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Behind The Closed Door: Breaking The Barriers with EmpowerU

Updated: Mar 25

"You won't make it, you're just an empty bowl," that sentence is still in my ears today.
The girl who burned her dreams
The girl who burned her dreams

The person who I adored so much told me this just because I am a girl from a small village and "nobody". Have you ever had an experience like this? People mocked you based on your gender and social status. When you can't be selfish even if you want to. When you force yourself to burn your dreams, leaving your home and chasing the unknown at the new place that you never imagined? Yes, I am one of you.

Like an empty bowl, I fill my life with dreams, one by one. To make room for what I truly need, I must first empty my plate of what no longer serves me. Letting go is hard, but I did it.

I had no choice but to leave the scholarship offered by several well-known Universities years ago before I migrated to HK to work as a caregiver for special needs kids. I was crying when I set the fire to burn all the paperwork in the yard of my parent's home.

I burned my dream!

Working in Hong Kong isn't easy like the post you saw on social media. I hide most of my feelings from my family, even when I miss them so much. I cried alone in my room and talked to no one except myself. I have no support in this new country, like a fellow newcomer.

Getting MHFA Certificate from Mind Hong Kong

Even though being a migrant worker has never been my dream, I embody and accept my life path gracefully. Because of this migration, I met a lot of amazing people who were willing to support me and the migrant workers community genuinely. People who want to see us grow and catch our dream life too.

"I met some of these wonderful people at EmpowerU and Migrasia. A place that turned into another home and called me as family. Who will support each other and clap the hands for the smallest achievement we made."
From left: Lindsay Ernst, David Bishop, me, Oliver Wijayapala, Bradley Aaron

Through innovative teaching methods, engaging discussions, and hands-on learning, EmpowerU has equipped me with practical tools that I can use in real-world situations, preparing me for future challenges. The Business class has been particularly impactful, enabling me to better manage my family's small business in Indonesia through improved communication with my siblings who handle operations.

CPR Class guided by Dr. Zohar Lederman from HKU Emergency Medicine

Moreover, EmpowerU has provided me with a deeper understanding of my rights as a Migrant Domestic Workers in Hong Kong through Law Class, highlighting that MDWs are legal employees under employment contracts. MDWs aren't a "helper" who takes care of employers' kids, run the household or pet' sitters. This class enhanced my knowledge and made me aware of unlawful actions which may happen to me or MDWs around me.

"When things go wrong, don't be afraid to seek legal advice. You are legal workers here under an employment contract," Lindsay Ernst said on my first day of Law Class
The 24-Hour Project Exhibition Opening Ceremony at Goethe Institute Hong Kong

Not only this, but the photography and storytelling workshops have also been unforgettable moments for EmpowerU's students. This workshop has paved the way for me to participate in an International photo walk with the 24-Hour Project confidently, a yearly International event for social change supporting different issues like Children's Rights, Climate Exchange Women's Rights and more. I am proud to have been selected as one of the international photographers to exhibit my work at Goethe Institute in Hong Kong in 2022 and the Iranian Artist Forum in Tehran in 2023 to showcase supporting social issues and fundraising for NGOs as well. These experiences have given me the confidence to be better, I learned a huge change about photography from Leeh Ann and Bradley Aaron.

Being an impactful photographer is not about being a professional only, it is about genuine work and purpose.
Hong Kong Included Exhibition organized by Hong Kong Shifts

Talking photography workshop isn't complete without storytelling. Having the chance to learn more from experts is a privilege. The storytelling workshop from Hong Kong Shifts is one of my opportunities. I was not only learning how to write narratives and build stories but also how to approach strangers to open up. Through this workshop, I gained more social skills, empathy and teamwork. It was beyond expectations when my work (and Ketut Astiti) was chosen for the Hong Kong Included Exhibition. I proved to myself that I could break the barriers and stereotypes of MDWs.

Metamorphosis, 2024. Mixed media on Canvas
My value is not defined by my job. And I am beyond the labels. I am seen and I am heard as who I am.

So, I started to pursue my social project called Painting Your Stories, where I create artwork based on people's stories, inspiring a better future. Understanding that everybody has stories and each story deserves to be heard and seen. Aiming this project to be a platform to shout out my subject's untold stories to the world without any judgment.

The storytelling behind the painting, pictured by Chincia Harvey

EmpowerU's leadership and community building class have played a crucial role in my journey as a leader in the migrant workers community. This support was significant during my fellowship program with the Resolve Foundation, where I worked towards closing learning gaps for migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong.

Sarah & Lily, my fellows in the Resolve 2023 fellowship & EmpowerU

I believe that education is a fundamental human right that should be accessible to all, including MDWs. Through its unwavering commitment to inclusive education, EmpowerU paves the way for a world where knowledge transcends barriers, unlocking limitless potential and fostering true equality.
International Women's Day Luncheon (EmpowerU, Migrasia & Akilah Institute)

My favourite is about health class. Public health, physical health, mental health and emotional well-being always make me curious. To take this class to the next level, I joined several NGOs as a peer leader and ambassador to spread self-awareness.

My presentation in the Health 400 class highlighted the stress management faced by MDWs. This issue will lead to other health problems if they don't know how to handle it. It is a bit challenging since I have to do some research and provide the resources as well. As MDWs society often looks down and unknowledge about their mental health and emotional well-being.

Don't you think that MDWs have no feelings? Same as you, MDWs are all human beings not robots or machines with no feelings.
Health 400 presentation

I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of the EmpowerU community leader and look forward to utilising my learnings to create a brighter future for myself and those around me. I am committed to giving back to society and striving to become a better person by sharing knowledge and fostering inclusivity.

Directing drama team "The Spirit of Mother Earth" for sustainability campaign

EmpowerU has given me the belief and power to break my barriers beyond the labels that society puts on me

I founded Women's Journal, focusing on women's empowerment and personal growth, creating a safe place for underprivileged women like MDWs who are often unheard of and unseen in this society. Through this community, I want to open opportunities for women around me to grow within, knowing our rights and worth.

I decided to awaken my dreams, grow and set my goals once more time. I am not competing against others, I am showing my old self that we still have possibilities if we believe and make it happen.

Getting an EmpowerU Certificate of Achievement

Everybody has a dream, and there is no dream that is too small or too big to achieve. It is never too late to start now!

If this is my story of breaking the barriers, tell the world how you climb the wall and embody the beauty of breaking the limit. Your stories deserve to be heard and seen. It may inspire a dreamer to not give up yet. Will you share it?


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