to make sure to dress the models nicely. They need to have neat makeup and hairstyles. Then, you need to find a good environment so the whole picture is beautiful. Also, you need to make sure the model knows how to pose naturally. The model needs to understand what the photographer wants in the first place. This collaboration is essential to make good photos.
These are professional Indonesian models wearing beautiful dresses. I love the background as it contrasts in colour and shape with the models’ dresses.
I love to capture people; for me the human body is beautiful, that’s why I love to capture models.
Aidha changed my life for the better because I learned about budgeting, how to use a computer, how to be more confident and how to start a business. Before I joined Aidha, I loved spending but since I graduated, I really love saving.
I heard about Uplifters from Ms Marie. I met her at Aidha when I did some volunteering work for them. Uplifters is really good. Like Aidha, they are helping FDW (Foreign Domestic Workers) learn how to save, become more confident and so much more. I hope Uplifters can encourage more FDW to learn as their courses are online and easily accessible.
My name is Eni. I am from Indonesia and I’m 33 years old. I am a single mother with a 4-year-old son. My mother is looking after him. I entrusted my mother to be his second mom to teach him how to behave and respect others. I’ve been working in Singapore for the past 10 years.
I started photography in August last year. I bought myself a camera for my birthday. I started to hang out with my friends taking pictures of them and it gradually became my passion.
During my day off, I ask my friends if I can take pictures of them. I love to capture their smile, laughter and happiness. It gives me a positive mindset to look at their pictures.
I heard about Uplifters from my friend. She said it was very useful to know about money management and empowering oneself. I could see how happy she was during the course; she said it changed her life and she became more motivated. Because she liked it so much, I decided to join the course. After I finished the 3-week class, I realised how it helped me to track my expenses and I could start to plan for my dream, as well as increase my savings too. I feel so happy today with all the things I learnt from it. I am very blessed to have had the opportunity to enrol in this course. Now, thanks to Uplifters, I start to manage my salary, I have a clear vision of my future and I’m more confident. Thank you Uplifters!
If I had a message for other domestic workers it would be: Don’t limit yourself to just look at something that makes you happy; give yourself full support to reach your dreams, learn more and don’t give up!
This is one of my favourite pictures. I love their smiles. They look so united and the colours of their dresses give me positive energy!
My name is Sugiarti Mustiarjo, I’ve been working in Singapore as a domestic worker for 18 years. Despite having independent brothers and sisters, I still send money to my parents every now and then.
I started photography 3 years ago when I bought a digital camera as a birthday present to myself. I attended a photography workshop with Aidha and Lensational. Before I bought my camera, I used to take pictures with my phone as a way to keep memories alive.
My tips to other domestic workers would be: keep reminding yourself the first reason you’re here, it’s okay to express yourself, share your passion, be creative but keep in mind that your work is the most important thing, surround yourselves with positive activities and positive people. Stay safe.
I learned about Uplifters through Facebook and I thought it was a good opportunity for domestic workers as their courses are free and online.
This picture was taken in Koh Samui, Thailand. This is where my dream of ”seeing the world” started, on this tiny island where my journey of life began.
I have a soft spot for black and white photography.
This picture was taken during a migrant poetry competition in 2017. This woman won the competition. I edited the photo with double composition format. This was my first “official photographer“ engagement.
Depending on whether you have money or not, there is no limit when you are passionate about something. These women have sacrificed months of wages to meet their thirst for learning and that has led them to a new, exciting and beautiful path.
Thank you to these three talented ladies for sharing their expertise at an Uplifters event!
As a man was passing elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.
He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to getaway. “Well,” trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”
The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.
Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before?
Failure is part of learning; we should never give up the struggle in life.
Happiness is something you can build. Little by little, each time someone says something mean to us or ignore us, it creates a “hole in our hearts” and makes us less confident and less happy in the long-term. But a simple way exists to change your brain into a positive mood.
Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says as simple as it may sound, brain science backs the well-known popular wisdom, “positive brings positive.”
Positive brings positive
During a talk, “Taking in the Good” for Chicago Ideas Week in 2013, he explained how to create positive connections in our brains.
He said that as a child he was repetitively bullied by other children. He did not face any major life trauma but still, years later, he realized during his studies that those negative moments had changed him and made him feel empty inside. Hanson said he felt like he had “…a hole in my heart.”
One of our basic needs is to feel valued, included, recognized and appreciated. Hanson said he began to notice a reaction that seemed amazing at first.
“If someone was nice to me, or wanted me on their team, or hired me, or if a good thing happened, and if I stayed with the experience by focusing on the good, I started gradually feeling better,” he said.
The longer you stay with a happy feeling or memory, the stronger the connection will become in your brain and gradually, you will reprogram your brain to be happier.
3 steps to happiness
To “reprogram” your brain to happiness is very simple. Follow these 3 good practices:
Appreciate little pleasures of life even when it is hard: a nice flower, a good moment with a friend, the taste of coffee. Finding the good in small things, day by day, is not naïve but a way to change your brain.
