Not all superheroes wear iron suits, or are equipped with Vibranium shields.
Sometimes, they look just like you and me, and their superpower is to help the underprivileged, or simply to help keep Singapore clean and green.
These are the people behind Ground-Up Movements (GUMs) which aim to make Singapore a better place. In celebration of the seventh annual Kindness Day SG tomorrow (May 24), The Pride is shining the spotlight on a few of them.
Migrant x Me
Singapore is home to over 700,000 migrant workers.
And many of them face struggles and prejudices on a daily basis from employers who don’t pay them on time, and those who fail to provide them proper nutrition.
Thankfully, local ground-up movement Migrant x Me is dealing with these issues head-on.
Started in 2018 by Isabel Phua, Migrant x Me aims to educate the public and raise awareness of the challenges that migrant workers in Singapore face.
Speaking to The Pride, the 25-year-old said: “Through our programmes, we also hope to bridge the local community with the migrant worker community. We provide a platform for volunteers to give back to the community through our partner NGOs.”
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She admitted that growing up, she was always wary of migrant workers As such, she would never go out of her way to interact with them.
However, that all changed during a Christian conference she attended in 2014. “The conference had a workshop that focused on migrant workers, and the speaker ended his talk with a challenge for the participants to stand up for social justice. That started my journey of befriending the workers with a few friends,” she said.
In 2013, Phua left Singapore for a five-month internship with a resort on an island in Africa.
It was her first time leaving home for such a long period of time. She recalled missing home, working 12 hours or more a day, only having a day off every 10 days, being a minority in Africa and being made fun of for her race.
Phua felt miserable, but understood that how she felt was just a fraction of what migrant workers go through daily. So, when she got back home, she began speaking up for Singapore’s underprivileged migrant workers.
“I founded Migrant x Me in 2018 when I realised then that there was little public awareness about the migrant worker community,” she said.
Today, the group focuses mainly on helping workers deal with salary disputes. They also help them during the “limbo” period that they go through – when they are not allowed to work due to their work permits being cancelled.
And although Phua has already done plenty for Singapore’s migrant worker community, she takes things one day at a time, and hopes to help them even more in the future.
She shared: “We are currently working hard to change the mindset of Singaporeans aged 13 to 35, by conducting experiential and educational learning journeys with them. We want to influence the next generation, who we believe can be catalysts for positive change.”
Friends of ASD Families
Simple acts of courtesy and kindness can improve the lives of others.
That’s something homemaker and mother of three, 45-year-old Sun Meilan, knows very well.
Sun is a full time-caregiver to her youngest son, who is on the autism spectrum. She knows first-hand that parents who raise children with autism face countless setbacks every step of the way.
But often, when times are tough, the simplest acts of kindness are what pushes her to keep going.
“Once, we were cycling at a park near our house when my son had a sudden meltdown after visiting the toilet. He pushed our tandem bike and it fell. I was unable to hold my bike upright, while also holding onto my son. Plus, a thunderstorm was approaching and no shelter was in sight,” Sun recalled.
“Thankfully, during our struggle, a young man cycled past. He saw that we were struggling and came over to help keep the bike steady. Then, I was able to place my son back on his seat at the back of my bike, belt him up, and cycle home before the storm arrived.”
The stranger’s kind deed prompted her to start the Friends of ASD Families’ Facebook page in 2016. Her intention was simple: to use it as a platform to give thanks to those who have shown kindness to families with children on the autism spectrum. “I hope to promote the practice of noticing big and small acts of kindness,” she said.
Today, the group also undertakes events such as the Autism Appreciation Project, to thank those who have supported families with children on the autism spectrum.
Overall, Sun added, Friends of ASD Families honours everyday heroes and celebrates kindness. “Expressing gratitude is a way for families dealing with autism to build a more positive mindset, and to feel some love from the rest of the community.”
The Singapore Glove Project
This ground-up movement is one that has its eyes on the ground, literally. Extolling the importance of a clean and green Singapore, it takes a proactive step in keeping our city-state litter-free.
Every fortnight, The Singapore Glove Project (SGP) organises a fun, mass litter-picking exercise somewhere in Singapore. While walking, jogging or running, volunteers pick up litter and make new friends along the way, as they take in the beauty of Singapore.
Speaking to The Pride, co-founder of SGP, Tan Ken Jin, said: “By encouraging individuals to pick up litter as they go about their daily routines, we promote a lifestyle of getting healthy and making friends, while cleaning up Singapore.”
“The SGP started in Sep 2012. Back then, I was training for a marathon, and had to wake up early to avoid the heat. That meant hitting the roads before our environmental officers had a chance to clean up the litter from the night before.” the 40-year-old civil servant shared.
The route he chose was around Marina Bay and it pained him to see that all the filth might end up in the bay.
“I got frustrated and wondered why we weren’t doing anything about it. After a while, I realised that I myself could do something, so I started picking up litter.”
Thereafter, he reached out to friends to join him.
Although the initiative started out with just a handful of marathoners picking up litter, over time, they began accommodating more people and introducing brisk walks, so others who could not run can still join in.
Today, their Facebook group has grown to over 700 members, and Tan draws inspiration from the community he works with – many of whom have gone above and beyond in keeping Singapore green.
Speaking to The Pride, he shared some of his favourite instances working with such eco-conscious folks: “One attendee, Sebastian, is an artist who is on the autism spectrum. He avidly picks up litter wherever he goes, and once, even tried to clear an entire mattress!
“The late journalist and author, Ms Lily Teo, participated in a litter-picking activity with some of our volunteers and wrote an inspiring essay that helped to canvass more support,” he said.
“Then, there are the members who bravely picked litter along Orchard Road on a weekend afternoon in full view of other people. I say brave, because a lot of people actually don’t want to be seen picking litter, for whatever reason.
“My message to everyone is that, if you are doing something wrong, then yes, you probably don’t want to be seen. But if you are doing something good, then all the more you want to be seen by other people, so that they know there’s absolutely nothing wrong in picking up litter, and to be seen doing so.”
Tan believes being green should be second nature, and SGP is reshaping the narrative surrounding picking litter by promoting how quick and easy it is.
“It’s as simple as picking one piece of litter every day,” he noted.
And for those who may be worried about getting their hands dirty, Tan said: “You can rest assured that there are actually many washbasins around in Singapore. There are also many bins in Singapore, so you won’t have to hold onto a piece of trash for too long.”
Those who decide to join SGP on their litter-picking exercises also have something else to look forward to: In true Singaporean fashion, every one of their events ends with a hearty meal!