Singapore volunteers spread early Christmas cheer to foreign workers

A total of 200 volunteers from ItsRainingRaincoats will be visiting several worksites this month to distribute the gifts to foreign workers. — Nuria Ling/TODAY pic
A total of 200 volunteers from ItsRainingRaincoats will be visiting several worksites this month to distribute the gifts to foreign workers. — Nuria Ling/TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Dec 7 — Last week, seven-year-old Shen Yuening emptied her piggy bank and used all S$200 (RM607.89) of her savings to buy Christmas gifts for foreign workers.

Her contribution, along with others’, enabled ground-up initiative ItsRainingRaincoats to distribute gift bags to 500 foreign workers yesterday at a Land Transport Authority construction site along Grange Road.

The bags contained items such as snacks, raincoats and toothpaste.

Smiling as he opened up his pack, job-lifting supervisor S Senthilkumar, 32, who is from India, said in Tamil: “If we were to buy them ourselves, it could set us back by S$50.”

Yuening’s mother, 35-year-old account executive Khoo Meishan, said that her daughter was moved after seeing foreign workers slogging in the rain.

“She spotted a group of foreign workers opposite our house. It was raining very heavily and they were still fixing the drain by the road,” said Khoo, who was at the site with her five-year-old son Ruidong to help distribute the gifts.

Khoo came across a call for contributions by ItsRainingRaincoats on Facebook a month ago, and signed her family up as volunteers. She even created a video of her children asking friends and family to chip in, but the response was lacklustre.

Dipa Swaminathan, who founded ItsRainingRaincoats in 2015, said she typically organises a meal and gift distribution for migrant workers during Deepavali, but decided to also do it during the Christmas season this year at the request of volunteers.

“We did a giving initiative for Deepavali that was successful.  A lot of people at the time asked what our plans for Christmas were, and we wanted to come up with something that was simple, imaginative, something that people could get easily involved in,” she said.

The group managed to amass close to 20,000 gifts, which have been dropped off at 35 homes of volunteers across Singapore.

A total of 200 volunteers will be visiting several worksites this month to distribute the gifts to foreign workers.

Migrant worker Durai Prasanna, 33, who is also from India and has worked here for 10 years, said Swaminathan visited him and fellow workers during Deepavali in recent years, and they had missed her this year.

“So we are very happy and excited to have her host this initiative for Christmas To have people look out for us makes us feel like we have a family here too,” he said.

Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad was also there yesterday and said non-governmental organisations play an important role in the welfare of migrant workers and offer a platform for engagement. — TODAY

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