Don’t rush. When you live a happy experience, take the time to really feel it in your body for at least 10 seconds. This way, a good small fact will become a great memory.
Make a conscious effort to remember happy experiences. (We suggest to write them down in a notebook). If you practice those methods day by day, you will be able to close your eyes and think of a good memory or loving experience very easily!
To finish, if you choose to concentrate on the good each day, you will fill yourself with calm, joy and confidence. It is good for you but also good for the people you know and love.
More about Rick Hanson: he is the author of Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha’s Brain and Just One Thin – books that have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He is also a senior fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley and founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom in San Rafael, California.
Each day, we build our own life, and sometimes without realizing it. The story of the old carpenter is a good example…
An old carpenter wanted to retire. He told his employer about his plans.
The employer was sorry to see his good carpenter leave and he asked him if he could build just one more house. The carpenter said yes, but it was easy to see that his heart was not into it. He was clearly not doing his best.
When the carpenter finished his work, his employer came. He handed the front-door key to the carpenter and said, “This is your house… my gift to thank you.”
The carpenter was shocked!
What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all much better.
Same happens with our lives. We build our lives, day after day, without doing our best. Then, with a shock, we realize we must live in the house we have built. If we could do it over, we would do it much differently.
But, you cannot go back. You are the carpenter, and every day you hammer a nail, place a window, or erect a wall. Someone once said, “Life is a do-it-yourself project.” Your attitude, and the choices you make today, help build the “house” you will live in tomorrow. Therefore, build wisely!
What does this story inspire you to do differently?
Confidence can be in ourselves when we born, but if not, it is possible to develop it. You don’t need long training, only make some exercises and you will feel much more boldness!
Dare to challenge yourself
Be kind with yourself but don’t accept fatality. Being shy or reserved is totally ok but if you want to become more confident, this is something you can learn as well! In order to be successful, you need to learn to stand up for yourself and dare more.
For that, psychologists found that the best technique is to give yourself regularly some new challenges to accomplish, things that you are a bit afraid of but are not totally impossible and out of your reach.
It will be different for each person but what is important is to do these challenges alone.
Some ideas to help you to develop your confidence
eating alone at the restaurant.
going alone to a place where you’ve never been.
going into a luxury shop (like CHANEL or DIOR), ask to try some products or clothes and of course not buying them.
9 out of 10 people don’t breathe correctly. They only use their lungs and not their belly to breathe. Take a deep breath. If your shoulders go up, it means that you don’t breathe correctly. Breathing affects your sleep, back, memory, digestion and anxiety level. Breathing is directly related to how long you will live and your health. You must learn to breathe horizontally and not only vertically – it means you must learn to expand your belly when you breathe in and squeeze when you breathe out. Doing a breathing exercise several times a day will positively impact your mood, stress, health and make even help you make better decisions. It will help you feel stronger.
3 times a day, breathe in with your belly (not only chest) for 4 seconds, then hold your breath for 4 seconds, breathe out for 6 seconds and then hold empty for 2 seconds before breathing in again. Do 5 repetitions. When you breathe in, your belly inflates and when you breathe out, it deflates. You can just count in your head, use your phone timer or download the free app Breathe +. You can also adjust the length of each part and slowly increase them. The more repetitions, the better.
Do you know the most common 5 regrets of people dying? Read about them and decide what your next steps should be to create a life free of regret.
Bronnie Ware was a nurse working in palliative care and she soon noticed that people who were going to die had all the same 5 common regrets.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. This is the most common regret of all. It’s important to try to fulfil at least some of our dreams and especially when we still have good health. Many people take health for granted.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. People regret to have spent so much time working and not being with their loved ones. It’s especially true in the situation of migrant workers apart from their families. You need to discuss your situation with your family and come up with a plan so, you can go home quickly.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Many people don’t express their feelings because they are afraid to hurt others or to be rejected. But it makes them sick and accept things they should not accept. If people love you, they will appreciate your honesty. If they don’t, they will be out of your life and this is better to get away from these unhealthy relationships.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Many people are so busy that they don’t devote time to their friends or to make new friends. They find themselves lonely at the end.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. Many people don’t realize until the end that happiness is also a choice. Smile, laugh and appreciate the little joys of life.
“Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.” Bronnie Ware
Practice emotional first aid to deal with rejection, failure, guilt and loss, and improve your mental health.
If you cut your finger while cooking, you would immediately clean the wound and apply a bandage. So why don’t we use first aid for our mental health?
Anyone who felt rejected, lonely or suffered the loss of a loved one knows that emotional injuries can be just as painful as physical ones.
Psychologist Guy Winch, the author of Emotional First Aid, recommends 7 ways to practice emotional first aid.
1. First, know to recognize when you are in emotional pain and treat it before it gets worse. These are common psychological injuries:
Rejection: by friends, partners, employers…
Failure: when we don’t reach our goals or make mistakes…
Loneliness: living abroad make us even more prone to loneliness but you can also feel lonely in your own home if you don’t feel connected to others.
Loss: when relatives pass away, a friend moves out of town. How we rebuild ourselves to determine if we become emotionally stronger or weaker.
