S: Bridging Hidden Voices by GESL Group 4
FC: Bridging Hidden Voices Capturing. Illuminating. Integrating.
1: Who are the people who keep our city clean & green? Who are the people who build homes & offices for us? Who are the people who keep our houses clean? It is easy to recognise them.
3: Heroes in their own rights - warriors who have braved tremendous odds & sacrifices, in pursuit of optimistic hopes & dreams for themselves & the people they love. Journey with us, a group of 19 student teachers from the National Institute of Education (NIE), as part of a Group Endeavours in Service Learning (GESL) Project, as we feature this group of courageous people - The Migrant Workers. Let us capture & illuminate their unsung stories. Integrate their voices with ours today.
6: MWC Celebrated International Migrants Day on the 19th Dec 2010 with approx 12,000 Migrant Workers.
9: Migrant talents were showcased at the Float@Marina Bay that day.
10: Their dreams ... | "I hope to start a family when I go back home. I also wish for my two sisters to finish secondary school & work their way to getting a diploma to secure better jobs.” Khhin Soe Win, 24, Myanmar | “We dream to establish a business together in Jiang Su, China, one day.” Mr & Mrs Yang, China | “My dream is to set up an internet cafe back home And to get married!” Nur Abidah Basri, 32, Indonesia
11: "I hope for my mother who has got heart problems to recover. I also hope to find work when I go home after being caught & cheated in illegal employment in Singapore.” Indika, 33, Sri Lanka | “I dream of setting up a tour guide company that will give me the opportunity to upgrade Vietnamese’s standard of English here in Singapore.” Loan, 24, Vietnamese | “I have a noble dream to be a social worker so I can help disabled & poor children in hopes to see all mothers & children happy.” Taposh Kumar, 33, Bangladesh
13: Their dreams soar high, just like yours and mine.
14: Why Singapore? | "I face no major problems here and am happy with my working life.” | Flordelina, from Philippines
15: “Singapore is a safe & peaceful country offering good jobs I am attracted to this tiny red dot nation.” | “Things in Singapore have been smooth-sailing so far & I have no problems settling in.” | Mr Hafizur, 28, from Bangladesh | Siti, 25 from Indonesia
16: Singapore is a beautiful & clean country. I hope to learn and experience Singapore’s culture to widen my horizon.” | “Singapore has introduced me to durians & mangoes which I have grown to like very much.” | Loan, 24 from Vietnam | Md. Abu Bakar, 30, Bangladesh
17: “Singapore has given me opportunities to hone my interest in dancing, together with my friends.” | “I am satisfied with the living conditions here as I am able to attain what I need. I am happy with the way Singaporeans treat me though I find it hard to talk to some. I made a lot of friends and am coping well here.” | “Singapore’s law enforcement is good – my wage problems were solved by Mr Bernard, Manager of Migrant Workers Centre.” | Gemma, 41, Philippines | Mr Shoriful, Bangladesh | Gloria, 33 from Philippines
18: Their Challenges
19: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” ~Ambrose Redmoon
20: Obstacle 1: | If only they could understand
21: and be understood.
22: Loan, 24, Vietnam | had language problems when she first arrived in Singapore 3 & a half years ago. Determined to overcome that obstacle, she is currently taking lessons to improve her command of the English Language. She attends the Basic Conversational English course – a collaboration between the NTUC Learning Hub & Migrant Workers’ Centre for migrant workers. | Bridging the Gaps
23: Khhin Soe Win, 24, Myanmar | has been working in Singapore as a domestic helper for the past 5 years. As she did not complete her primary school studies, she finds it difficult to communicate with others in English. | Thankfully, through interactions with her friends, Khhin Soe Win has managed to pick up some basic vocabulary. She has also heeded her employers advice to develop a habit of reading the newspapers at least twice a week. She believes that with more practice, her command of the English Language would improve. | Bridging the Gaps
24: Obstacle 2 : | If only coming to Singapore was easy ...
