SINGAPORE - A Singaporean pair, who launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $10,000 for Muslim migrant workers in Singapore, said they are surprised that the sum has hit more than $58,000 in five weeks.
Ms Shirin Chua and Ms Ameera Begum, both 30, started the #SGMuslims4MigrantWorkers campaign on crowdfunding website LaunchGood on May 19. The crowdfunding platform focuses on the Muslim community worldwide.
Speaking to The Straits Times via Skype, Ms Chua, a lawyer based in Paris, said: "Muslims in Singapore give at least tens of millions of dollars in zakat (Muslim tithe) every year."
In 2016, Muis collected a record $38.1 million.
Ms Chua added: "The campaign is an attempt to match some of these funds to the immense needs faced by Muslim migrant workers."
Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam, and these donations are obligatory contributions by Muslims to the needy. Zakat can only be given to Muslim beneficiaries.
Ms Chua, who is a Muslim, met Ms Ameera through mutual friends about five years ago.
She said she used to volunteer with organisations some 10 years ago while she was completing university, where she learnt about the plight of migrant workers.
"Muslim migrant workers fall into several categories of people eligible to receive zakat under Muslim law. They are of limited means. Most are deeply in debt because they pay huge amounts of recruitment fees. They are also vulnerable strangers in a foreign land," she said.
"Their visas are tied to their employers. If they ask for their unpaid salaries, or if they have a workplace injury, their employer could cancel their work permits and they'll lose their right to work."
The funds raised from this campaign will go to Transient Workers Count Too's (TWC2) meal programme, which feeds up to 800 particularly destitute foreign workers monthly, including non-Muslims.
The funds will also be used for the medical expenses of Muslim migrant workers who are injured or seriously ill.
Donors can specify on the campaign page, through "Giving Levels", which category their donation falls into.
Ms Ameera, who is the Asia-Pacific regional manager of LaunchGood, said: "Every year since 2015, LaunchGood organises the Ramadan Challenge, where Muslims globally can sign up to donate every day of Ramadan.
"Last year, we raised about $1.2 million. So we hope this year we can direct some of those funds to the migrant workers in need."
Ms Chua added that one of the 800 people who donated gave $10,000.
She said: "We're very grateful to have received an outpouring of support from both Muslims and non-Muslims who donated."
One of the beneficiaries, Mr Motin Abdul, 29, a Bangladeshi migrant worker, was diagnosed with a brain tumour about a month ago. The cost of his surgery, inclusive of a 14-day stay in hospital here, is estimated at between $38,000 and $46,000.
He told ST: "My head is too pain, I cannot sleep."
He added that he was experiencing loss of hearing in his right ear and loss of vision in his right eye.
"I'm happy (that this campaign is helping me). If not, I don't know how I can go on."
The #SGMuslims4MigrantWorkers campaign aims to offset some of the costs for his treatment.
Mr Imran Mohamad, 34, a Singaporean donor who gave his zakat to the campaign, said he was moved by the plight of vulnerable migrant workers in Singapore.
The managing director of a digital marketing agency said: "There's a saying that charity begins at home. Living in Singapore, we cannot ignore the fact that most migrant workers work extremely long hours, risky jobs and are physically disconnected from their family for years for menial pay."
Ms Debbie Fordyce, an executive committee member of TWC2, said: "Given TWC2's limited financial resources, we are especially gratified at these efforts and the generous response through this website specifically for Muslim workers.
"It came at a time that we were assisting several migrant workers who presented with medical conditions that we felt could not go untreated, all situations where the employer was unwilling, unable, or not responsible to pay."
The campaign runs till July 1.