May Volunteer of the Month: Maria Tato Garcia – A migrant woman for other migrant women

Maria helping out in one of Aidha's events

Maria (right most) helping out with packing goodie bags for this year’s Tour de Singapore

That’s how Maria Tato Garcia, or simply Maria, sees herself when asked about her volunteer work with Aidha.

“I’m also a migrant woman in Singapore. The only difference is that I was lucky to have had a good education which gives me a wider choice of opportunities in life.”

This is why she’s very passionate about Aidha and its mission of providing education to migrant domestic workers to help them create financially sustainable futures.

“Where I come from, education is a fundamental right. I believe it helps people work better and can create opportunities for sustainable and viable economic growth.”

Her Aidha story began three years ago when a colleague of her boyfriend told them about his volunteering work with Aidha.

 “I wasn’t working at that time so I decided to meet with Veronica, Aidha’s former Executive Director, to learn more about the organisation’s values and mission. And the very next day, I joined Aidha!”

Since that day, Maria has been involved in many crucial projects. She was part of the very first Marketing team and helped put in place many operational processes.

Maria talking to potential Aidha students during Foreign Domestic Workers Day.

Maria talking to potential Aidha students during Foreign Domestic Workers Day.

“I helped our Marketing Director back then to build Aidha’s Marketing Strategy and implement it. One of my first tasks was to conduct a small market research study to determine Aidha’s positioning. One of our findings was the need to create value added services for the FDW Community. And thus, Sunday Funday was born!” she shared. Maria also worked with the Barclays Communications Team to develop Aidha’s Communications Style Guide.

Maria enjoys the fact that because Aidha is a small organisation, she gets to be part of the whole process – from conception to development and implementation.

As a result, she has also been a key member of the organising committee for many Aidha events. In addition to many Sunday Fundays, she also worked on the very first Open House, Foreign Domestic Workers Day, last year’s Graduation Ceremony, and the 2015 Aidha Tour de Singapore Fundraising Bike Ride. Lately, she has also been more involved with creating artwork for Aidha courses and flyers, posters and signage for different events.

“One of my most fulfilling moments at Aidha is when I team up with the trainees and volunteers for our student events. I get to know them and some of their stories are simply incredible. It always amazes me how strong our ladies are and how they manage to provide for their families –which can sometimes be as many as of 8 members!”

Maria (far left) working with the trainees during the Foreign Domestic Workers Day event.

Maria (far left) working with the trainees during the Foreign Domestic Workers Day event.

“I love volunteering at Aidha events,” she continues. “The appreciation we get from the students is overwhelming. I think it’s because ours students are not  used to having other people do things for them. So each time we organise an event for them, they’re so grateful that someone cares enough to look after their enjoyment.”

Because of the many roles she has taken on, Maria has developed many different skill sets as well. “I think I’ve improved my networking abilities and organisational skills,” she said. “Also, having limited resources and small budgets forced me to be more creative in finding effective ways of doing things.”

In 2012, Maria was recognised as Volunteer of the Year for her tremendous dedication.

This Spanish migrant though, is humble in the face of that recognition: “My goal was to help domestic workers and be part of positive change. I did and still don’t expect anything in return. The opportunity to positively influence the life of others is reward enough.”

For more information on how you too can positively influence the lives of domestic helpers in Singapore, visit www.aidha.org or ask volunteer@aidha.org.

– by Ting Claravall

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