When concerned citizen Rahimah A. Rahim heard about landlords evicting tenants based on nationality, and of fear-mongering by some that Chinese nationals should be avoided amid the coronavirus outbreak, she did something about it.
She set up a project titled "The Get Well Card Project" involving children from different backgrounds watching animated videos and hand-writing cards for the community in response to Covid-19. The "Get Well" goes out to the victims of the outbreak, including the patients, front-line workers and those who have lost their incomes.
She started this project as she felt it was important to educate children about the social and economic impact of the virus. She hopes participants will be kinder and more grateful towards front-line workers.
The videos - made at Indonesian animation studio Unikom Ayena - tackle subjects of racism and xenophobia, and promote care and empathy. Madam Rahimah chose the Indonesian studio as it could deliver the videos in just two weeks, and she also used to help out in the Indonesian creative industry. The videos stress the virus does not discriminate in terms of who it infects.
The initiative was set up in February by Madam Rahimah, a business development director in her early 50s. She was able to get it off the ground after approaching the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's Our Singapore Fund. Successful applicants can receive up to 80 per cent of supported project expenditure, capped at $20,000. Specific funding levels vary based on the merits of each project.
The project has reached almost 1,000 students from seven schools, including Chappie Tots Centre, Canossian School, Dunearn Secondary School and Madrasah Wak Tanjong Al-Islamiah. It targets students from Primary 3 to Secondary 2, as Madam Rahimah believes that diversity and inclusion should be taught from a young age.
It was not difficult to explain xenophobia and racism to the younger audience as this was broken down to the core elements of bullying, disrespect and harm, said Madam Rahimah.
Madam Rahimah's sister-in-law, Madam Fatimah Sawifi, 49, who was a television actress, and three of her children ranging in age from 12 to 21 did a voice-over and jingle for the project.
Madam Rahimah said: "In Singapore, we may make jokes about race. But what we may see as non-harmful could manifest into something worse." Hence, community leaders, schools and companies have a key role in promoting inclusivity, she noted. "When the migrant workers are no longer quarantined, it will be interesting to see how they will be treated by the public. I hope that the young audience will take one step back and ask themselves, are they being xenophobic?"
Although she intends to close the project soon, children can still submit cards at this website.