You're invited: Sunday dinner at workers' dorm

Artist Calvin Tay and human resources management consultant Kari Tamura Chua hope the workers' stories will inspire people to support their well-being.
Artist Calvin Tay and human resources management consultant Kari Tamura Chua hope the workers' stories will inspire people to support their well-being.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Meal and exhibition organised to show the public the 'generosity, energy and warmth' of foreign workers

Next Sunday, some members of the public will be able to celebrate Labour Day with foreign workers by sharing dinner in their dormitory.

They can also view an art, photography and video exhibition featuring migrant workers, some of whom are volunteer leaders, poets, photographers and teachers.

In an event called SamaSama - which means "the same" - to be held at Westlite Dormitory in Mandai, the exhibition will also show how locals have been supporting migrant workers.

 

It is organised by Ms Kari Tamura Chua, 26, and Mr Calvin Tay, 29, who hope the workers' stories will inspire people to support their well-being. "We want to invite the outside world in, to experience them in their home and community, to feel their generosity, energy and warmth first-hand," said Ms Tamura Chua, a human resources management consultant.

It was through her work writing compensation plans for migrant workers that she was moved to action, after hearing the way people spoke about them. "I was a little heartbroken in meetings," she said. "The way they're treated is very commoditised, and they can be seen as costs or equipment."

DOING WELL

We can look up to them because they are successful in their own right. Some of them own businesses in their home country, and I met one man who has worked here for 15 years and became a project manager, overseeing Singaporeans.

MR CALVIN TAY, on how he was inspired by migrant workers' life stories.

She discussed her idea with Mr Tay, an artist, and they were further inspired when they researched workers' life stories. "We can look up to them because they are successful in their own right," said Mr Tay. "Some of them own businesses in their home country, and I met one man who has worked here for 15 years and became a project manager, overseeing Singaporeans."

Non-profit group HealthServe linked them up with foreign workers and is co-organising the event.

For the exhibition, Mr Tay created 50 bowls out of colourful plastic kuti kuti tokens, to show how individual pieces, representing local and foreign contributions to Singapore's development, can be melded together to create something bigger. An additional bowl around 1m wide was created together with migrant workers.

The exhibition will be held at several other locations next month.

Due to tight security at the dorm, only 250 guests will be hosted over the three-day event, which starts on Friday. The first two days are for invited guests. The third is open to members of the public who sign up at http://samasama.eventbrite.sg.

The free event is being held at the Mandai dormitory to show the public what is being done to provide a safe living environment for workers.

Dr Goh Wei Leong, chairman and co-founder of HealthServe, said the exhibition will emphasise the shared interests, shared aspirations and shared challenges that foreign workers and locals have.

"It's also likely to be the first time for the public to be able to interact as guests with migrant workers in their own homes," he said. "It's like visiting someone at New Year, and it shows that we acknowledge that they can be hosts too."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 24, 2016, with the headline 'You're invited: Sunday dinner at workers' dorm'. Print Edition | Subscribe