“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Meet Janelyn Puhlen Dupingay, an Uplifters’ alumni and Diamond Team Leader. She is a talented writer and has been instrumental in helping our students throughout “Dare to Dream”, our free online course on money management and personal growth.

Jane is from Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines. She is a proud mom to a lovely 9-year-old daughter, Therese Jane. Because of financial difficulties in the Philippines, she moved to Singapore four years ago.

We love her radiant smile, compassion for others and dedication to making an impact on the lives of fellow migrant workers.

Read more of Jane’s story here:

Q. What led you to move to Singapore?

A. I applied to Singapore because of my financial struggles back home. When I worked on my family farm for almost three years, I experienced what my parents did in order to provide for us. I remember those moments when I needed to climb up a mountain in order to plant or harvest corn. I experienced how it feels to be standing the whole day under the hot sun and even rainy days. I didn’t have any complaints because I had to work in order for us to survive. It wasn’t an easy life but I endured. I left my daughter when she was turning five because I wanted to provide for her needs as she grows up.

Q. What are the challenges you encountered when you moved to Singapore?

A. The most challenging part of working far from my loved ones was overcoming homesickness. No one told me that it would be so difficult. I’ve cried on all corners of my employer’s house because of the unbearable pain I felt whenever I thought about my daughter, especially thinking of when she was sleeping when I left her.

Being a domestic helper requires a lot of patience. I do an all-around job; from cooking, cleaning, taking care of a child and an elderly person and many more things.

What I love about my work is that I am blessed with an understanding employer who has helped me to grow as a person. She always gives time whenever I want to talk to her about something, whether it is about work or my personal life. My employer has even said that it is fate that brought us together. I only prayed for a job that could support my family’s needs but God gave me more than what I asked for.

They aren’t a perfect family but overall I am happy with them. I struggled working with my co-helper since we have different personalities but eventually, I have learned how to handle it. Our employer was always there to mediate and she’s always been fair to us and treated us equally. During this time, I also learned how to control my temper and how to stay calm despite the work pressure.

Q. How did you find out about Uplifters?

A. I heard about Uplifters from an Indonesian friend who was doing the “Dare to Dream” course the time. After a few days, Marie posted in the forum an invitation to join the class. I was curious with their name Uplifters so I found myself reserving a spot for the next session and was added to a class-chat with team leaders, Bayti and Amy. I was so excited to take part in the lessons and was one of the students who actively shared and participated.

Q. What did the Uplifters course help you with?

A. Before I joined the course, I did not even have a bank account during my first two contracts because I did not trust myself. I only took my salary from my employer when I needed it but I had a difficult time controlling my spending habits and was always left nothing for my savings. The course taught me how to make a dream board, to budget my salary in order to make smart planning decisions and most of all, it taught me how to stay motivated. I’ve learned how to wake up every morning having a positive attitude no matter what happened the day before. I’ve learned how to set an affirmation for myself and how important it is to start the day with a great mindset. It taught me how to be confident and to believe that I have the ability to save financially.

The real challenge for me was to apply and get in the habit of doing what I learned from Uplifters into my everyday life. It took me a year to practice and to put into action everything I learned from Uplifters. I tried cutting down unnecessary expenses and I practised defining what my needs and wants were. I also learned how to be mindful of the money I send for my family. I now monitor what the money is used for and where it was allotted.

I challenged myself to apply for my own bank account here in Singapore so I can monitor my money properly. I also applied for my Social Security System account which I didn’t really care about before. I started paying life insurance plans for myself and my mother because I don’t want to be a burden for my family after I leave this world. My brother and I help each other in growing our rice field and farm. He does the manpower and I help in financing. Having a rice field where my family can get a supply for their daily food is very helpful for us since the price of rice is becoming very expensive. I hope that soon they will also plant vegetables in our backyard so they can save money instead of buying them from the store. I’ve never been this concerned about how we can get extra income instead of depending only on my salary. I started making plans for my retirement as well and what I’m going to do once I decide to go home for good.

Q. If you have to choose an image to illustrate your life before Uplifters and after having done Uplifters, what image would you choose?

