It may be worrying to hear about the rising number of Covid-19 clusters in foreign workers’ dormitories but how much are we able to understand what these workers are going through? We might bemoan the extension of the circuit breaker till June 1, but at least we can do it from the relative safety and comfort of our own homes. Many of these workers are here to provide for their families back in their home countries. The speed at which the coronavirus has spread through the dormitories is staggering and many of them may be fearful and unsure of what is going to happen to them now.
Which is why many frontliners helping these workers have been reaching out. In a Facebook video post from SengKang General Hospital, one of the doctors from the team providing medical care at the dormitories was seen addressing the foreign workers in a heartfelt address over a megaphone.
Speaking in Bengali, the doctor, Dr Muntasir, spoke about the seriousness of the situation, and explained that the coronavirus that has been spreading massively across the world had unfortunately come to their dormitories.
Dr Muntasir went on to reassure the foreign workers that he and his medical team will be there for them to take care of their health and that there was nothing for them to be afraid of.
“If you feel unwell, please inform the doctors at the command centre. Do not be afraid and hide things as we are here to help you.”
The earnestness of the message tugged the heartstrings of many netizens.
“I can only imagine how afraid and worried they are – they are here to make a living yet have to go through this difficult period without their loved ones around them,” wrote netizen Cheryl Adela.
Another netizen, Elias Sandy, wrote: “Timely assurance to these workers, am sure a lot are not aware of what is happening in detail. Kudos to these doctors who go to the extent (of reassuring) them.”
Recognising their efforts and being thankful
In the Sengkang General Hospital post, the translated transcript of what Dr Muntasir said to the foreign workers is just as much a reminder to all Singaporeans to be grateful for their service as it is a reassurance to the workers that they are not alone.
“You have done your part for Singapore, you have built the buildings we live in, you have built the roads we travel upon, your contribution to Singapore is enormous. You are one of us and we will take care of you. Be strong, be confident, drive away your fears. We are here for you.”
Even in today’s dark clouds, there is still a silver lining when we can remember all those who contribute to Singapore’s success and instil a sense of gratitude in the next generation.
Wrote netizen Yvonne Tan: “Excellent display of care and love for our FWs who are far away from their families. Thank you for sharing, which we can in turn share and use this as a learning point with our children.”
It has been a tough time for foreign construction workers in Singapore, with the majority of the Covid-19 clusters found in dormitories housing them. As the Government rushes to build new accommodations to house them, there have been reports of some temporary measures not being up to par. Nevertheless, there are several ground-up movements that have sprung up to help tide these workers over during this time.
Boosting the morale of foreign workers
Youth activist Cai Yinzhou, who has been championing the welfare of migrant workers, brought to attention about the importance of boosting their morale when many are stuck in their dormitories and unable to engage in day-to-day activities during this period.
Majulah Belanja is an initiative which focuses on “providing reinforcements” to help employers and dorm operators support and encourage their workers through the Covid-19 situation. The initiative is open to all and donors can decide on three items to help boost the morale of foreign workers and Majulah Belanja will help to match it to these workers’ wishes.
This initiative is part of the Covid-19 Migrant Support Coalition (CMSC) formed by Citizen Adventures, Itsrainingraincoats, Migrant x Me and Singapore Migrant Friends to raise funds for our migrant friends who are affected by the circuit breaker measures. CMSC focuses on three areas: Addressing immediate needs like food and basic necessities; promoting meaningful occupational engagement for health & well-being; and consolidating resources for an online support hub.
Debunking misconceptions about foreign workers
Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Anthea Ong has also launched a new campaign Welcome In My Backyard (WIMBY) to welcome migrant workers into our community. The campaign encourages the public to post personalised welcome notes to our foreign workers on wimby.sg.
When the circuit breaker is lifted, the campaign plans to address residents’ concerns and debunk misconceptions about migrant workers through community engagement sessions.
Said Ong in an interview with Mothership: “This campaign hopes to get Singaporeans to practise becoming a better version of ourselves by appreciating the essential role that migrant workers play in our lives and welcoming them into our common living spaces. And kick the old habit of NIMBY (‘not in my backyard), hence WIMBY (‘welcome in my backyard’). So, let’s practise WIMBY!”