A labour of love for our silent workforce
They live, work and play among Singaporeans — more than one million low-wage migrant workers from countries including Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines.
They have left their families and friends to earn a living here, contributing to the growth of the Southeast Asian city state — helping to construct our buildings, working in industries that keep our economy running, cleaning our streets and looking after our loved ones.
But for some, working abroad has come at a cost of being exposed to discrimination, abuse and exploitation.
As Singapore celebrates National Day on 9 August, we spotlight five organisations working selflessly to improve the lives of migrant workers.
Advocating for fairer employment policies and to eliminate workplace abuse remains as important as ever. But in the meantime, be it offering free haircuts and legal advice, affordable medical and dental treatments, or organising fiestas and cultural activities, these Singaporeans are reaching out to befriend and support workers who have fallen through the cracks.
Celebrate their efforts, and find out how you can bring a smile to migrant workers too.
Organisations, such as Backalley Barbers, Dibashram, HealthServe, HOME and Project Chulia Street, depend on volunteers to ensure their services and programmes run smoothly.
You too can enrich the lives of migrant workers living and working in your community. Sign up as a volunteer today.
LET’S TALK ABOUT IT:
How else can the lives of migrant workers be improved in your country? Share your thoughts here.
ABOUT BACKALLEY BARBERS
Backalley Barbers is a ground-up project by Geylang Adventures, a business for social impact in Singapore. Started in 2014, volunteers learn skills from professionals, and give free haircuts to migrant workers, the elderly at nursing homes and the poor living in rental flat communities. To date, they have shaped more than 2,200 heads of hair.
Dibashram is a cultural space for migrant workers set up by newspaper editor AKM Mohsin, who saw a need for workers to express themselves through art forms like poetry, plays and music. Poets who use his space have gone on to participate in events like the Migrant Worker Poetry Competition, and Mohsin has also published books of poems by the workers, giving voice to their trials and tribulations.
HealthServe provides affordable medical and dental care to migrant workers who have nowhere else to turn to. Through a network of volunteers that include medical professionals and case workers of all backgrounds, it served over 11,000 patients in 2018 alone. It also provides social support to migrant workers in need, and is launching a mental health programme to help workers cope with issues like post-traumatic stress and anxiety.
ABOUT HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION ECONOMICS
More commonly referred to as HOME, this non-governmental organisation was set up in 2004 to assist migrant workers and to advocate for their rights in Singapore. Typical problems include wage disputes, workplace injuries, poor living conditions, and physical, verbal and psychological abuse. HOME works closely with government agencies, civic groups, corporations and other regional partners to provide its services more effectively and to reach out to more people in need. HOME also runs a shelter for domestic workers and an academy, where workers can pick up vocational skills, such as baking, sewing and financial management.
ABOUT PROJECT CHULIA STREET
Project Chulia Street is a non-profit group that aims to improve the well-being of migrant workers in Singapore. It organises social activities, called Fiestas, at workers’ dormitories, during which volunteers interact with dormitory residents, while giving out bags of food and other necessities. During these events, the organisation also arranges free health checkups.