NGOs helping migrant workers amid rising clusters
As the number of Covid-19-infected dormitory clusters in Singapore rise and unfavourable living conditions of migrant workers come under the spotlight, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and Singaporeans are banding together to render assistance to this vulnerable group.
Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) started a donation drive on online donation platform giving.sg on April 5 to raise funds for the online topping up of prepaid SIM cards for migrant workers who have reached out for assistance.
They are from two of four dormitories gazetted as isolation areas - Westlite Toh Guan Dormitory and S11 Dormitory@Punggol - as well as Blue Stars Dormitory, Woodlands Dormitory and Kranji Lodge, which has six confirmed cases.
The initial goal of $20,000 was reached within a day of the campaign and the figure has since been raised twice, to $120,000. As of yesterday, over $100,000 has been raised.
Each regular work permit holder will be given $10, while special pass holders receive $20.
TWC2 will start topping up as soon as possible and will continue this campaign for the long term, said its general manager Ethan Guo.
He told The New Paper: “The worker approaches us, we verify that he’s from a dormitory that’s locked down, and we take down his name, telephone number and telco.”
He added: “Some workers have zero balance and can’t even make calls home to their family. This poses a problem particularly to those on a special pass with salary or work injury problems, who have lost their jobs, have no income, and have to remain in Singapore until their issues are resolved.”
As part of efforts by the Covid Migrant Support Coalition, four NGOs - Migrant x Me, Itsrainingraincoats, Citizen Adventures and Singapore Migrant Friends - have teamed up to gather volunteers to deliver food daily to migrant workers.
Over 100 volunteers have responded to the call issued on April 6.
Over two days, on April 7 and 8, 430 lunch and dinner meals worth $1,452 in total were delivered by 17 volunteers to workers living in dormitories, with requests increasing by four times on the second day as many workers reported that they have no access to food.
Director of Citizen Adventures Cai Yinzhou told TNP: “We raised funds speedily to cope with the increased demands. The workers tell us their addresses and the number of workers in the dormitories before we arrange for the deliveries to be made. We ask the worker for a landmark that our volunteers can drop the food off at.”
The coalition also has plans to develop mental health resources to disseminate to dormitories and migrant worker communities by April 10 as well as an online learning hub for quarantined workers to gain new skills, which it aims to launch next week.
On April 1, Itsrainingraincoats announced its MAD WISH Programme to help migrant workers learn English while staying in via a45-minute video or voice call lesson twice a week.
The online classes began last week, with 100 migrant workers and close to 300 volunteer tutors signing up through WhatsApp channels and the organisation’s Facebook page.
Said Itsrainingraincoats founder Dipa Swaminathan: “Knowing English is essential for (the workers’) improvement and safety. This is someting we can roll out quite easily and free of cost.”
Project Chulia Street, an initiative to look after migrant workers, has called for donations on its Facebook page to fund $358,000 for Coronavirus Prevention Care Packets (CPCP) to be given to 43,000 migrant workers by the end of May.
It aims to deploy 38,000 CPCPs to its partnered dormitories under Westlite Accommodation and North Coast Lodge, as well as 5,000 CPCPs for migrant workers living in HDB estates.
The first batch of 4,100 CPCPs to Westlite Woodlands is slated for April 18.
Each CPCP will be delivered directly to the dorms by suppliers and will contain essentials as well as prepaid phone cards sponsored by Singtel, which come with 30 days of renewable Covid-19 insurance.
Project Chulia Street’s managing director Lee Shaun Tzen said: “We need to help improve the lives of migrant workers to the best of our ability and stop blaming. As much as we depend on them, they depend on us as well.”
The Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) will also be working with the Dormitory Association of Singapore Limited (DASL) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to distribute reusable masks to 350,000 migrant workers who live in dormitories.
In a Facebook post on April 8, MWC said: “The first batch of 120,000 reusable masks have been fully distributed and together with our partners DASL and MOM, we will expedite the distribution to the remaining migrant workers as soon as possible.”