By Rosanne Woodmansee
I had the good fortune to attend an information session about aidha when it was first established as a pilot project under the umbrella of unifem in 2006. An English friend invited me to join her as she was looking for an organization where she could volunteer. One Sunday in August 2012 I once again visited aidha’s office at Nassim Road, this time to interview Emma who currently volunteers at aidha.
Emma is from the Philippines and has been living in Singapore as a domestic helper for nearly 29 years. She has been working with a British/ Australian family for the past twenty years. Her employers nationality feels like a family link to my first encounter with aidha. In 2008 her life changed the week she decided to undertake a training program to learn computer skills at aidha. Emma had decided that as she is a mature worker it was time to obtain office skills.
Undertaking the Managing Your Money, the financial management course that eventually became the Compass Club, she also learnt about managing her money and indirectly about using her free time to gain the greatest reward. Emma told me that through going to class and learning new practical skills at aidha she has acquired a great sense of satisfaction about her choice of Sunday recreation activity. Emma graduated in 2010 and in 2011 completed the four month training to be a volunteer at aidha.
The reason why she volunteers is because it gives her the chance to continue to learn new skills. The girls who volunteer, work on rotation of duties as a receptionist, admin and use IT skills for class registration and more importantly customer service skills during two Sundays each month.
I asked Emma if she had ever volunteered before she joined the team at aidha? She told me No! As a result of her positive experience as a student at aidha, she has trained as a Caregiver with an organization who provide four months OJT (On Job training) within an eight month course at a Nursing home in Woodlands. Emma and only one other of the 70 Caregiver trainees continue their assistance to patients by volunteering for two Sundays each month. Her choice to study and volunteer is encouraged by her employers.
Emma revealed that her life has changed beyond her expectations since 2008 due to her choices about setting up a new enterprise in the Philippines, changing her financial planning, with more confidence to express herself and how she spends her “free time” on Sundays.
I asked Emma what advice would she give to younger domestic workers about undertaking training or being a volunteer. She proudly told me that whenever she meets domestic workers she tells them how much she learns at aidha. As a consequence, she regularly receives messages on her Facebook page where she is described by other domestic workers as their “ idol,” the word they choose to describe their appreciation of her recommendation.
The words published on the aidha website under the tab become a friend of aidha are “When you become a friend of aidha, you drive change that endures.” My short interview with Emma allowed me to meet an aidha friend whose commitment to volunteering in Singapore is evidence of enduring change. If you would like to direct your helper to an inspiring place to learn new skills see www.aidha.org.