CEO Message: Ready to Launch!

From L to R: Ms. Jacqueline Loh, Aidha’s CEO, Ms. Pia Bruce, Singapore Committee for UN Women’s Executive Director and Ms. Claudine Lim, Aidha’s Chair 

The big news at Aidha is the upcoming launch of our New Curriculum in September!  A wonderful team of volunteers led by Sarah Druce with the able support of our Programmes Manager, Marjanne van der Helm, has been working extremely hard to complete the new curriculum. In addition to Sarah and Marjanne, the members of this dedicated group are: Aneesha Daswani, Zsuzsanna Vari-Kovacs, Vinusha Venkatesh, Abel Lee, Catherine Wu, Marie-Laure Caille, Julius Bleinroth, Ting Claravell, Yina Song, Lin Yan Yan, Mireille van Reenan, Luis Gutierrez, Salman Jaffer, Prerana Bhounsle, Rasmi Gopalkrishnan, Valerie Djie, Sarah Reeve and Isabel Servando.  Thank you all for your exceptional contributions in powering forward with this incredibly important project for Aidha!  This effort has been underway at Aidha for some time and thanks also to the many others who contributed to the initial information gathering that informed the curriculum redesign and/or made constructive suggestions along the way! Lastly we must also tip our hats to all those over the years that have contributed so much to the development and continuous improvement of Aidha’s curriculum. Our courses have proven their impact and indeed this new curriculum retains and builds on many elements of Aidha’s past curricula.

More detail is provided in the article, but the key changes are: a shortening of the Modules from 9 months to 6 months, which our earlier review research indicated would work better for both students and volunteers, and the addition of new content designed to bridge the gap between basic money management skills and entrepreneurship. This ‘New’ Module 2 will help our students become more informed financial decision-makers, able to better assess investments in productive assets, understand loans and interest rates, and generally make more sound medium and long-term financial plans.  Much of the core content of our existing Module 1 and Module 2 will remain, but will be updated and additional relevant examples will be added.  There will also be greater integration between the courses within a Module and we will introduce the use of more mobile apps in the curriculum, as well as include more videos and templates that our students can re-use. We will shortly be announcing a couple of Town Halls at the end of August and in early September to give mentors a chance to interact with the review team and better understand the new curriculum.

One other significant benefit of shortening our courses is that we will be able to lower the costs per module so that it will be less expensive to start courses at Aidha.  We strongly believe this will make our courses accessible to more students and, besides working towards a smooth launch for the New Curriculum, we will be making a big marketing push to increase awareness of Aidha amongst prospective students and their employers.  The first New Module 1 will be launched on 17 Sept – do help spread the word!

In addition to this major undertaking, another wonderful group of volunteers has been working on a revision of our Improving Your English curriculum.  Cathy Atkinson and Amanda Mannion spearheaded this effort and many thanks also to the many English mentors who provided comments and advice along the way to help us strengthen this popular course offering as well.

We have held a number of events over the last months including two very well received, waiting list only, screenings of the film “Remittance” held in collaboration with Aware, HOME and the Singapore Committee for UN Women.  Thanks to the generous support of MasterCard we were able to offer the screenings of this very relevant film for free to all foreign domestic workers with both screenings followed by lively panel discussions.

Earlier in the year we co-organised an  International Women’s Day Celebration to honour foreign domestic workers “Being Bold for Change” in collaboration with the Singapore Committee of UN Women.  Besides being instrumental to the very existence of Aidha, the Singapore Committee for UN Women has long been an advocate for foreign domestic workers and played an important role, along with other migrant worker organisations such as Home and TWC2, in raising awareness of the need to legislate a weekly day off for all domestic workers.  This legislation was passed in 2012 and since then the percentage of domestic workers receiving a weekly day off has increased from only 12% in 2011 to approximately 60% now! We were also very happy to have Benefit Cosmetics join the celebration as well, as they have been wonderful supporters of Aidha through their Bold is Beautiful campaign and on the day provided a very popular booth as well as a personal grooming workshop for our students and other FDWs.

Another important celebration recently was Aidha’s 11th Birthday! This took place on 9th July, and was action-packed as usual, with cake (of course!), a delicious potluck lunch provided by students and alumni, an energetic Zumba session, a couple of rounds of the Money Management Game, and we wound up the day with a moving documentary screening on poetry by migrant workers and a fun and motivating poetry workshop.

Besides the celebrations, Aidha has also been exploring opportunities to adapt its financial education curriculum to also assist low-income local women.  Our first partnership has been with the Casa Raudha Women’s Home, with one run of the programme, called “My Dollars and Cents”, completed last January, and a second run completed in May.  Both runs were mentored by one of our most experienced volunteers, Tina Hashim, and received very positive feedback from the participants 🙂

As always, people are the very heart of Aidha.  In this edition we are delighted to share the story of one of our most dedicated and long serving volunteers, Pranama Moorthy.  Pranama was one of our earliest Module 2 mentors and has to date mentored six batches of students as well as served as a Module 2 mentor trainer.  In recognition of his sterling contribution, earlier this year he received UN Women’s HeForShe Everyday Hero award for Singapore!

We also proudly tell the story of our alumna, Yanthi . Yanthi (Suyamti) has worked in Singapore for over 19 years and graduated from Aidha in 2012.  Since then she has saved enough to purchase two small shops that she rents out, as well as land for her future home.  With a steady stream of additional income, Yanthi has been able to spend more time on her passion for photography and is working towards becoming a professional photographer.  One of her photographs was shortlisted as a finalist in our This Is Me photography exhibition last year.

Finally, in addition to our wonderful volunteers and students, we also wanted to let people get to know our highly dedicated staff team as quite a few are relatively new to Aidha.  In this newsletter we have included a light-hearted but highly insightful introduction to our Programmes Manager, Marjanne  van der Helm, and our Student Affairs Manager, Diana Muradova 🙂

It’s hard to believe the year is already more than half over and in a short few months, on 29 October, we’ll be celebrating our Graduating Class of 2017!  Do save the date and we’ll be sending around more information on Graduation as well as on the Final Round of the Graduation Business Plan Competition that will take place on 8 October and which, for the first time, we will be opening up to an audience of students, volunteers and supporters.  And prior to that, on 24 September, will be the final round of our Big Pitch competition, another exciting and inspiring business plan competition for the participants of our Alumni Development Programme.  To the students and alumni working hard to finalise their business plans and polish their pitches, this is the last mile so take heart, keep at it and all the best over these next months!




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