“If it weren’t for feeding stray animals, I don’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to talk to a migrant worker,” shared Daryl Mah, one of the six co-founders of The Stray Affairs.
Driven by a shared mission to help stray animals in Singapore, they care for over 150 dogs and 90 cats who call industrial estates like Kranji and Lim Chu Kang their home.
“These are places of work. People go there and then they leave. It’s not like at a HDB where people can easily feed the cats,” explained Daryl who is also a third-year engineering student at the Nanyang Technological University.
Every Saturday evening, a dedicated group of at least ten volunteers gather to provide sustenance to the strays. Given that the team’s core members have full-time jobs and academic commitments, the animals are left to fend for themselves during the week.
It was during one of their feeding sessions that the team stumbled upon kibbles scattered on the floor, revealing that the migrant workers had undertaken the task of caring for the animals.
Daryl thought to himself: “This person travelled all the way to Singapore to send money back home, and here they are spending it on a stray cat that might be too afraid to approach. How can we support them?”
This prompted the team to partner with the migrant workers in these factories. They began providing them with food for the strays, asking for just five minutes of their time to place the food on the ground.
“Most workers who weren’t previously involved were willing to help. We also ensured their bosses were aware of the strays in the factory and that someone was feeding them,” Daryl explained, adding that they are responsible for keeping factory grounds clean.
Throughout his years of working with the migrant workers, Daryl found himself moved by their acts of generosity on numerous occasions. They not only donated metal food bowls and built a wooden pellet house but also went out of their way to accompany an animal to the clinic and frequently texted to check on a cat who was temporarily taken away for a week.
In one case, the team wrestled for over an hour to capture a stray dog for a check-up. However, when a worker intervened, the dog immediately approached without hesitation.
“Sometimes, you look at a person and assume they may not care or have a bond with the animals here, but the reality is often different from what you expect,” he noted.
Uncle Ramesh, affectionately referred to by the team, is one of the many migrant workers who have gone to great lengths to care for these strays. He looks after five cats and shares his modest dormitory room with them when isolation is needed.
“His factory grounds may not be the safest, but we know the cats will feel the safest with him,” said Daryl, adding that Uncle Ramesh serves as their resident fosterer for rescued cats.
Today, their relationship transcends mere cooperation and extends to the celebration of festive occasions together. In appreciation of the migrant workers, The Stray Affairs, with their dry-food sponsor Gold-D, distributed care packages with essential supplies in June. They hope to continue such distributions.
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“Nobody here is getting paid to do this,” Daryl said, “It’s not in their employment contract for them to feed the animals either, so what they’re doing really has a big impact and we all just want what’s best for our strays.”
For those who wish to extend a helping hand or learn more about The Stray Affairs, visit them here.