Voicing struggles of migrant workers

Cai Yinzhou, 30, flagged the need to keep migrant workers safe amid Covid-19 and helped ensure migrant workers got the support and assistance they needed amid the pandemic.

CAI YINZHOU

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Cai Yinzhou, 30, realised that migrant workers living close together in dormitories were especially vulnerable to infection.

Many did not understand the official advisories. There was some confusion and anxiety when the first few workers caught the virus.

Mr Cai penned a list of recommendations on what should be done to keep these workers safe. His suggestions, which he posted on Facebook, included reducing the numbers living together, issuing masks and stricter enforcement of hygiene standards in large dorms with over 1,000 workers.

The post came more than a month before the first cluster outbreak in the largest dorms. When that happened, his note and other efforts helped raise awareness about the workers' living conditions, and spurred more efforts and resources to support them.

Before Covid-19 hit Singapore's shores, Mr Cai was playing a part in supporting the migrant worker community here. Growing up in Geylang, he made friends with migrant workers in the area, bonding over games of badminton and volleyball. He learnt more about their lives here, and the families they missed back home. He was also deeply affected by their concerns and what they had at stake as sole breadwinners.

Mr Cai set up and currently runs Citizen Adventures, which conducts tours for people who want to understand social ecosystems, and social initiatives such as Backalley Barbers, which offers free haircuts to migrant workers, nursing home residents and those who cannot afford to go to a barber.

He plans to continue to encourage Singaporeans to think about their privileged position in relation to social inequities and the environment. "The work lies in practical initiatives to serve a particular need, amplifying that through social media, rallying people together for a cause and then having conversations... and moving the needle on the issue," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2020, with the headline 'Voicing struggles of migrant workers'. Subscribe