aidha - enriching lives of migrant domestic workers through financial education

aidha - enriching lives of migrant domestic workers through financial education

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

aidha provides a unique and innovative financial education program to migrant domestic workers in Singapore, empowering them with the financial literacy and entrepreneurship tools that will help them break out of the poverty cycle, build real savings and make income-generating investments, set up small businesses, thereby enhancing their life choice, their future, and that of their communities.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

There are approximately 200,000 migrant domestic workers in Singapore. These women, often from Asia’s poorest countries, leave their families to become domestic workers in Singapore homes to find financial stability. They are the “hopeful poor” – their resilience and desire to break the cycle of poverty makes them seek low-paying jobs elsewhere. Remittances sent home support families, but many of these women find they don’t have any real savings left. They are caught in a vicious cycle where families become dependent on remittances, leaving little or nothing for the foreign domestic worker by way of savings or a financially-stable future at home.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

aidha seeks to break the cycle of poverty by helping migrant domestic workers develop savings habits as well as giving them the skills needed to start up a sustainable business for their families. aidha has developed and tested a program delivering financial education, leadership and entrepreneurship skills which is unique and innovative in many ways: -the financial education provided by aidha leads to behavioural change: students not only learn budgeting techniques but also build real savings and then periodically invest those savings in income-generating assets. -aidha provides financial education and entrepreneurship skills in the context of an enduring peer support group, a model that is analogous to that underpinning successful weight loss programs. Structured meetings generate the support to put their new found knowledge into action. e.g. our students share their budget entries with their peers, as well as communicate their savings goals and how they plan to achieve them.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

aidha’s program is divided into 2 modules of 9 months each. In Module 1, students attend a Compass Club where they learn to budget and save through the support of their peers and their mentor. They also attend a Leadership Club, where they learn communication and management skills in an hands-on approach: for e.g. in every session, students stand up in front of the class to give a speech on management topics. The computer workshops, held in groups of only 5 students, complete the module 1 curriculum. Students have their own laptop during the class and cover the basics of Microsoft Office and the internet but also more advanced topics such as creating databases and designing sales material. In Module 2, students participate in an Advanced Leadership Club where they explore business topics in depth and develop their communications skills further. They also join a Venture Club, where they learn how to start and manage a business, including pricing and competition analysis, and create a viable business plan at the end of the course. Lisa, a Filipino national, had been working very hard for many years in Singapore as a domestic worker but had no savings when she joined aidha. When she completed our programme, she had built up enough savings to buy a cow back home. She continued to save and later bought back the land her family once owned when she was young. She has now set up a farm on the land which employs 16 members of her family.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

When it was established in 2006, aidha was a pioneer in providing financial education classes to low-income foreign domestic workers in Singapore. Whilst there are now a handful of entities that provide courses on money management, we believe that financial education delivered through traditional classroom methods does not work if it does not lead to new financial management behaviour. aidha is unique in that it has created for its program a range of innovative training for budgeting and savings, computer, communications and entrepreneurial skills using action-based learning.

Founding Story

Previously a full time academic at INSEAD, Sarah Mavrinac was inspired by her stint in the executive committee of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Singapore. As a result of a study conducted by UNIFEM which showed that the foreign domestic workers in Singapore did not have access to financial education for their socio-economic development, she decided to take on the idea and, with $16,000 in seed funding from UNIFEM, set up aidha as an independent organisation which would deliver quality business education to lower income women groups.
About You
aidha ltd
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

aidha ltd

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
Age of Innovator

Over 34

Gender of Innovator


How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Social Impact
What solution(s) does your initiative address to help emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses grow and thrive in underserved communities? (select all applicable)

Access to talent, Access to technology, Access to economic opportunity.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

-Lives impacted: Just over 2000 students have now gone through our program since we first opened our doors. Each student represents an average of 4 to 8 additional family members benefiting directly from the savings built, the financial education received and the entrepreneurial skills acquired. This means that our program also directly impacts an additional 8,000 – 16,000 people in their own towns and villages.

-Financial Impact: Students at aidha adopt savings habits. Students have little or no savings when they embark on our program, but manage to save on average SING$2,024 during the 9-month course. 9 in 10 aidha graduates continue to maintain a savings habit; most are regular savers who average SING$216 per month.

-Productive investments and entrepreneurship: 66% of aidha graduates have invested in two or more assets with their savings. Land is the most popular investment choice, followed by small animals and building for business purposes - all are financed by savings.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

Currently, only 50% of all migrant domestic workers in Singapore have one day off a month, meaning that many workers do not have the opportunity to attend aidha’s classes, which are held on Sunday. However, from January 2013, labor laws mandate that all domestic workers get one day off per week, which will result in a sharp increase in the number of potential students for aidha.

-Lives impacted: We project to enrol 2,600 students. Counting the family members of each student, this will bring a total of 13,000 - 23,400 lives positively impacted.

-Financial Impact: Students will have built up SING$5,262,400 in savings in the first 9-month module.

-Productive investments and entrepreneurship: 1,716 new students will have invested in two or more income-generating assets.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

-Volunteers: there is a constant need to attract and retain volunteers with relevant expertise to teach our students, which we have managed to achieve by the innovating structure of our workshops, where our teachers are also mentors and take pride and responsibility for their batch.
-IT platform: to operate more efficiently, we will need to develop a robust IT platform to manage all our students, volunteers, staff and donors.
-Funding: As a social enterprise, aidha funds 70% of its operating costs through course fees, whilst the remainder is met through fundraising. Maintaining this ratio is important, but can be challenging. However, as the number of students enrolled increases, economies of scale bring a more sustainable model that will bring aidha closer to self sustainability.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Enrol, train and mentor 200 migrant foreign domestic workers employed in Singapore in aidha’s programme.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Engage in a successful student recruitment drive in Singapore through outreach and marketing

Task 2

Develop and nurture our partnerships with the embassies in Singapore that are home countries of the migrant domestic workers.

Task 3

Build up our volunteer team of trained mentors and computer workshop leaders.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Enrol, train and mentor 500 migrant foreign domestic workers employed in Singapore in aidha’s programme.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Increase our operational efficiency and administrative processes by developing our students/volunteers/donors databases.

Task 2

Develop of robust marketing plan to reach out the migrant domestic workers who will have a day off per week for the first time.

Task 3

Revamp the content and look of our website to increase visibility for potential students, volunteers and donors.

Tell us about your partnerships

aidha has successfully leveraged on our partnerships to engage various communities in Singapore, including businesses, universities, embassies and chambers commerce. Please refer to the section on awards and honors above for further detail.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

Needs: classroom space, student/volunteer/donor database development, website development, marketing
Offers: We can share expertise on our volunteer training. We can also explore the creation of partnerships with other organisations who serve low-income workers or similarly underserved groups which would be interested in replicating our curriculum for the benefit of the communities they serve.