Spreading festive cheer to foreign workers

Shen Ruidong, five, and his mother, Madam Khoo Meishan, 35, distributing presents at a Grange Road construction site yesterday. Ms Dipa Swaminathan, ItsRainingRaincoats founder, says she was struck by the care with which the gifts were wrapped.
Shen Ruidong, five, and his mother, Madam Khoo Meishan, 35, distributing presents at a Grange Road construction site yesterday. Ms Dipa Swaminathan, ItsRainingRaincoats founder, says she was struck by the care with which the gifts were wrapped.PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Shen Ruidong, five, and his mother, Madam Khoo Meishan, 35, distributing presents at a Grange Road construction site yesterday. Ms Dipa Swaminathan, ItsRainingRaincoats founder, says she was struck by the care with which the gifts were wrapped.
Shen Ruidong, five, and his mother, Madam Khoo Meishan, 35, distributing presents at a Grange Road construction site yesterday. Ms Dipa Swaminathan, ItsRainingRaincoats founder, says she was struck by the care with which the gifts were wrapped.PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Members of public donate 20,000 gifts for project by ItsRainingRaincoats

It's the school holidays and six-year-old Raphael was on a special mission with his father, Mr Shawn Quek, yesterday afternoon.

They were out at a construction site in Grange Road to distribute gifts to foreign workers.

Mr Quek, who has donated 10 gifts, is a volunteer at the first of a series of gift distribution events organised by ground-up initiative ItsRainingRaincoats (IRR).

A trainer in education, the 39-year-old said: "I've been trying to expose him to volunteerism, to let him know there are people in Singapore who need our help."

The event at a Land Transport Authority construction site was attended by about 500 workers, who received gifts from members of the public to celebrate the coming festive season. With individuals, schools and companies pitching in, about 20,000 gifts were collected. The target, however, was 700,000 gifts - one for every migrant worker in Singapore.

Still, IRR founder Dipa Swaminathan, 47, was moved by people's sincerity. "I was struck by the care with which the gifts were wrapped, from the selection of the wrapping papers to the ribbons. A lot of thought and effort have gone into them."

Founded in 2015, IRR has run several activities promoting the welfare of migrant workers here. Its last event, a giant potluck in June, drew 3,000 workers.

Bangladeshi construction worker Hasan Mahadi, 25, who has worked in Singapore for seven years, was pleased with the gifts he got yesterday. They include instant noodles, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a torchlight, chocolates and snacks.

About 20,000 gifts were collected. The target, however, was 700,000 gifts - one for every migrant worker in Singapore.

He said: "I am thankful to everyone who has given the gifts."

Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad helped to distribute the gift bags to the workers.

He said in his speech: "Beyond helping foreign workers with their employment issues, it is also important to help them feel at home in Singapore and recognise them for their contributions."

Singaporeans have been overwhelming in their support of the event. Ms Dipa said: "I've had messages that thank us for giving them the opportunity to express their thanks to the workers."

She hopes more Singaporean will come forward to show their appreciation to the migrant workers. "Our dream is to give every single migrant worker a gift."

Anyone who wishes to contribute to the project can get details on the Facebook page of Its RainingRaincoats at www.facebook.com/pg/itsrainingraincoats/

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2018, with the headline 'Spreading festive cheer to foreign workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe