HEROES MADE AT HOME

Businesses affected due to Covid-19, but bosses step up to help foreign workers

One developed a website to give hawker stalls a greater online presence. Another held a film screening and post-session discussions online to recapture the communal experience of cinema. The Sunday Times speaks to five groups who have responded to circuit breaker measures in creative ways that have made Singaporean lives a tad better.

Above: A migrant worker eating a meal he received as part of Project Belanja. The initiative by the Blossom World Society charity and the Restaurant Association of Singapore has raised over $597,600.Left: A Zoom call for MaskForce on Thursday, with d
A Zoom call for MaskForce on Thursday, with donors (top row, from left) Ms Michelle Liem, Nuri Holdings managing director; Dr Stephen Riady, executive chairman and Group CEO, OUE; and Ms Jean Yip, chairman of Jean Yip Group. (Bottom row, from left) Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and MaskForce organiser Yeo Guat Kwang; Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Sim Ann, also a MaskForce organiser; Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Social and Family Development and grassroots volunteer Lim Huan Chiang.PHOTO: TEMASEK FOUNDATION
Above: A migrant worker eating a meal he received as part of Project Belanja. The initiative by the Blossom World Society charity and the Restaurant Association of Singapore has raised over $597,600.Left: A Zoom call for MaskForce on Thursday, with d
A migrant worker eating a meal he received as part of Project Belanja. The initiative by the Blossom World Society charity and the Restaurant Association of Singapore has raised over $597,600.PHOTO: PROJECT BELANJA

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 association, which then approaches its members, who cook, pack and deliver the food. Project Belanja has raised more than $597,600 from private donors and the public on Giving.sg.

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.

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 amid new rules that make it mandatory for people to wear masks when not at home.

The initiative is led by Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and supported by charities, private donors and firms. The public can also contribute at Giving.sg.

 TIGER TIGER PICTURES
Lei Yuan Bin’s documentary, I Dream Of Singapore, can be rented online, with 60 per cent of proceeds going to Transient Workers Count Too. PHOTO: TIGER TIGER PICTURES

Beauty company Jean Yip Group, which closed all of its 70 outlets islandwide when tighter social distancing measures came into force earlier this month, has donated money to the cause. Founder Ms Yip wants to contribute to the safety of Singapore's "unsung heroes who helped shape our skyline, landscape and infrastructure".

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

Mrs Dorothy Chan, executive director of Far East Organization, 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 a pandemic, 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.

Bengawan Solo's founder Anastasia Liew has donated money to MaskForce, and the company also gave some of its food products to migrant workers last week.

In another initiative, The Projector cinema is making Lei Yuan Bin's documentary, I Dream Of Singapore, available online until today, with 60 per cent of rental proceeds going to Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2).

The rest, after Vimeo/PayPal costs, will help support the cinema, which has been closed. The video can be streamed via 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 Somosundra.

Multinational companies are also chipping in. Consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble is donating 300,000 care packs worth around $5 million to workers in purpose-built and factory-converted dormitories. It said yesterday that it is working with the Ministry of Manpower, the South West Community Development Council and Migrant Workers' Centre on the initiative.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 26, 2020, with the headline 'Businesses affected, but bosses step up to help foreign workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe