Turning her life around

Susilowati Mardiono leads a double life - domestic worker in Singapore, coffee and rubber plantation owner in Indonesia. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Susilowati Mardiono leads a double life - domestic worker in Singapore, coffee and rubber plantation owner in Indonesia. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

BACK in Singapore, Ms Susilowati Mardiono (right) is a domestic worker whose main job is to take care of her employers' household chores.

In her hometown of Bandar Lampung in Sumatra, Indonesia, however, she is a successful coffee and rubber plantation owner who has big plans to run a school cafeteria and open an orphanage.

For the soft-spoken 32-year-old, it is a dream that she had never thought she could live out until recently.

When Ms Susilowati arrived in Singapore in 2004 to work as a domestic helper, most of the S$300 - about US$237 - she earned every month went into funding her four younger siblings' education, leaving little for herself. Things got worse when her father, a farmer, died a few years ago.

With no savings and no idea how to improve her financial situation, it left Ms Susilowati disheartened about her life.

The turning point came in 2009 when she enrolled in Aidha's courses. There, she learnt how to save money and how to start her own business - and how to reject her younger brothers' requests for money.

Two years ago, with a US$4,000 loan from her employers, Ms Susilowati bought a coffee plantation in Sumatra, and got her uncle to run the business.

Last year, she earned US$2,400 from the plantation, and used it to invest in a rubber plantation.

But her eventual goal is to open an orphanage for abandoned children."It makes me sad when I see them living underneath bridges and have no one to take care of them. I want to help them get an education, so that they will have a good future."

AMELIA TAN