25: The formalities & the Agent Pay Offs were a huge burden for them. They had to sell everything they owned. And it still wasn’t enough. They eventually had to resort to borrowing money they weren’t sure they could repay. | but it wasn't.
26: Rectifying UnFair Employment Practices | According to Mr Lee Yi Shyan, the Minister for Trade and Industry and Manpower, measures will be put in place to prevent employment agencies from taking advantage of new foreign workers and cheating them.
27: MOM has been stepping up action against employers who fail to pay their foreign workers * Stiffer penalties enforced against unlicensed agencies * A revised cap on fees that both employers and workers can be charged with *Mechanism for refund of fees to workers whose contracts terminate within six months of their taking up the job. | For more info: http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_623193.html
28: They are still filled with hopes and dreams ...
29: despite the many setbacks they faced.
32: Stories of oppression and injustice are not new in Singapore but they often remain in the dark.
33: Not many of us are aware of the challenges and unfair practices subjected on migrant workers in Singapore. As Singaporeans, or even as fellow humans for that matter, how should we respond?
34: Obstacle 3 : | If only decent & convenient housing was guaranteed before they came here ...
35: Foreign Worker Housing Woes Hit Firms - Costs up, Productivity Down. [Straits Times, Aug 27, 2010] - Higher rental & shortage of foreign worker housing- Locations too far away, leading to higher transport costs and lost man hours. | But it isn't.
36: Illuminate | The plight of marginalized migrant workers in Singapore
37: Living Conditions | Cramped, poorly ventilated & unhygienic. | cardboard beds, toilets overflowing with faeces, quarters with rainwater dripping. | quoted from newspaper articles from 2008 to 2010. | For more stories: http://migrantworkerssingapore.blogspot.com/2010/08/terrible-place-to-live.html http://migrantworkerssingapore.blogspot.com/2010/06/towards-better-living-conditions-for.html | "Proper housing is good not just for workers, but also for business. Workers with proper housing are more likely to be well-rested, productive and motivated." - Gan Kim Yong, Manpower Minister
38: Singaporeans are initiating steps to provide migrant workers with safe and clean dormitories. MP Yeo Guat Kwang, co-chairman of MWC, is working with social enterprises like NTUC Choice Homes and private developers to raise the supply and quality of dormitories. The government has also released more sites for the development of dormitories – Avery Lodge Dormitories | They Build Homes for Us; We provide them with Homes Too.
39: This brand new dormitory - The largest purpose-built one here with 8,000 beds is equipped with a gym, hair salon, canteen, medical clinic as well as a minimart Additionally, each unit comes with a kitchen, living room and dining room With proper housing, workers are less prone to falling sick and can rest well. As a corollary, productivity will increase | Avery Lodge | For more info: 1)http://admpreview.straitstimes.com:90/vgn-exttemplating/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=305ecf98f75fc210VgnVCM100000430a0a0aRCRD&vgnextchannel=4e60758920e39010VgnVCM1000000a35010aRCRD 2)http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20090403-132907.html 3)http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20090403-132907.html
40: Rest | not awarded paid medical leave or granted emergency leave as stipulated by the law | Long working hours without leave & rest days
41: "We, Singaporeans, need to ask ourselves why do we educated people, who enjoy at least a day off each week from our employers, not give the same to our domestic workers?” Saleemah Ismail, President of UNIFEM, Singapore
42: Obstacle 4 : | If only work wouldn’t pose physical danger and harm to bodies ...
43: But it sometimes does.
45: In 2009, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) reported 70 deaths at workplace industries – of which 44 came from construction & marine industries. Workplace injuries amounted to a total of 10, 834 - of which 132 were permanent disabilities.
46: Their Rights ... | I fell from a height of 3-metres from a long ladder and injured my back. Since then, I have been unable to work and have only received S$300 for my injury. | Under Work Injury Compensation Act, an injured employee is entitled to claim medical leave wages, medical expenses and compensation for permanent incapacity or death – subject to medical assessment.