A. After the course, I also started building up my own self-confidence. Before I would say “I can’t “, now I will say “let me try or let me do it”. I am always scared to come out of my comfort zone. I used to be afraid to take a step towards self-improvement but now I feel aggressive and hungry for self-development. I am like a bamboo grass that continuously grows but remain to be humble as I know how to bow down whenever it’s needed. I can now be flexible to whatever situation comes into my life. I may be blown away or sway with the winds but my roots remain intact which I can compare to my self-determination. I don’t let any life circumstances shake my belief that one day I’ll be able to achieve my goals.

Q. What do you enjoy about being a team leader?

A. The most rewarding part about being a team leader is I grow together with my students. I may repeatedly read the lessons but it continuously inspires me. I find my worth being a woman by helping to empower my fellow women. It is my happiness to share with them how this life-changing course moulded me to be better, changed my perceptions and live a life full of compassion. In Uplifters, I found my purpose and that is to be an instrument to make a change in the lives of foreign domestic workers. It is satisfying to know that I am part of how these students find their own self, dreaming and working towards achieving their goals. I love what I am doing right now and I will continue to give back to the community that impacted me deeply.

Q. Tell us about your passion for writing.

A. I joined a group named Migrant Writers of Singapore which is composed of different races who have a passion for writing. They always have activities such as workshops, poetry readings and even festivals. It was a good opportunity for me to dive deeper into my passion for writing.

Whenever I feel sad, homesick or helpless, I always let the feelings go away by itself. I always believe that “there is one good thing even in the most difficult situation”, we just need to open our eyes to see and feel it within. When life seems so unbearable, think of the reason why you are choosing to fight. Life may not always be fair but we have the choice to make things right and better. Activate the spirit within you, the power to overcome every obstacles and the will to survive every battle.

Sometimes when I feel empty, I usually take my pen and start writing what is inside my heart. It somehow cures me because I am able to release it through writing. It often comes out as a poem, an essay or a motivational piece. I only write what my heart says.

Q. What advice would you give to domestic workers who are struggling?

A. For those of you who are in difficult situations, please gather all your strength and try not to think badly about yourself. Take it as a process that you need to undergo, a part of the journey towards a brighter tomorrow. Before I became an optimistic person, I battled my fears such as my fear of society’s judgment, fear of trying and losing the things I valued and living alone. I even feared life and death. But all these fears vanished when I started to face them using determination as my sword!

In the Uplifters course, I learned to focus on what I want to happen in my life. There will be people or events that might distract us but we need to cling to the rope that will lead us to success. For me, there is nothing wrong about listening to feedback but make sure that we know how to filter it. Feedback can either make or break us, but I choose the first one. Be inspired with good feedback and use those negative words as a ladder to achieve your goals. You don’t always need to explain yourself to those people who criticize you or say that you can’t do it. Remember to work hard in silence and let your success speak for you. Strengthen your emotional health because for me this is one of the foundations to greater heights. Train yourself to deal with things calmly. We all have the ability to change our lives, don’t say you can’t, but change your habits instead.

Remember the saying of Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Begin it by loving your own self. If you love yourself you will not let anyone or anything hurt you. When you love yourself, you will want to see yourself happy and you will never think that you are less. Love yourself because no one can love you as genuinely as you.

Janelyn with her family in the Philippines

Q. What are your dreams for the future?

A. One of my goals for this year to renovate our family house. My target is to start renovating our family house before this year ends. I want to preserve some of the special parts that will always remind me of my dad and make it a little bit modern, too. I also dream of finishing my caregiving course so I can be equipped with the right knowledge and skills in caregiving. There was one morning when my daughter messaged me saying that my mom was not feeling well since she is prone to hypertension. I instructed her to do the first aid that I’ve learned from my class and it helped my mom to feel better. She’s the person I look up to. She has loved me from the moment I was conceived. She’s always been there for me and never hated me no matter how many times I made her cry. She doesn’t know how to read or write but she loves us completely and I promised myself that I will return all the sacrifices she has done for us. My mom and my daughter keep me motivated and I hope I’ll be home soon to be with them and to create wonderful memories with them.

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