Migrant workers get free upgraded phones

Mr Madbaryousuf with his iPhone 6 Plus at the phone giveaway last night. He was among 50-plus migrant workers who received upgraded phones, thanks to a campaign by Transient Workers Count Too.
Mr Madbaryousuf with his iPhone 6 Plus at the phone giveaway last night. He was among 50-plus migrant workers who received upgraded phones, thanks to a campaign by Transient Workers Count Too.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Construction worker Madbaryousuf, who goes by one name, still calls his family in Bangladesh every day even though he has been in Singapore for two years.

The 32-year-old had been worried after hearing last October that 2G connectivity was going to cease here next month, as he owned a Nokia 105 handphone that runs only on the 2G network.

But last night, he found himself the unexpected owner of a donated iPhone 6 Plus, as one of 50-plus migrant workers at a giveaway of upgraded phones at New Shapla Restaurant in Desker Road.

He said in Bengali that if he did not get a phone, he would have had to borrow money from his friends to call home.

Grinning as he held up his new phone, he said: "I'm so happy, so happy, very happy."

The giveaway was organised by Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) in the light of the cessation of 2G connectivity, and Mr Madbaryousuf was chosen as one of those most in need of an upgraded phone.

Last night's giveaway, plus one more to be held next Monday, are the result of the advocacy group's six-month campaign to get upgraded phones for migrant workers.

In this period, it received about 300 phones and almost $12,000 in donations, most of which was used to purchase another 100 phones.

Although only half of the phones received were in a sufficiently good condition to be given away, TWC2 general manager Ethan Guo said there are more than enough phones for nearly 200 migrant workers who have been identified as most in need.

Most of the devices given away last night were brand-new Lenovo A2010s.

"We're very gratified that the response from Singaporeans has been fantastic," TWC2 treasurer Alex Au said. Noting that most donors wanted to stay anonymous, he said this showed how caring Singaporeans were.

TWC2 will donate some of its phones to other advocacy groups - the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics and HealthServe, which will in turn pass them to foreign workers they help.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2017, with the headline 'Migrant workers get free upgraded phones'. Print Edition | Subscribe