47: My left shoulder got struck by an excavator which paralyzed my left arm even after the 1st operation. However, my employer refused to pay for my second operation. | Employers are only liable to compensate for medical expenses incurred within one year from the date of the accident, or up to a cap of S$25, 000 whichever is reached earlier. Any subsequent operation costs borne are unfortunately not within their discretion. | My thumb was injured when a metal palette collapsed on my thumb. I was unable to work from then on. No claim was filed on my behalf too. | Failure to compensate is an offence which carries a fine of up to $10,000 and/or a jail term of up to 12 months | For more stories, please visit: www.mom.gov.sg
48: Safety is Welfare | For more info: http://www.thegovmonitor.com/world_news/asia/singapore-to-amend-workplace-safety-and-health-act-26028.html
49: The government has taken steps to manage workplace safety: 1) A Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) fund has been set aside to help companies develop a safety culture 2) Safety Training is provided for all workers 3) Minimum coverage of medical insurance has been raised to $15,000.
50: Featuring Migrant Workers Centre – Some of their Key Initiatives. | Health and Safety Fair (30th May 2010) Participants at the fair learnt tips on how to achieve better health and ensure personal safety, both at their workplaces and in their daily lives. Considering that many often work without regard for their own health, free health screenings were also provided. For more info: http://uportal.ntuc.org.sg
51: Knowing Singapore Programme – Pilot Run (19th September 2010) This one-day programme is aimed to help migrant workers better integrate with Singaporeans through fun-filled activities. Participants were brought to places of interests such as Chinatown to learn more about the cultures in Singapore. In addition, participants were given a run down of societal dos and don’ts, and more importantly, laws prevailing in Singapore. For more info: http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20100920-238037.html | Basic Conversational English Together with MWC, NTUC LearningHub has developed a Basic Conversational English course for Foreign Workers. This course is designed to help them integrate into society and perform more efficiently at work. It includes communicating to handle difficult situations and reading and writing simple phrases. For more info: http://www.ntuclearninghub.com/basic-conversational-for-migrant-workers
53: It's now OUR turn. | The Migrant Workers have Spoken.
54: People have to sacrifice their savings and leaving their most beloved to seek livelihood. But instead of providing for their families, some went back empty handed; some went back with more scars and injuries sustained during work. -Kuok Liang | Regret. That's what I felt, or rather painful remorse. Whilst progressing economically and through our infrastructure, becoming a richer nation, have we left our values behind in this race to riches? -Luke
55: The least we could do is to show some appreciation to them and perhaps even to be more aware of these existing problems and try to ensure that they are treated more fairly should the opportunity arise. -Joshua | ... have we, at some point, sub-consiously thought of them as undeserving, second class citizens? ... upon interviewing these friendly people and hearing their stories out, it is no doubt that they are as human as we are. -Don
56: Let's step up and treat them all the same.'Cause heroes... They have feelings too. -Rezeki | But do these migrant workers' dreams live on or is it been shattered ? -Vithya | They been through ups and downs. They worked hard through day and night to let their family live better. They walk through the darkness of life, in search for the light. All they ask is simple happiness. It is just a simple wish. -Pei Pei
57: All work and little pay, made up Abdul's day. Then one day, disaster struck. "How am I going to feed my family?" was all he could say. However, no one gave a damn. - Darren | Metaphorically, true justice and righteousness shine like the dawn. To the world, we may just be one person. But to every migrant worker we reach out to, we can embody that ideal world. -Evangeline
58: Their contributions have definitely pervaded into every aspect of our society. Hence it is fair to assert that our lives and theirs are inextricably intertwined. -Zakir | I hope that Singaporeans will able to see them as friends and welcome them to our society, recognizing their contributions. -Xiu Wen
