Aim to have 5,000 volunteers by 2020

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MWC honours migrant worker ambassadors who helped peers

In August, construction worker Govindasami Venkatesan found out that his dormitory roommate's employer owed him $9,800, or three months' salary, including overtime.

The roommate, whom he knew as Kumar, was the sole breadwinner in his family and was worried about how he was going to take care of his parents in Tamil Nadu, in India, without the money.

"But he was afraid to go to the authorities because he feared that he could get repatriated," said Mr Govindasami, 25, who is also from Tamil Nadu and has been working here for five years.

But with three years of experience as a volunteer ambassador with migrant worker welfare group Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) under his belt, Mr Govindasami assured his roommate that would not be the case.

He referred the case to MWC, and the company paid the full amount to his roommate last month.

Last night, Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan handed out awards to Mr Govindasami and 19 other volunteers for their work in reaching out to their peers to help address issues such as salary disputes or unpaid medical claims.

They are among 1,500 ambassadors who are now part of a volunteer scheme set up by the MWC in 2013, where they help bring problems their peers may be facing to the attention of the MWC.

The MWC - which is backed by the Ministry of Manpower, the National Trades Union Congress and employers - hopes to raise this number to 5,000 by 2020, its chairman Yeo Guat Kwang has announced.

At the appreciation dinner for 1,000 workers last night, held to mark International Migrants Day on Dec 18, Mr Yeo said such a network of ambassadors can help the MWC go the "extra mile to reach out to foreign workers to make them feel assured that they can get help and put down their psychological barriers (about going to the authorities)".

There are now more than 700,000 non-domestic foreign workers here.

Separately, non-profit organisation Transient Workers Count Too treated 250 migrant workers to lunch and a screening of Thor: Ragnarok at independent cinema The Projector last night.