by The Pride on

In celebration of Kindness Day SG on 20 May 2016, The Pride takes a look at the groups that have made a positive difference in the community.

This week, we feature the perspectives of Kari Tamura Chua, co-founder of SAMASAMA.

With the rise of workplace deaths at construction sites and the rising incidents of the foreign worker arrests, we felt it was time to do something that made a difference. We formed SAMASAMA (meaning ‘together’ in Malay) back in December 2015, essentially a group of like-minded individuals setting out to change perceptions about migrant workers in Singapore. The problem was, we barely knew anything about migrant workers, except that there was a glaring social stigma caused by ignorance.

We were tired of them being portrayed as a type of obligation, a cost and at best, a case for charity. Hence, we set about to redefine the image of the migrant worker, to show them as who we think they really are – a capable, creative and inspirational people.

We wanted to combine the power of art, communities and dialogue to share the successful stories that focused on their potential and their aspirations, to show that they are not a Profit & Loss Statement, but people who make a positive impact to the economic and social landscape of Singapore as well as their native country. A pattern that we saw among the workers, perhaps due to their circumstances, is that they have dreams and achievements that are largely humanitarian. The problem then, was really how Singapore perceived them, and that was something we felt we could effect a change.

The Awareness Event:

We created an awareness event together with the NGO HealthServe, also called SAMASAMA. It was an art and story showcase put together by us and the migrant workers, held at the Mandai Westlite dormitory. We also provided guided tours about the work to facilitate conversations and sharing among the group of visitors.

However, we were doubtful that people would come. After all, we were not experts, a known community group, or influencers in our respective communities. But they came in overwhelming numbers, even when it rained. Some 500 people, both locals and migrant workers, came to lend encouragement, hope and support, and to share their voice, openness and belief.

We laughed, we cried, we danced, we mingled, we were inspired, but most importantly we shared. What made this a success, were all the conversations that followed this journey.

You can watch a short clip of the event below.

Where some people thought that SAMASAMA would be a sad showcase focusing on migrant issues, they came to see things differently. Instead, we showed them migrant heroes’ successful case studies, which then sparked much needed conversations about the landscape of the migrant worker communities, issues they faced, the NGOs and how people could help.

Our guests were of a diverse profile, they included schools, doctors, lawyers, sociologists, community groups, donors and so on. The advice and support we and Healthserve received, such as how to scale up the stories by the migrant workers, were very helpful and encouraging.

The experience changed our lives and perception of the world around us as we moved to look deeper into the migrant worker’s life. For every person who told us that there was nothing we could do to help, there were 10 more who taught us how to contribute.

migrant worker, help, change, hope, singapore, kindness, pride, singapore kindness movement, skm
Ms Kari Tamura Chua with Mr Habibullah Opu, a 20-year old Bangladeshi national who pursues photography outside of his day job as a gardener in Singapore. Image Source: SAMASAMA

HealthServe were the first believers, and since then, there were many more who reached out and provided the support and advice we needed – Geylang Adventures, NUS Enterprise, Our Better World, journalists, SDI Academy, TWC2, just to name a few. They took the time to teach us, and pointed us in the right direction, because they believed in us.

The friendships made with migrant workers, volunteers and the community was a vibrancy that fostered the success of SAMA SAMA so far.

Kari Tamura Chua is the co-founder of SAMASAMA, a group that sees the potential in Singapore’s migrant workers and believes they play a valuable role in our society.

Get involved:

SAMASAMA welcomes anyone with fresh ideas to connect with them via [email protected]

HealthServe Ltd runs welfare programmes for migrant workers and cares for those who are injured or seeking refuge. They welcome volunteers who want to impart new types of knowledge to migrant workers, while donations received will support these migrant workers and programmes. To donate or volunteer, visit their website.