Coronavirus: Local firms step up to help foreign workers amid pandemic

SINGAPORE – Sales at Liang Food Caterer have plunged by around 80 per cent in recent weeks but general manager Foo Zhi Yang is still lending a hand to the community by dishing up meals for migrant workers.

The firm prepares lunch and dinner – rice with vegetables and other ingredients – and delivers them to workers every day.

Mr Foo said: “It is about helping others who are in a greater need. It is better to give than to receive.”

He is doing this under the umbrella of Project Belanja, an initiative run by the Blossom World Society charity and the Restaurant Association of Singapore. The project provides meals for foreign workers, who now make up the vast majority of new cases of Covid-19 here.

Workers who need meals get in touch with social enterprise Itsrainingraincoats, which collates and sends requests to the Restaurant Association of Singapore. The association approaches its members – which include restaurants and caterers – who cook, pack and deliver the food.

Project Belanja has raised more than $597,600 from private donors and the general public on Giving.sg, which will go towards this cause.

All work permit and S Pass holders in the construction industry are on 14-day stay-home notices to prevent infections at work sites.

“Everyone is going through a tough period now, especially so for the migrant workers who have been deeply affected by the clusters,” Mr Foo, 28, added.

Liang Food Caterer is just one of several businesses chipping in to help foreign workers even though they have suffered from the impact of the pandemic themselves.

Another initiative aims to provide 870,000 migrant workers and domestic helpers with a surgical mask and two reusable fabric masks each.

MaskForce, as it is called, comes in the wake of new rules that make it mandatory for people to wear masks when not at home.

The initiative is led by Ms Sim Ann, the Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and supported by charities, private donors and firms such as Jean Yip Group and Far East Organisation.

The public can contribute at this website.

Beauty company Jean Yip Group, which closed all of its 70 outlets islandwide when tighter social distancing measures came into forcethis month,has donated money to the initiative.

Founder Ms Yip said the firm wants to help improve the safety of Singapore’s “unsung heroes who helped shape our skyline, landscape, and infrastructure”.

“We also hope (we) can get back to work as soon as possible, so long as everyone puts in the effort,” she added.

The donors hope the living conditions of migrant workers in dormitories will improve.

Mrs Dorothy Chan, executive director of Far East Organisation, which also donated to the cause, said: “The dormitory operators need to be given specific (details) of what they need to do. When there is an epidemic, it might be too late to space people apart.”

“I think there will be more awareness after this episode,” said Dr Enki Tan, executive director of Nuri Holdings, which is contributing cash and masks.

He added that it is also important to keep doing more to support frontline healthcare workers and others in the wider community such as small businesses. “Many people are suffering, and we should not forget about them. Every month is very painful.”

Bengawan Solo’s founder Anastasia Liew has donated money to the MaskForce initiative, and the company also gave some of its food products to migrant workers last Wednesday (April 22).

“I would like to thank all of them for their hard work, and all they have done for us, and this is a small way that I can contribute and give back to our community,” said Mrs Liew.

Other initiatives also aim to support migrant workers.

The Projector, the island’s only commercial arthouse cinema, is making Lei Yuan Bin’s 2019 documentary I Dream Of Singapore available online until Sunday (April 26) with 60 per cent of the proceeds from renting the film going to Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2).


The Projector is making Lei Yuan Bin’s 2019 documentary I Dream Of Singapore available online until April 26, 2020. PHOTO: TIGER TIGER PICTURES

The rest after Vimeo/PayPal costs will help support the cinema, which has been closed due to social distancing measures.

People can stream the video at this website.

The initiative – a joint effort with Tiger Tiger Pictures – is timely given the spotlight on the cramped conditions of migrant worker dormitories, said the cinema general manager Prashant Somosundram.

He notes that while fundraisers had been held previously in physical theatres, going online gives it “unprecedented access to a community who may not have come to the cinema at Golden Mile Tower for various reasons”.

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