CEO Message: Flying Time

Jacqueline Loh (2nd from left) with representatives from the Embassy of the Philippines in Singapore and winner of Aidha Photography Competition, Ritchelle M (3rd from left).

Written by: Jacqueline Loh

As usual, time flies at Aidha!  I can’t believe it is already the end of March and my apologies for this overdue news update as so much has happened in recent months.  You’ll find in the packed edition of this newsletter articles on many of Aidha’s key events from the latter part of 2017!

First, we had a wonderful Big Pitch competition, the culmination of our Alumni Development Programme, in September.  Despite stiff competition, Marilyn Orit emerged as our first prize winner with her plan to extend her water refilling business which she started in late 2016 with her family back in the Philippines.  All of our six alumni finalists did a wonderful job and the judges felt all merited some part of the $3000 in investment capital that was contributed by generous donors, and thanks also to Google Business Groups for sponsoring the event.  Additionally, all finalists also received one-on-one mentoring for a year.

This year we have further enhanced our alumni programme, adding many new elements including nine months of small group mentoring for all participants.  Participants are grouped by industry sector with each group being supported by two experienced mentors.  Additionally, we will be including new content from Facebook’s She Means Business initiative, which supports women entrepreneurs, as well as from Google Business Groups (GBG), an initiative supporting entrepreneurs and the networking of entrepreneurs, including a group within GBG, WomenWill, specifically targeted at women entrepreneurs.

Shortly after the Big Pitch, we held our annual graduation ceremony at the end of October.  It was a moving and emotional event as always.  We had an inspiring keynote speech by our fabulously dynamic volunteer Sari Marsden, an accomplished leadership and performance coach with a similarly dynamic new book just published, Fit to Lead.  And we had a wonderful Odissi dance performance by one of our graduates, Wiji Suyitno, followed by exceptional presentations by all of our four Graduate Business Plan competition winners – Armi Sampani, Arcelyn Siloy, Maricel Alvarado and Nur Khasanah.  All had strong business ideas and presented their personal stories with candour and passion.  Last, but definitely not least, the whole graduating class treated the audience to a rousing and heartfelt dance performance to Rachel Platten’s ‘Fight Song’ that brought everyone to their feet dancing along by the end!  It felt like a fitting send off to a whole flotilla of small boats, “On the ocean, sending big waves, into motion” … we can’t wait to see the positive explosions they all spark off in their families and their communities.

After the high of graduation, it was straight on to two more highs before the end of the year!  First, in November, was Aidha’s Tour de Singapore.  Many thanks to the riders who participated including six Aidha alumni!  For the first time, we held the ride as a team within the OCBC Cycle ride.  For those who missed out in November, no problem, you have your chance again!  This year OCBC completely changed their schedule and the ride will be on 6 May!  Registrations for Team Aidha this year are needed by 3 April and you can sign up here. This year we are very grateful to Anza Cycling who is helping us organise the team.  Also, Barclays is putting together a team to ride for Aidha as well, and for anyone who had already signed up for the ride before we sent around the call for riders, don’t worry, you can still be part of Team Aidha!  We will be sending around more details on this shortly.

Our last high of 2017 was the second edition of our annual competition and exhibition of photography by foreign domestic workers.  This year’s theme was Unspoken Life and it attracted nearly 400 entries of photographs!  It was held again in the lovely Intersections Gallery on Kandahar Street and was a very beautiful and special exhibition, with each photograph accompanied by its story in the photographer’s own words.  Special thanks to our volunteer Elvin Ling, who is himself a professional photographer, for a great job helping to curate and hang the exhibition, as well as the many volunteers who helped throughout the weekend-long exhibition.  Many thanks also to our generous sponsors this year who helped support the exhibition costs as well as the prize pool of $1500 given to 4 winning entries and the People’s Choice awardee.

As for 2018, we have of course had other exciting happenings with more in the pipeline as well.  We launched the new Aidha Business Accelerator for alumni in February, for which many thanks to MasterCard for core support for the programme as well additional support from Eight Four Capital.  For the month of International Women’s Day, we launched a new partnership with HOME and look forward to working more closely together to provide a complete learning journey for foreign domestic workers, with Home’s skills training a perfect complement to our financial education courses.  Keep a lookout for a joint Aidha-Home Sports Day event at our United World College campus on 24th June to celebrate International Domestic Workers Day!

Also in March, thanks to an incredibly generous grant from Deutsche Bank and its employees, we launched the Deutsche Bank Scholarship Fund that will provide scholarships to all Module 1, 2 and 3 students at Aidha!  This will reduce fees per module from $250 to $150 for all self-supporting students, and for employer-supported students fees will be reduced from $250 to $200 per module.   To make this possible nearly 300 Deutsche Bank employees donated an entire day’s salary through Deutsche Bank’s annual Donate-One-Day initiative.  We anticipate the Fund will provide a significant boost to our enrollment figures for the year ahead and beyond so thank you all at DB!

Looking ahead, on the immediate horizon, on the evening of 3 April, we will be participating in a screening of the film Remittance sponsored by the Royal Society of Art and hosted by the Macquarie Group.  All donations from the screening will be generously matched by the Macquarie Foundation so this is a good time to donate to Aidha!  Please register for the screening and/or donate via the Eventbrite link here.

Besides these exciting and meaningful events, everyday life at Aidha is also always meaningful.  With the profiles in this newsletter we shine a light on the everyday heroes and, in this edition, s-heroes that make the Aidha community so special.

In our volunteer spotlight is Chandni Chellapa, who has made such an incredible contribution since she joined Aidha in 2012.  Starting as a computer workshop mentor Chandni progressed to mentoring many other courses and by now has mentored virtually every course we offer!  As she is trained to mentor everything, she is also our ‘go to’ emergency replacement mentor (along with her husband, Roshan Anand, another wonderful volunteer!).  Chandni has also been our Head of Mentor Training since 2016 as well as a buddy mentor for many years.  We will sadly be saying a very fond farewell to Chandni as she will be leaving Singapore this summer to pursue her MBA for a few years, however, we very much look forward to having her back after that!

Besides the critical role of volunteers like Chandni, Aidha also relies on its incredibly dedicated staff team.  We thought it’d be fun to let everyone get to know the staff team a bit better and in this edition, we have profiles of Jeanne Bellec and Ida Supahat, our Marketing and Development Specialist and Communications Manager respectively.  Jeanne joined us in early 2017 in a newly created role to help us improve our branding and effectiveness in raising awareness as well as our fundraising, and we’ve made great progress since her arrival.  Ida is our veteran staff member who, among many other things, manages our wonderfully active social media pages as well as initiated and masterminded our annual photography exhibition that is now a new Aidha tradition!

Last but not least, our student spotlight highlights the wonderful story of Sri Yanah, who was working here for five years struggling to support her family before joining Aidha and graduating in 2016.  She now has two businesses back home, a grocery store and a chicken farm, generating a stable income for her family, and has plans for further expansion.  Sri Yanah is a wonderful bright presence at Aidha, often volunteering at our various events. Of Aidha she says, “I’ve learnt so much at Aidha. But the most important is that I have learnt to be confident and think positively about a better future.” It is stories like Sri Yanah’s that are the lifeblood of Aidha.

All the best for a great Easter long weekend everyone, and we will try to make it not such a long gap between news updates next time!


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