Mary Bernadett Rose Sarabia is from Iloilo City, which is the capital of the province of Iloilo, located in the Western Visayas. It is a Filipino hub for trade and industry, and a major touristic destination, well-known for its white-sanded beaches.
Her parents, a former nurse and sailor man, are now retired. She is proud to tell me that she and her 3 siblings are all degree holders. Mary Bernadette graduated as a nurse.
She is a single mother of 3. Her children live at her mother’s place; she gets to talk to them twice a month and visits them every 6 months. She smiles when she tells me that she is from a «twin» family. Her own mother has a twin sister, she has a twin sister as well, and her two daughters are identical twins - named Kiara Kate and Kiana Kaye, and she also has a boy named Khensien Kirk.
Mary discovered EmpowerU on Facebook when a friend of her posted pictures inside HKU’s campus. This caught her interest, and she decided to enrol by herself.
“I spent my only day off in a tiring week of work here in HKU, because I felt that studying is more important than anything else.”
Mary is now spreading information about the program; one of her domestic worker friends wanted to join, but her employers wouldn’t let her attend the trial session, as some lessons took place during Chinese New Year…
Mary considers education to be very important, and she describes herself as “eager to learn“. EmpowerU allows her to enhance her skills and knowledge. She finds the courses of financial literacy particularly beneficial. “Before, on Sunday, I was strolling in Hong Kong, doing shopping, spending money in a futile way. Now, when I come back home after class, my money is still in my pocket.”
Her additional knowledge is beneficial not only to her but also to her relatives. Mary empowers others by disseminating information on what she has learned. She gives her friends and her family advice on how to save money to build for the future. She is proud that she is able to not only learn only for herself but also influence others.
“I serve as a role model for my children, by showing them that no one should ever stop learning.”