Back to school: Singapore course offers maids a brighter future

Tue Oct 22, 2013 3:58am EDT
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By Laura Philomin

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - When she was eight, Lisa Padua lost everything after her father died, forcing her to leave school in her mid-teens to work as a maid in Qatar and then in Singapore.

Twenty one years later, she still works in Singapore as a domestic helper but now owns three businesses and earns enough to send six nephews and nieces to college in the Philippines.

Padua says she owes her success to Aidha, a micro school in Singapore that trains women like her in wealth and business management so they can build a better future back home in the Philippines, Indonesia and Myanmar.

"I'm a farmer's daughter," she told Reuters. "So I said one day I want to have my own farm, my own house, my own water buffalo. And I said because I didn't go to college, I want my nephews and nieces to have their dreams come true."

Aidha offers a nine-month course for S$350 ($280) that emphasizes computer, communication and financial skills. The three-hour classes run two Sundays a month to accommodate the days off of the women who work as family maids, nannies and caregivers to the old and ill.

Ambitious students can then take a more intense nine-month module that helps them launch their businesses.

"This journey of transformation allows them to stand up by themselves financially," Veronica Gamez, Aidha's executive director, told Reuters.

Gamez, who holds an MBA from the University of Chicago and worked at Credit Suisse and Boston Consulting Group, uses her experience to make the modules practical for the real world.   Continued...

Domestic helper Lisa Padua (2nd R) jokes as she shops for clothes with her friends on a day off, at Lucky Plaza in Singapore October 20, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su