Migrant workers paint murals, participate in yoga as part of National Day celebrations

SINGAPORE – More than 1,250 migrant workers spent their rest day on Sunday (Aug 29) stretching their arms to spray paint murals and participate in activities like yoga, as part of National Day celebrations.

Kranji recreation centre and Choa Chu Kang Dormitory B were transformed, with a carnival-like atmosphere for the activities, which were organised by several volunteer migrant welfare groups and non-profit organisations.

At the recreation centre, more than 250 guests from over five surrounding dormitories were able to participate in games, photo booths and request Tamil and Bengali songs from a music booth, among other activities.

Recreation centres are typically visited by workers on their days off to buy necessities, remit money or get a haircut.

“The significance of this event is to send the message of solidarity, to tell the migrant workers that we, the public, remember them, we care for them and will engage them,” said Mr Abhishek Bajaj, 29, co-founder of Homeforall Migrants.

The non-profit coalition co-organised the event alongside several stakeholders, namely JTC, the Ministry of Manpower, Welcome In My Backyard (Wimby), Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre, Sama Sama, 24asia and A Good Space.

Mr Bajaj added: “The event celebrates Singapore’s 56th National Day and recognises the unique contribution our workers make to not just our infrastructure but also our social fabric…it also attempts to bring some vibrancy in their routines in a safe way.

“Our hope is that this will encourage more public groups to organise events for migrant workers and engage them.”

The events also sought to engage migrant workers whose movements have been severely restricted in the past 16 months since the start of the pandemic.

Ms Kari Tamura Chua, co-founder of non-profit organisation Sama Sama, noted: “Beyond their physiological needs, migrant workers’ mental health and well-being have remained a primary concern, having been confined for up to 16 months.

“Although migrant workers feel more ‘accepted’ than before, they still feel isolated from society due to physical and social distances in communities. The need for social relationships, support systems and safe spaces are key elements of contributing to a healthy psychological state.”

Additionally, she noted that while workers are allowed to leave their dormitories to go to approved facilities, such as assigned recreational centres, the atmosphere of social gatherings and celebrations have not been the same as pre-Covid-19 times, where there used to be festivals, performances and large sports games, which they enjoyed with their friends.

Sama Sama is also a co-organiser of the celebrations at Choa Chu Kang Dormitory B, along with Covid-19 Migrant Support Coalition and Singapore Land Group.

Over a thousand dormitory residents from the dormitory gathered for a night market called “Majulah Malam”, complete with local foods, games and music, which organisers hoped would “bring back the festive atmosphere they used to enjoy before the pandemic”.

Earlier on Sunday, the dormitory was also the site for the launch of the Making Waves campaign, a mural art campaign dedicated to the migrant worker community here. Migrant workers spray painted a section of the wall together with Mr Don Wee, an MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC and chief of Assurance, Care and Engagement (Ace) Group under the Ministry Of Manpower, after sharing a meal.

The Dormitory Association of Singaporeand Tee Up Dormitory organised the launch alongside Sama Sama, to beautify the walls of these Quick Build Dormitories, some of which have had to be built within 6m-high walls due to concerns expressed by sections of the public.

“We’re trying to create waves across Singapore, to different neighbourhoods, to bring what’s been put out of sight out of mind, back into our view and into our conversations. Hopefully, with this we’re able to take steps to tear down these physical and metaphorical walls,” said Sama Sama’s Ms Chua.

As of now, there are plans to bring the campaign to Kranji recreation centre and a dormitory in Admiralty in the future.

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