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Migrant workers enjoy “an afternoon out” in the park with local Bukit Batok residents

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On 30 October 2020, male migrant workers living in a temporary dormitory located at 300 Jalan Jurong Kechil (former Bukit Batok Primary School) paid a visit to the neighbouring Bukit Batok Nature Park. Titled “An Afternoon Out” and organised by the community initiative Welcome In My Backyard (WIMBY), the migrant workers participated in 3 hours of shared conversations and activities with local Bukit Batok residents.

“An Afternoon Out” was organised with the support of government agencies, including MOM, NParks and SLA. The event builds on the efforts of the newly established Assurance, Care and Engagement (ACE) group within MOM to explore recreation options for migrant workers to relax and enjoy themselves.

WIMBY "An Afternoon Out" Photo: SportCaresPhoto:Team Nila

The event was organised in partnership with ActiveSG, involving Team Nila volunteers, some of whom are also local Bukit Batok residents, and SportCares coaches. Said Sng Hock Lin, Chief ActiveSG: “We are happy to support the community campaign, WIMBY, to co-create a meaningful sporting experience for our migrant worker friends. Our SportCares coaches and Team Nila volunteers are excited to design and facilitate sport and mental wellness activities as well as help them connect with our community. In this unprecedented time, it is important that we come together and create a happy and safe space for everyone.”

It has been more than six months since the nine migrant workers headed outside of their dormitories for reasons other than work. Since movement restrictions were first imposed on male migrant workers living in dormitories in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, workers have longed for access to green spaces and recreation outside of their places of residence. Ethel Pang, the WIMBY co-organiser of the event, said: “During the walk today, several migrant workers directly expressed to me how happy they were being able to enjoy the simple things, like breathing in the fresh air and taking a stroll in the park. These are experiences that every member of our society should be able to enjoy, and we need to look towards a future where we can all share and enjoy these spaces together.”

The event was also the first of its kind to facilitate face-to-face interactions between local Singaporean residents and migrant workers living within the same neighbourhood. Hameiza Binte Abdul Hamid, a local Bukit Batok resident, said: “Even though we all come from different walks of life, we should harbour a sense of respect for each other. We should actively strive to welcome any new migrant worker neighbours we have in our neighbourhoods.”

Migrant workers and Singaporeans alike enjoyed the exercise and well-being activities conducted by the SportCares coaches. From high-intensity interval training to simple meditation exercises, participants relished the experience of being close to nature in an open grassy field.

WIMBY "An Afternoon Out" Photo: SportCaresPhoto:Team Nila

Sanowar, a migrant worker from Bangladesh, appreciated the simple stretching routines with tennis balls donated by the community initiative Yellowship, and was excited to pass on the mindfulness exercise to his other friends. “I really like how the exercises were carried out in easy steps. This is my first time perspiring from a leisurely activity in three months, and I feel refreshed”, Sanowar said.

Others enjoyed the long walk they took within the dense forest canopy of Bukit Batok Nature Park. Duraisamy Manikandan, a migrant worker from India, particularly enjoyed the sights of wildlife in the park: “Seeing the chickens running and monkeys playing made me feel very happy. This is my first time in 2020 coming out for a non-work activity, and I hope there will be more to come.”

With the success of “An Afternoon Out”, WIMBY is looking to organise regular outings to Bukit Batok Nature Park for workers staying at 300 Jalan Jurong Kechil. The staff at LHN Group, who administer the dormitory, look forward to lending their support. Said Andy Low, the General Manager of Business Development: “We care about the welfare of the migrant workers and appreciate their contributions to Singapore. With more initiatives to come, we will continue to cater for the well-being needs of workers.”

WIMBY "An Afternoon Out" Photo: SportCaresPhoto:Team Nila

WIMBY is also exploring the possibility of rolling out similar activities at other dormitories, and will be happy to work with interested site managers and local residents. By involving local residents and migrant workers, WIMBY hopes to bridge both communities and counteract “not-in-mybackyard” sentiments.

With migrant workers living in residential neighbourhoods for the foreseeable future, former Nominated Member of Parliament and WIMBY founding member Anthea Ong encouraged Singaporeans to reach out to their migrant worker neighbours.

“Our migrant workers have suffered much this past year, having to stay in their dorms since April, being away from their families as well as worried and anxious, like all of us, about their livelihoods. Let us open our hearts to them, particularly those who are in our neighbourhoods, and take that first step in welcoming them as one of us.”

 

Welcome In My Backyard, or WIMBY, is a volunteer-run campaign that raises awareness in relation to Migrant Workers (MWs), with the primary aim of humanising MWs in the local community's eyes. To find out more about other WIMBY initiatives, please visit https://www.wimby.sg/