Apologies for the long silence everyone, as it’s been a non-stop whirlwind since our last newsletter (in August!), so this is truly a bumper edition!
First, way back in October, our annual highlight, Graduation, was as ever, a wonderfully inspiring and emotional celebration. It was our largest ever graduating class of 180 and was held in a beautiful hall, Nexus Auditorium, with undoubtedly one of our most motivational keynote speakers ever, our very own alumna, Nilushika Hettige, fresh, incidentally from a star turn at the TedX Singapore Women event the day before. We also had a beautiful (and feisty!), performance from our dance troupe, Aidha’s Fabulous Fighters, who in December also went on to do Aidha proud by winning 1st Runner Up in FAST’s annual “We Got Talent” Competition after making it through many many rounds of the competition.
Next up in November was Aidha’s inaugural “ This Is Me” photography exhibition which was open to submissions from all domestic workers. It was held in a lovely shophouse art gallery on Kandahar Street, just a block away from our office, and attracted Aidha supporters,domestic workers new to Aidha, as well as many passersby drawn by the buzz around the gallery and the high quality of the photographs on display. This new event was designed as a lead up to Aidha10 but we all loved it so much that we are now going to make it an annual event.
December was, finally, the Aidha10 Party! We celebrated Aidha’s 10th anniversary with a crowd of nearly 200 Aidha students, alumni and supporters and were thrilled to have a super evening that we hope was worthy of the occasion. Our MC extraordinaire (and long-time Aidha mentor), Ting Claravall, ensured there was plenty of laughter throughout and many thanks to our large team of dedicated volunteers who helped with every aspect of the event including setting the mood with simple but elegant decorations very much in keeping with the Orange-themed evening. Thanks to the generous support of Mastercard, we were also thrilled to launch our Aidha10 ‘Expanding Access’ Scholarships that evening. These scholarships are to support the approximately 50% of Aidha students who are self-financing and provides them with a $100 discount towards either Module 1 or Module 2 fees. Of the 200 such scholarships we started offering on 1 Dec, already over 100 have been taken up.
Shortly following Aidha10, the next major event was moving the office in mid-December. We are still settling in, but thanks to the falling rental market we were able to secure a larger space in the same Kampong Glam neighbourhood that we have all become very fond of. In fact it is only about 5 doors away from our old office! The extra space is most welcome as we can now more comfortably accommodate the many volunteers and interns who contribute to Aidha during the week.
The start of the year has traditionally been a time of increased enrollments for Aidha and this year is no different. Additionally the Aidha10 Scholarships have also helped give us boost and we are pleased to have started two M1 classes, two M2 classes and two Improving Your English classes in January alone with a similar number of additional batches starting this weekend.
The other very big initiative that many mentors have been involved in is our Curriculum Review of M1 and M2. It’s timely that our volunteer profile this week is of Sarah Druce, a long time mentor who was also Head of Training for the mentor team. Sarah has recently relocated to Sydney, and while we will very much miss her presence, thankfully for us she is continuing in her very critical role of leading the Curriculum Review Team. The team is a group of experienced mentors who have offered to assist in conceptualising the new curriculum as well as writing/re-writing the curriculum itself. We will still maintain many elements of our original curriculum, which we still think is strong, but update elements, refresh the language, trim down some areas and add some new content. The team has come up with a new proposed structure that consists of 3 rather than 2 modules, with the new Module 2 intended to deepen understanding of medium to long term personal finance options that the current curriculum doesn’t address. The new curriculum is not yet set in stone and we still very much welcome feedback. So far we have had a feedback session with one team of Trainees as well as one Town Hall session to which all mentors were invited on Feb 5th, 2017. This Sunday, Feb 12th, 2017, we will be having a second Town Hall session from 11.30am – 1pm, and anyone is most welcome to join. (Please email Supreetha Skanda Moorthy if you are coming (firstname.lastname@example.org).) A big thank you to Sarah for driving this on from Sydney and much progress has been made since she has taken the lead in this effort, along with support from our Programmes Manager, Marjanne van der Helm, who is also deeply involved.
This year we are also very excited to welcome two new staff members. Diana Muradova, fresh from roles as a student advisor as well as a Masters in International Education Policy, started in January as our new Student Affairs Manager. Also we recently created the new role of Marketing and Development Specialist, recognising that these areas are some of our critical challenges, and are pleased that Jeanne Bellec, an Aidha mentor as well as most recently the Director of Marketing and Communications at ESSEC Business School, has taken up this role starting this month.
Last, but definitely not least, our student profile in this edition is the wonderful story of Marilyn Orit. Marilyn took to Aidha like a duck to water and had an atypical business idea of bringing potable water to her village. Marilyn’s water station opened in September 2016 and is proudly staffed by her mother, her two sisters and friends. Do try to read this story, a reminder of what Aidha is all about.