Migrant workers spend rest days volunteering

Migrant workers spend rest days volunteering
Grassroots leader Sunnie Tan and foreign workers Rajagopal Shanmugam, Mohammad Aslam and Piyash Banik, speaking to workers sitting in the open areas at Teban Gardens.

SINGAPORE - From 4am to 3.30pm, six days a week, kitchen worker Zhao Fu Xin's job is to cook sushi rice.

But on his rest day, the 23- year-old Chinese national is back in another kitchen - cleaning floors while other volunteers like him whip up thousands of free meals for the needy in Singapore.

"When we deliver the food to the elderly, I feel like I am doing something very meaningful," explained Mr Zhao, who has been volunteering at soup kitchen Willing Hearts for about a year, since arriving here in November 2012.

"As a foreign worker, my life here can be monotonous. So I like to come here to do things, everyone here is very friendly and warm."

Most blue-collar foreign workers who volunteer do so at migrant worker organisations, or with their international church congregations.

But Mr Zhao is one of a growing number choosing to give their time to the wider community.

Their involvement includes helping at community events and keeping an eye out for troublemakers.

Transient Workers Count Too executive committee member Debbie Fordyce said that there might be more volunteer opportunities now.

"The migrant workers that I know are very happy to work with Singaporeans for the benefit of Singapore society," she said.

"It makes them feel accepted by society to be able to give something back."

Besides Mr Zhao, three other workers from China and Myanmar are also regular volunteers at Willing Hearts.

The group's vice-president Charles Liew explained that it was only in the past two years that migrant workers had been coming to help in the soup kitchen, which has more than 100 volunteers every weekend.

"They are very nice people. All the dirty and tough jobs, like carrying heavy baskets of vegetables or rubbish, they will do it for you," he added.

Many of these workers see it as a way to give back to their temporary home.

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