Written by GLIDE Project TQ – Tay Eng Kiat (19-E2), Ernest Tan Wei Leong (19-E6), James Ong (19-A5), Dillon Phang (19-I4), David Tan (19-I3)
Have you ever wondered who made this beautiful campus possible? The Values-In-Action Committee of Project TQ – consisting of 5 J2 students from the Growing Leaders with Initiative, Dedication and Empathy (GLIDE) Programme was wondering about this exact question. They decided to embark on a social advocacy and social change project to assist low-wage migrant workers working on the Bishan Campus.
Artist impression of the Eunoia Junior College Bishan Campus.
We wanted to show our gratitude to the migrant workers on behalf of the staff and students of the College, who now enjoy state-of-the-art facilities in Singapore’s first high-rise junior college. We were also concerned about nutritional deficiencies of low-wage migrant workers – an issue that is well-documented. This may be because many of these migrant workers scrimp and save to provide for their families who rely on remittance. We first sought permission and approval from the migrant worker representatives and the main contractor to ensure that our proposed food distribution was relevant to the community needs. We then sourced the food from a bakery in the Bishan area, who very generously donated items including bread and pastries.
Project TQ volunteers and the migrant workers working on the Eunoia Junior College Bishan Campus.
Beyond satisfying the nutritional needs, we also engaged in increasing awareness of low-wage migrant workers through our Instagram posts and college-wide emails. This was especially relevant in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic where a small subset of Singaporeans bore resentment and misunderstanding of migrant workers’ habits.
Interview with Project Team Members
- How did you conceptualise this project?
Tay Eng Kiat (co-Chairperson): We were astounded by how beautiful our Bishan campus was, and we immediately thought about the migrant workers who work silently behind the scenes. We wanted to express our heartfelt gratitude to them on behalf of all staff and students. We also found out some of them were still working on certain parts of the campus early this year. Hence, we felt that our batch in particular was well-positioned to assist the migrant workers.
- What are some takeaways from this project?
James Ong (Head of Programmes and Publicity): One valuable takeaway for us was that we were able to closely interact with the migrant workers. We realised that we knew little about their daily lives and the issues they face as foreigners working in Singapore. Many of the workers here are working in Singapore because they are unable to find a job in their country that can provide for their families, and they have no choice but to come to Singapore. Homesickness and disconnect from society are common issues faced by the workers.
David Tan (Head of Administration): Another precious takeaway is that making a difference is not always about having a large scale impact. Prior to this project, I had my doubts as to whether mere students like us would make a tangible difference as compared to large-scale organisations. But after the weekly bread distributions and interactions with the migrant workers, I realized that we should do whatever we can to start making a difference, because this will be the start of real, significant change. Have confidence that each of us can make a change and remember that everyday.
- What were some challenges you faced during the planning and/ or implementation phase?
Dillon Phang (Head of Logistics): Due to the enhanced measures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had no choice but to cancel our food distribution. We took the opportunity to step up our advocacy efforts through our Instagram posts (@ejc.tm) and the college-wide emails – something we found especially pertinent during this period when migrant workers may be easily misunderstood.
- How do you intend to ensure the sustainability of Project TQ?
Ernest Tan (co-Chairperson): Now that food distribution is suspended due to the enhanced measures, we intend to continue to increase awareness of the community needs through advocacy initiatives such as this article I am being interviewed for! We intend to mentor future batches of GLIDE students and share our insights, especially regarding liaison, with them. We hope to share our contacts with our juniors so they can utilise food distribution for perhaps a separate target group, such as the Executive and Administrative Staff of the College – who also work tirelessly behind the scenes. Any interested juniors should feel free to contact us through email or in person!
What You Can Do To Help
- Be A Role Model
Be conscious of any implicit biases you may have of migrant workers. Stop yourself from perpetuating stereotypes about them in your day-to-day interactions (whether through your Zoom Calls or commenting on posts). This will prevent the disruption of harmony in Singapore.
- Make A Difference
While we should avoid leaving our homes now, we can make a difference by joining activities of advocacy/ volunteer organisations when it becomes socially responsible to do so. Here are some examples of these organisations:
Alternatively, you can also take reference from the following initiatives – or simply appreciate these Good Samaritans who have been toiling hard behind the scenes (compilation courtesy of Jasmine Teo, 8 Days Magazine) (Teo, 2020).
TWC2’s fundraising initiative helps relieve the economic burden of migrant workers who utilise pre-paid cards to communicate with their families back home.
Join CYC’s mask challenge if you can sew 300 masks in 10 days. It aims to provide 300,000 masks to the migrant workers.
The COVID Migrant Support Coalition aims to provide food and basic necessities in welfare packs to migrant workers in dormitories across Singapore.
Teo, J. (2020). How You Can Help Migrant Workers In Singapore During The Covid-19 Crisis. Retrieved 23 April 2020, from https://www.8days.sg/seeanddo/thingstodo/how-you-can-help-migrant-workers-in-singapore-during-the-covid-12670572