Spreading festive cheer to foreign workers in dorms

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo distributing goodie bags to migrant workers at a factory-converted dorm in Sungei Kadut yesterday. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo distributing goodie bags to migrant workers at a factory-converted dorm in Sungei Kadut yesterday.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

The pandemic has put a dampener on Deepavali for migrant workers but the spirit of the event was celebrated when various organisations distributed goodies to about 168,000 residents across 144 dormitories.

They also helped to pre-record prayers and greetings by the chief priests of various Hindu temples here and transmitted them to migrant workers via social media.

Workers in dorms were the worst affected when the pandemic hit here with tens of thousands infected. Many were placed in quarantine or under lockdown and restrictions were imposed on what they could do on rest days.

More than 1,000 volunteers began distributing bags on Thursday in an initiative organised by the Ministry of Manpower's Assurance, Care and Engagement Group, the Hindu Endowments Board and the Coordinating Council of Sikh Institutions.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and Second Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng visited workers at a factory-converted dorm in Sungei Kadut yesterday morning to help dish out 580 goodie bags.

Indian national Prabaharan, a 33-year-old senior project coordinator who goes by one name, said he was sad that he could not go for his usual temple visit this year but added: "I and my company (are) ... very proud that the minister came out to celebrate (with us)."

Mrs Teo said at the event: "Deepavali is always a celebration of triumph of light over darkness and symbolically also signals a very important milestone in our journey in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We want to thank very much the many migrant brothers - we know that many of them have weathered many storms during this journey, and without their support we really could not have come this far."

The treats continued in the evening when 8,000 migrant workers in more than 70 factory-converted dorms received a festive meal of chicken briyani, Indian sweets and murukku.

Mr Alvin Tan, the Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Culture, Community and Youth, helped out at P-Way Construction and Engineering's dorm in Tuas South, where about 200 workers tucked into the meals.

The distribution was organised by the Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach, an initiative of Hope Initiative Alliance.

Hope Initiative Alliance president Ezekiel Tan said: "We hope to bring (the workers) some cheer.

"We believe, especially on important occasions, there is a need to bring some kind of comfort and assurance for their mental and religious well-being."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 15, 2020, with the headline 'Spreading festive cheer to foreign workers in dorms'. Subscribe