Singaporeans have NDP party to thank domestic workers
Air Amber organises National Day party for foreign domestic workers
He finally had a free weekend after spending countless Saturdays rehearsing for the National Day Parade (NDP).
But instead of resting on Saturday, Mr Chauncey Mirchandani, 23, spent his day with foreign domestic workers at a National Day party organised by social enterprise Air Amber.
To the full-time national serviceman, it was time well spent if he could help migrant workers feel more welcome in Singapore.
But some of his friends thought he was out of his mind.
Mr Chauncey told The New Paper with a laugh: "Some of my friends say 'Eh, you're crazy. Why do you do that when you've only got such a short period of (free) time?'
"I tell them it's about what you want to do, and what you value. And to me, I value relationships...
"It's about building that relationship (with migrant workers) in the face of xenophobia, which is a big thing in Singapore."
Mr Chauncey was one of the youth volunteers at the party, which was attended by about 30 domestic workers. The party was held at a two-storey semi-detached house in Jalan Bumbong, where Air Amber co-founder Suraj Upadhiah and his father live.
It is a variation of Bumbong Sunsets, a weekly gathering where migrant workers and youth volunteers come together over food and games.
Tucked in a corner of the porch was a table piled with local snacks like murukku and iced gem biscuits that were almost all gone by the end of the party.
Dressed in red or white, volunteers and migrant workers - mostly from the shelter at Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics - warmed up with some interactive activities, before moving on to a singalong of familiar NDP songs like We Will Get There and Home.
Although none of the domestic workers knew the lyrics, they naturally linked arms with the volunteers and swayed to the music, or clapped to the beat. That is exactly what Air Amber hopes to do - help migrant workers assimilate into society.
Mr Suraj, 28, said: "It's about opening up our doors to migrant workers.
"In normal circumstances, we're always going to their dorms, their shelters. But it's not very often we open our own safe spaces to them...
"We wanted them to experience that it's not always us going to them, which may seem voyeuristic, but for them to come here to our safe space where we relax, and treat this place as their own."
That has worked, at least for Sally (not her real name), an Indonesian who came here five months ago.
Sally, who is in her 30s, told TNP in simple English that she enjoyed the party because she could meet different people and learn about their cultures.
Despite a bad experience with her former employer, the volunteers' warmth made her feel at home, she said with a smile.
The party ended with everyone writing their wish for Singapore on a red slip of paper, folding it into a the shape of a heart and hanging it on golden twigs spray-painted with gold glitter.