Foreign workers get some tender loving care

Welders Krishna Rai (in yellow), 50, and Athi Ramamoorthy, 32, learning the art of massage at a "roadside spa", guided by artist Ng Xi Jie, during the Kapor ChatParty held at Kampong Kapor on Sunday.
Welders Krishna Rai (in yellow), 50, and Athi Ramamoorthy, 32, learning the art of massage at a "roadside spa", guided by artist Ng Xi Jie, during the Kapor ChatParty held at Kampong Kapor on Sunday. ST PHOTOS: MARK CHEONG
Some foreign workers learning to create Rangoli artwork from Ms Vijaya Mohan (right). Rangoli, a form of Indian floor art, is created with household items like pasta, rice grains and recycled utensils.
Some foreign workers learning to create Rangoli artwork from Ms Vijaya Mohan (right). Rangoli, a form of Indian floor art, is created with household items like pasta, rice grains and recycled utensils.ST PHOTOS: MARK CHEONG
Provision shop owner Ong Siew Hong expressing her thanks to cleaners and road sweepers.
Provision shop owner Ong Siew Hong expressing her thanks to cleaners and road sweepers. ST PHOTOS: MARK CHEONG
Malaysian cleaner Nagamah Jayaramm (above) gets to put her feet up and be pampered by volunteer Yunn Chee.
Malaysian cleaner Nagamah Jayaramm (above) gets to put her feet up and be pampered by volunteer Yunn Chee. ST PHOTOS: MARK CHEONG

They enjoy facials, massages and other activities at Little India community event

The rain came down hard at 4pm and the volunteers had to move colourful Rangoli art materials, spa screens and chalkboards into the dance theatre.

But their spirits were not dampened, and by 5pm on Sunday, the rain had subsided and people of all ethnicities and ages began to stream in for the Kapor ChatParty, a get-together for residents, patrons and visitors of Little India in the Singai Tamil Sangam Maya Dance Theatre in Kampong Kapor.

A play on the word Chapati (an Indian flatbread), the Kapor ChatParty was organised by the Octopus Residency, a ground-up initiative to foster a closer sense of community in Little India (see sidebar).

It featured do-it-yourself facials and Rangoli artwork, foot massages, and a "Dear Neighbour" initiative.

At the facial and wellness spa, headed by freelance artist Ng Xi Jie, participants were able to stretch out on spa mats and apply homemade facial lotion. Volunteers also gave them foot massages.

Said Ms Ng: "I felt that migrant workers wouldn't really think of giving themselves facials or massages... due to budget constraints. But because their jobs are so tough, they would need it."

In the span of three hours, Ms Ng conducted facials and spa sessions for 11 migrant workers that day.

  • Group sets out to foster sense of community

  • The Octopus Residency, which started last month, is a community initiative that is aimed at fostering a greater sense of community and belonging in Little India.

    It has been organising events like the Kapor ChatParty, which started last month and will culminate in an exhibition and cookout party on July 31.

    The group consists of Ms Faye Lim, Ms Yen Goh and Ms Yunn Chee, three friends with a keen interest in community issues in Singapore.

    Ms Lim, 33, is an arts practitioner with a focus on communal experience, who founded the Strangeweather Movement Group. Its focus is the creation and performance of dance works.

    Ms Goh, 39, an architect, runs community arts practice The People's Atelier, and a design firm.

    Ms Chee, 38, is also an architect and an adjunct lecturer at the Singapore Polytechnic.

    Both Ms Goh and Ms Chee are co-founders of The People's Atelier.

    The Kapor ChatParty is supported by the National Arts Council and the National Integration Council, among others.

    Event dates and photos can be found at the Octopus Residency Facebook and Instagram pages at:

    https://www.facebook. com/kaporchatparty2016

    https://www.instagram. com/octopusresidency

    The group is raising funds for future programmes at https://www.generosity. com/community-fund raising/community-and- arts-programmes-in- little-india

    Wang Tianjie

Ms Nagamah Jayaramm, a 40-year-old cleaner from Malaysia, said she felt much more relaxed after her foot massage.

"I stand on my feet cleaning six days a week and I get really sore after work," said Ms Nagamah.

"It's really nice for them to do this for us and I really appreciate it."

Art therapist Vijaya Mohan was also present to teach Rangoli making, a form of Indian floor art, with household items like pasta, rice grains, and recycled utensils.

Ms Vijaya, who holds several Singapore Records for Rangoli artwork, said her aim was to teach residents to do art that they could bring home with them.

She said: "Art can be very temporary and, sometimes, people are not able to enjoy the beauty of it.

"But when I show them that it's very easy and they can take back the piece and own it, they feel very happy and want to be involved."

Aside from the activities in the dance theatre, volunteers went around with a chalkboard and a camera. Residents were asked to write what they were thankful for on the chalkboard, and they would have their photo taken with it.

The initiative, called "Dear Neighbour", was organised by non-profit organisation Participate in Design (PiD).

Said Mr Larry Yeung, project associate with PiD: "I think it's a very interesting space. Usually, for other neighbourhoods we work with, it's very Singaporean - a lot of aunties, uncles and schoolkids. But this community is very diverse; we have tourists, foreign workers, residents."

Ms Jenifer Sanchez, 36, a housewife who lives in Little India, expressed her gratefulness for her father and husband, who both support and take care of her and her son.

"I am very thankful for his daddy and granddaddy, because they give us such a good home," said Ms Sanchez with a big smile.

Foreign visitors were just as appreciative of the initiative.

Ms Marie Le Hung, 23, a French student on an internship, said: "I think it's really awesome that there is something like this for the residents and free food for the workers."

She added with a laugh: "It's a great way to involve people in the area. If we had something like this (in France), we would have to pay to take part in it."

Ms Chua Ai Liang, director of arts & communities at the National Arts Council (NAC), said: "The Octopus Project has the potential to inspire meaningful interactions right where people live, work and play, while preserving the rich stories and memories of Kampong Kapor.

"With NAC's support through the Presentation and Participation Grant, I hope this community- based arts project will touch the lives of the residents there.

"It is wonderful to see more artists like Vijaya Mohan and Ng Xi Jie creating content that resonates with specific communities, such as Singapore's lesser-known migrant workers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2016, with the headline 'Foreign workers get some tender loving care'. Print Edition | Subscribe