K-pop dance classes, wellness talks among activities under new initiative to support maids

Migrant domestic workers taking photos at a photo booth at the Bible House at Armenian Street on Dec 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang (second from right) and Hope Initiative Alliance President Reverend Ezekiel Tan (centre) at the Bible House at Armenian Street on Dec 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Migrant domestic workers receiving free meals at the Bible House at Armenian Street on Dec 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Ms Meena Kumari, a migrant domestic worker, misses her family in India, with Covid-19 stopping her from making home visits.

But she is getting a bit of help from a new initiative here - she is looking forward to trying out activities it is offering, such as K-pop dance and yoga classes, movie screenings and manicures, on her days off to keep her mind off her homesickness.

The Alliance of Domestic Employees Outreach (ADEO) was launched on Sunday (Dec 12) to serve the migrant domestic worker community here through recreational programmes, skills training, as well as help in other areas such as counselling.

Speaking to the media at the launch of ADEO at The Bible House in Armenian Street, Ms Meena, 35, said: "These activities can help us to be happy and lead healthy lives, and allow us to choose what we want to do based on our various interests... (They are also) an avenue to share any problems we may be facing."

ADEO, which was started by Hope Initiative Alliance (HIA), an inter-racial and inter-religious platform for social service organisations, civil groups and corporations, will also organise health and mental wellness talks and English language classes.

ADEO is supported by more than 100 organisations, including the Singapore Kindness Movement, the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle Singapore, Law Society Pro Bono Services and the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce. 

Some of the organisations' representatives were present at Sunday's launch.

Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang, who was the guest of honour, said she was heartened to know the care that domestic workers will be able to get.

She said the Ministry of Manpower has been putting in place measures and policies to strengthen the protection and well-being of domestic workers for many years.

"But actually, it is difficult for the Government alone to provide the care," she added.

She said: "We have been working with a network of partners over the years, and I am glad ADEO has been formed... It gives us a lot more capacity, scale and quality to improve the outreach, as well as the support for domestic workers."

Reverend Ezekiel Tan, president of HIA, said the pandemic has been challenging for domestic workers in Singapore, as many have not been able to return home to visit family members.

He said: "Not being able to access social and emotional support from their peers because of social isolation and work-from-home conditions has taken a toll on our migrant domestic workers."

While several activities organised for the well-being of domestic workers have had to be put on hold since the pandemic due to restrictions, a recent easing of measures has allowed for some of them to go ahead, he said.

Rev Tan said: "The launch of (ADEO) at a time like this is to show care and provide for their needs."

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