I come from Tulungagung, East Java in Indonesia. I have worked as a domestic worker for almost 20 years. I started just after high school as I could not afford university. I was 19 years old then and I am now 38 years old.
I decided to work abroad, so I could earn three times more than if I worked in my own country. I found an agent who sent me to Singapore but unfortunately, I was only able to work there for 7 months and then I was sent back home. I just had the time to pay back my debt to the agency. Afterwards, I went to Taiwan to work in a factory for 2 years and then went back home to get married and open a small grocery store. Unfortunately, my business failed. After that, I went to Hong Kong for 4 years.
Over the years, I have attempted to manage my finances in different ways. At first, I managed my money by separating it into three categories: ⅓ for saving, ⅓ for family and ⅓ for myself. In Singapore and Taiwan, as well as my first two years in Hong Kong, I managed my finances in this manner. However, at the end of my contract in Hong Kong, I joined a multi-level marketing scheme and borrowed $58,000 HKD (about $7400 USD) from three different “banks” (money lenders). This turned very badly, and I had to sell my parents property to cover my loan and I went back home with debts that still made me suffer until very recently.
I then worked at home for three years. I applied to work in factories in Taiwan, Korea and Japan but was always denied a visa. Therefore, I became a domestic helper again in Singapore and have been here for almost four years. My primary reason for working here is to pay my debt that I borrowed in Hong Kong eight years ago.
My first two years in Singapore, 90% of the money I earned went towards my debt and 10% for myself as I did not have enough for saving or my family. After the second year, sadly my parents passed away and I don’t have children therefore I did not need to send money back home. Then, I created a new way of allocating my finances to 50% saving, 30% to pay my debt and 20% for myself.
I have heard sad stories of how domestic workers blow all of their money once they get back home and need to resume work as a domestic helper after a few months. Therefore, I really wanted to learn more about finance management as my dream now is to have children and open a business. What made me fail before in my business was my lack of knowledge and personal skills
So, I joined Uplifters Dare to Dream online class about financial education and personal development. I liked the challenges we had to do during the class to gain new knowledge and skills – it inspired and motivated me. I feel so energetic when I practice the morning rituals that we learned in the class and I have realized that I was confident as a domestic worker but not confident enough to own a business as I lacked knowledge and experience.
Interviewed by Marie Kretz Di Meglio in December 2017.
Edited by Hannah Weldon