Brooding or Rumination: you keep having sad or angry feelings and find it difficult to think of anything else. But doing so doesn’t allow them to heal.
Guilt: Moderate guilt is normal but when it makes it difficult for us to concentrate on our work and responsibilities then it’s time to act.
Low Self-Esteem: This is also normal to feel low and critical about ourselves sometimes but if we always feel like this it’s like having a weak immune system: it makes us more vulnerable and more likely to sustain further psychological injuries.
Just like physical diseases, emotional injuries get worse if they are not treated. Untreated rejection, for example, can cause low self-esteem, which can make us be defensive and push people away, which can make us become more lonely at which point we find ourselves ruminating about how our friends have stopped caring about us, which can lead to a full depression.
2. Regain control after a failure. Failures make our goals seem even more out of reach and lower our self-esteem and confidence.
Once we feel that we cannot succeed, we become demoralized and lose our motivation. Instead, make a list of what was in your control: effort, planning, alternatives you could have taken, etc. It will help your fight against misperceptions and improve your chances to succeed in the future.
3. Protect your self-esteem as you would protect your own child from aggression. Self-esteem is like an emotional immune system that protects you from depression.
It is very important to monitor it and avoid putting yourself down, particularly when you are already in pain after a failure or a rejection. Many of us become self-critical in these situations, kicking our self-esteem when we are already down. Don’t make it harder than it is already! You are only adding pain to pain…
When you’re feeling critical of yourself, imagine a dear friend or your own child is feeling bad about him or herself for similar reasons and write a letter expressing your support. Then read the letter to yourself.
To revive your self-worth after a rejection, you can also make a list of your positive qualities that you value and read them to yourself.
4. Break the cycle of brooding and ruminating negative thoughts with positive distraction. Negative only brings negative. When you keep having negative thoughts, it only leads you to deeper pain.
To stop ruminating, ask yourself this question: “Can I do something about it?”. If yes, then do it. If no, distract yourself to stop thinking of it. The best way is to engage in a task that requires concentration (like doing a breathing exercise, recalling the names of the children in your school for example or completing a crossword). Studies show that only two minutes of distraction will reduce the need to have these negative thoughts (it’s true as well if you are trying to stop yourself from eating chocolate by the way – all our urges reduce dramatically after 2 minutes).
5. Find meaning in loss. Loss is a part of life, but it can keep us from moving forward if we don’t treat the emotional pain it creates.
Know the “normal cycle” of loss that psychologists have defined: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Sadness and Depression; 5. Acceptance. Read more about it here: the 5 stages of loss and grief.
If a lot of time has passed and you still can’t move forward, try to find meaning in the loss. It might be hard, but think of what you might have gained or understood from the loss (for instance, “I lost my husband but I’ve become much closer to my kids”). Think of how you can help others to appreciate life more, and the changes you can make in your own life to live more fully.
6. Avoid excessive guilt by repairing damaged relationships
We feel guilty when our action or inactions have hurt another person (often a friend or loved one) who has not forgiven us.
Often our apologies are not “good enough” for the other person to “let it go”. Apologies require “empathy”. The other person must feel that you totally understand how they felt and how they were badly impacted by you. (Read more about making effective apologies here).
7. Don’t think loneliness is your fate.
Loneliness is much more common then we realize – especially when living abroad as a migrant domestic worker. It has a negative impact on our emotional and physical health. The worse is that when we feel lonely, we often want to minimize the risk of rejection by ignoring opportunities to connect with people.
Make a list of excuses you’ve used to avoid taking initiative —I won’t know anyone so why go?; They don’t call me so why should I call them?; They’re probably too busy to meet up; I can’t just introduce myself to a stranger.
If this is not you, but your employer who doesn’t allow you to go out on your days off or calling friends or relatives outside of your working hours, look immediately for help from an NGO like Home in Singapore or Help in Hong Kong. This is not normal and it put yourself in a very vulnerable situation.
Now make a list of people whose company you’ve enjoyed in the past (go through your phone book, Facebook friends, and Email contacts) and reach out to one or two each day to initiate plans until your social calendar is full. Challenge yourself to avoid using excuses when you feel anxious.
“Mostly, get into the habit of taking note of your psychological health on a regular basis — and especially after a stressful, difficult, or emotionally painful situation. Yes, practicing emotional hygiene takes a little time and effort, but it will seriously elevate your entire quality of life. I promise.” Guy Winch
You can also watch this Ted Talk by Psychologist Guy Winch where he explains how he practices emotional first aid for himself.
Your core qualities are your specific strengths, what you are good at, or for what you are often praised by others. They are positive character traits. To know and develop them will help you define and reach your personal objectives.
Focus on the positive, it will give you motivation and energy while thinking of the negative will only lead to demoralization and inaction.
Make the list of your 5 top positive qualities and then ask your family and close friends to tell you as well the 5 positive qualities that define you best according to them. If you don’t understand their answers, ask them for clarifications.
You can use the list below to help you or choose other qualities as well.
Sense of Humor
Did you think of other qualities not listed here? How helpful is this exercise?