Foreign workers share their stories, experiences at forum

Mr Mohamad Syakirin Ahmad and Ms Aminiyati Marthyn (centre) were two of the foreign worker speakers who shared their stories yesterday at a forum that was organised by non-profit start-up Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre and co-operative society A Goo
Mr Mohamad Syakirin Ahmad and Ms Aminiyati Marthyn (centre) were two of the foreign worker speakers who shared their stories yesterday at a forum that was organised by non-profit start-up Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre and co-operative society A Good Space, and facilitated by Ms Nicole Ooi (right) of A Good Space. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Since March, Mr Mohamad Syakirin Ahmad has spent only 15 days with his wife and two daughters in Johor Baru.

The 27-year-old Malaysian, who has been working in Singapore as a courier for three years, used to commute across the Causeway daily, but now has to live apart from his family, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and border restrictions.

Mr Syakirin was one of three foreign worker speakers who shared their stories yesterday at a forum organised by non-profit start-up Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre and co-operative society A Good Space.

The other two were Ms Aminiyati Marthyn, 46, a domestic worker from Indonesia, and Mr Sojib Ahmed, 28, a construction safety coordinator from Bangladesh.

The event at Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre in Yishun was held in celebration of International Migrants Day, which was on Dec 18, and allowed participants to understand foreign workers' experiences.

The participants consisted of members of the public as well as migrant workers and domestic workers. Held in a hybrid format, the forum had participants at the Yishun venue as well as those tuning in via Zoom.

In June, the Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre and non-profit arts company 3Pumpkins, with other organisations, launched a community art project called the Stay Home Quilt.

It saw some 500 migrant workers who stay in dormitories, Malaysian workers and local residents invited to express themselves through sewing. Some of their patchwork pieces were then stitched together. The works are on display at the Tzu Chi Humanities Youth Centre until tomorrow.

Mr Syakirin was among those who took part in the project. He said he sewed the words "I love SG" and "I miss home" on his patch.

"During my stay here, my friends and I received a lot of help from Singaporeans and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) such as Ghifari Event Management," he said.

"The help we got included daily free meals, clothes, prayer equipment and food for breaking fast. It eased our burden... I am very grateful for their contributions."

Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, attended the event yesterday.

He told reporters: "The one positive thing (about the pandemic) is that it has really shone the spotlight on the issues our migrant friends are facing.

"So I think it's important (to have) events like this, for people to hear the stories directly from our migrant friends, understand what they are going through and the difficulties they are facing."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2020, with the headline 'Foreign workers share their stories, experiences at forum'. Print Edition | Subscribe