Spreading Deepavali cheer to migrant workers in Singapore

Ms Dipa, her husband Vish Srinivasan, 48, elder son Vihaan, 10, and younger son Kairav, eight, in Little India, with some of the items they are giving out to migrant workers this Deepavali.
Ms Dipa, her husband Vish Srinivasan, 48, elder son Vihaan, 10, and younger son Kairav, eight, in Little India, with some of the items they are giving out to migrant workers this Deepavali.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - From 10am on Tuesday (Nov 10), migrant workers in Little India will get gifts of $10 telephone cards, water bottles and sweets from some parents and children wanting to spread some Deepavali cheer.

The 40 parents and their children- aged between five and 17 - hope to reach out to 400 migrant workers this morning.

Lawyer Dipa Swaminathan, 44, who organised the group, said she wanted to help these workers connect with home during the holiday. "I've been talking to them to ask them what they need the most and what they want is something to do with phones; it's their only connection to their families back home," said Ms Dipa.

She added: "Many of them are doing very risky jobs; they can lose their lives and limbs for very little pay, and they live in very cramped conditions. They don't have a lot to celebrate."

The Singapore permanent resident from India gathered her friends and her children's classmates and their parents - a mix of Singaporeans and foreigners - to do something for the workers.

She said: "You don't need a big organisation to do something like this; anybody can make a difference in somebody else's life. I want the children to understand this."

The $10 calling cards will give the workers 400 minutes of talktime with their loved ones.

Ms Dipa got her employer, Singtel, to donate 100 water bottles and arm sleeves to protect the workers from the sun, and raised $1,500 from friends. She is donating $640 herself to get more calling cards, and the 80 people going to Little India will also take along sweets for the workers.

This is not the first time Ms Dipa is doing something for migrant workers. Each year, she collects lost water bottles that no one claims from her children's school and gives them to workers. She said she would continue to help migrant workers: "Maybe during Chinese New Year, we can target migrant workers from China."

Housewife Ng Kae Yen will take her sons Gautam, seven, and Gaurav, nine, to the distribution today. "I think it's good to cultivate helping out the less fortunate, and to show compassion to those who leave their families and countries behind to give their loved ones a better life," said Ms Ng, 44.

Construction worker Md Shahin, 30, said the $10 card would be useful and he would call home.

Migrant worker group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics will hold a small Deepavali celebration at its centre.

Transient Workers Count Too will have the public distribute fruits and sweets to workers at its food centre in Little India.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2015, with the headline 'Spreading Deepavali cheer to workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe