Siti Mutowimah migrated to Singapore from Indonesia when she was 19 and has spent the past decade sending money back to her family.
She knows as well as anyone the value of the expatriate entrepreneur. Now Ms Mutowimah has decided to return home and start her own business, a decision she attributes to aidha, the school she attended for aspiring migrant entrepreneurs.
Working in the day and diligently studying at night, she has learnt basic money-management skills, timekeeping and effective communication at aidha.
"The teaching has helped me in a way that I have become more disciplined and I've learnt that my dream business can be reality," Ms Mutowimah says.
Founded as a charity in Singapore in late 2006, aidha is now expanding to Abu Dhabi to help educate the masses of migrant workers that are a key driver of growth in the UAE. A great deal of effort has been invested in Emirati entrepreneurship through projects such as the Khalifa Fund and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, but little has been established to help the UAE's migrant workers.
Sarah Mavrinac, the founder and president of aidha, has recently moved to the UAE to get the project off the ground. Her enthusiasm for helping what she calls "the hopeful poor" is matched only by her determination to see the school's expansion succeed.
"The UAE provides enormous opportunity to the world's hopeful poor," Ms Mavrinac says. "They are here in the millions and aidha hopes to achieve so much with and through them."
The school offers management and entrepreneurship training, financial education, and marketing and communication classes. All of the training is aimed at alleviating poverty by giving students the skills to save money, spend astutely and develop business skills to succeed in a career. Most of the students at the Singapore campus are from the population in the developing world that lives on about US$2 (Dh7.34) a day. The majority of the students are women who have migrated to support their families. They often take on high levels of debt, making the climb out of poverty that much harder.
"Almost always their jobs are difficult, dirty and dangerous," says Ms Mavrinac. "Nonetheless, they take them on because they must.
"They work as maids or construction workers, or on manufacturing plant floors, remitting money each month to keep the children fed and the bills paid."
The Abu Dhabi arm of aidha intends to build local partnerships with businesses and universities to help launch the new school.
Ms Mavrinac hopes businesses will donate office space and schools will offer classes to help launch the initiative.
Each year more than 250 students enrol in the classes in Singapore, seeking to build the necessary skills to start businesses or ascend the career ladder. The goal of aidha is to eventually reach this intake over the next three years in Abu Dhabi. Ms Mutowimah wants to use the skills she learnt at aidha to start a guesthouse, canteen and internet cafe complex in Cilacap, on the island of Java in Indonesia.
"I learnt how to save, to be a smart shopper, choosing the right type of saving, insurance and benefits," she says.
The class for building self-esteem helped Ms Mutowimah to become a positive thinker.
"It also helped me to learn to accept myself," she says. "My business goal is to be the first place to provide shelter, food and IT to high school students that come from outside town."