59: As much as we fight for our rights as Singaporeans, will we fight for their rights as migrant workers working in Singapore? -Zhen Yu | These immigrants take up jobs that are not wanted by Singaporeans. They portray the spirit of perseverance and we should be more thankful for all that we are provided with. - Cai Zhuang
60: Sadly, many of us, including myself tend to overlook their hardships. Maybe for once, we should reach out to them and lend a helping hand in the name of humanity. -Syed
61: To provide his children with the education that he never once had; this is his one and only motivation that keeps him working hard here. I never knew happiness can be that simple. -Yvonne | It is the hardest thing to do, to leave your family behind and tread on uncharted waters. Are the majority of us able to experience that feeling? -Prinya
62: Migrant workers are humans, just like us. They are part of our population and should not be treated differently. Their selfless contributions to the building of our nation are simply admirable and ought to be appreciated. -Mimi
63: Do you find these goals similar and common to yours for your loved ones? Do you work extremely hard every single day to provide these comfort and security for your beloved family, just like this migrant worker? -Shafiqah | I think there's a need for employers to realize migrant workers are not slaves, and should be respected and not treated like property. -Jeolinita
65: OUR | CHALLENGE | TO YOU
66: Are we truly any different? What if we were born into their culture and family? Would our common human threads be any different? Our ancestors were once like them when they came to Singapore.
67: Their blood happens to be our blood too. Can you see that our separate stories are essentially one?
68: It takes patience and time. But no matter who we are, we are called to LOVE. The social fabric of our nation is in your hands. What will YOU do about it? | We like Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company L.L.C.’s service motto very much. "We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen."
69: It is remarkably simple, but yet, that powerful statement alone speaks volumes. It is very telling of their service culture – of how they perceive & regard ALL their staff – regardless of their service status or background. Let us then consider how we, as Singaporeans, can appreciate these migrant workers as true 'ladies and gentlemen'.
70: Your Response | More than heightening empathy and restraining ostracism on behalf of these migrant workers, our goal is to empower them to take their rightful place as valued contributors in the making of Singapore’s success. Much has been done to champion fair employment practices and the well being of migrant workers of Singapore. Much work has been done, but much still remains. It's now YOUR turn to speak.
71: We would now like to invite YOU to engage on a virtual space, together with us, to interact & comment on how YOU FEEL about migrant workers. You are encouraged to post meaningful comments, learning points and/ perspectives gathered based on the issues raised and stories featured in our E-book. The top 10 winning entries will be awarded cash prizes of $100 each. Visit our website @ www.bridgingvoices.tumblr.com to find out more! * Excerpt Competition Details * How you can contribute in other ways * More detailed information on our experiences & the issues raised
72: Citations | 1) 'A terrible place to live‘, The New Paper, 18 August 2010 . Republished by Asia One. 2) Melissa Sim 2008, “Temporary housing still needed”, The Straits Times, 18 September 3) Rachel Chang 2010, Towards better living conditions for foreign workers, The Straits Times, 5 June 4) Chris Wright 2010, The pain behind Singapore’s gains, Australian Financial Review, 22 April
73: 1) BusinessWorld Publishing Corporation. (2009). Global financial meltdown will hit overseas Filipino workers. [Online] Image Available: http://www.bworldonline.com/BW101408/content.php?id=073 2) Burrellines Resources. [Online] Image Available: http://burrellines.com/html/resources.html 3) All Guide for you: Heroes Volume 2: Generations. [Online] Image Available: http://yongzaa7.blogspot.com/2008/06/heroes-volume-2.html 4) Migrant Workers Singapore: Foreign worker housing woes hit firms - Costs up, productivity down. (2010). [Online] Image Available: http://migrantworkerssingapore.blogspot.com/2010/08/foreign-worker-housing-woes-hit-firms.html 5) My Life, My Experiences. (2010). [Online] Image Available: http://image.shutterstock.com/display_pic_with_logo/3053/3053,1136277035,1/stock-photo-a-street-cleaner-pulls-his-cart-in-the-streets-of-singapore-853010.jpg | References
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