Every once in a while, it happens. Somebody, somewhere, invents something so ingenious that it makes you wonder why nobody thought of it earlier. The same can be said of rise. It’s a simple idea – obvious, really, given the popularity of live-in domestic help in the UAE – with the aim of helping people not so easily able to help themselves.
The brainchild of former banker Padmini Gupta and co-founder Milind Singh, rise is a free-to-download app, which was recently launched to enable sponsor families to immediately access affordable childcare and educational courses, giving domestic workers useful knowledge and qualifications to enable them to properly look after the children in their care. It’s currently available in English, but plans are afoot to develop the app in Arabic, Hindi, Tagalog and other commonly-spoken languages here.
“It has taken more than a year to develop and has been incredibly hard work, but our mission is so important,” says Gupta, an Oxford graduate who has also taken part in the World Economic Forum’s Global Leadership programme and led dialogue to develop business agreements on climate change for the G8. “It’s not just a business, it’s a social enterprise that is actually going to transform people’s lives… I am passionate about social issues and doing something about them.”
The course offering is impressive and always growing. The team works with both international and local experts to offer courses in four main categories: building a caring and nurturing environment; supporting learning and child development; instilling healthy eating; and understanding child safety. The nutrition and child safety options, naturally, are proving to be the most popular so far.
Alma, who has worked as a nanny in the UAE for the last nine years, says: “I’ve learned how to deal with a child’s tantrum and I’m so thankful today that I have learned something for the child that I am helping now.”
“The feedback has been great,” Gupta, who also has two children of her own, reveals. “Nannies are so excited to have the opportunity to learn. Many have been looking after children for many years, but have never had any sort of formal childcare training, so they love the courses and want to take on more. And, the good thing about them is they are much more interactive and visual than regular online courses.”
Programmes use video demonstrations of people acting out real-life situations, Gupta explains, and assessments are built into each area of learning to ensure the information is remembered.
While online courses are the primary focus, Gupta explains there are also some physical workshops available for courses that are better suited to being taught in person – for example, CPR training or practical grocery shopping, which encourages healthier shopping choices and provides education on nutrition.
The cost for each course is kept deliberately low, so that downloading them remains within the financial reach of the people who need to use them. Prices range from just Dhs50 to Dhs200 and, once a course is completed, this is logged on the app and the user will have a permanent record of their achievement for future roles both in the UAE and in their home country, extending the usefulness of the app way beyond the here and now.
It is estimated that there are around 750,000 domestic helpers in the UAE, who spend more than 50 hours a week taking care of our homes and kids, so the potential for this app to grow is huge. But Gupta has even bigger plans and the future focus is on financial independence.
“There are around four-and-a-half million people living in the UAE who… don’t have access to their own bank account,” Gupta tells us.
“Through my work in commercial banking in the US, I saw the impact [this] can have on a person and the same applies here – you can’t manage your own finances, remitting money is expensive, you can’t start a savings plan or a pension, and this can lead to far greater issues in the future.” Which is why, later this year, the app will also give sponsors and their employees access to a full management tool on the app, through which employee can actually have a bank account and be in full control of their own finances.
And there’s more. “I would love to extend rise through the GCC and also to the service sector, so those working in hotels, education, retail and restaurants can also have access to online education and financial freedom.”
We can’t wait to see this happen... rise is free to download on Android, coming soon to iOS. www.growwithrise.com.
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Johnson & Johnson has tapped into our relentless obsession with photo-sharing and turned it into something for the greater good. For every photo you share through the Donate A Photo app, they donate US$1 (Dhs3.7) to a cause from a worldwide selection, such as Operation Smile and Save the Children.