Asian Football

Spreading The Festive Spirit – A Tampines Rovers Initiative to Help Migrant Workers

Before the pandemic outbreak, migrant workers had always been a marginalised and often forgotten community in Singapore. Yet, they have become increasingly isolated once COVID-19 restrictions kicked into full gear. As things stand, these migrant workers have been largely restricted to the confines of their dormitories, and they have minimal ability to travel out for personal leisure, unlike everyday Singaporeans.

In light of the recent International Migrants Day and upcoming Christmas celebrations, Tampines Rovers has decided to help support this increasingly alienated group in Singapore and, crucially, remind these workers that they are valued members of our society. So on 22nd December, representatives of the club headed down to the Migrant Workers Centre’s Recreational Centre to hand over goodies meant for the 980 workers residing in Coastal Dormitory.

“Not Our First Endeavour, Certainly Not Our Last.”

Tampines Rovers are certainly no strangers to the issues faced by the migrant workforce and have been previously engaging in multiple initiatives to do their part. For example, during the Ramadan period in 2020, I vividly remember the Stags distributing dates for Iftar purposes at Ba’alwie Mosque and masks on another occasion.

While they have been engaged in such efforts to assistant migrant workers during the pandemic, it appears that the Stags are concentrating their efforts on the dormitories located in the East.

“We hope that this endeavour, the first of many planned, can remind these workers that they are valued members of our society and that we, and the community at large, are with them through these tough times,” said Gavin Lee, Head Coach of the team.

As a club that prides itself in its eastern roots, this is undoubtedly a breath of fresh air in the football scene as the Stags look to help integrate a marginalised group like migrant workers living in the Tanah Merah-located Coastal dormitory within the broader Eastern community.

Not Alone In Helping Migrant Workers

Amirul Haikal (left) and William Phang (right) arranging the H-TWO-O cartons. Image Credits: Tampines Rovers.

Yet, it has to be noted that Tampines Rovers are not alone in this initiative and are joined by an all-too-familiar face – Yeo’s. Yeo’s, through their subsidiary, H-TWO-O, have also contributed significantly to this project.

“Many local football fans fondly remember Yeo’s as a co-title sponsor of the S.League, and who can forget the H-TWO-O Ultimate Dream Team,” adds Tampines Rovers Goalkeeping Coach William Phang. “We are delighted to work together with Yeo’s and H-TWO-O again on such a meaningful project.”

In front of the 140 cartons of H-TWO-O. Image Credits: Tampines Rovers.

Together, Tampines Rovers and H-TWO-O have teamed up with the Migrant Workers Centre in this initiative and demonstrating that such collaborations between big-named entities are indeed possible.

So what do these migrant workers exactly receive?

Well, each one of the 980 Coastal Dormitory residents will be receiving a few cans of H-TWO-O drinks and they will be receiving 2022 Tampines Rovers casual T-shirts (before the general public can purchase these items).

But that’s not all.

Tampines Rovers has also donated some of its retro merchandise, namely 200 of its EZ-link cards (each containing $10 in credit), for a lucky draw event that Coastal Dormitory will organise.

The Stags ended their session with a dialogue with Sathish Naidu, the MWC Head for Unions and Projects, who discussed issues facing the migrant worker community, especially during the pandemic.

Dialogue between Tampines Rovers and MWC. Image Credits: Tampines Rovers.

These may seem small gestures to the casual observer but Sathish disagrees. According to him, “MWC is very appreciative of the steadfast support from Tampines Rovers during the challenging times of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are heartened to see the management, coaching staff and players coming forth to do their part to bring some festive cheer during the Christmas season to the migrant workers in Singapore, many of whom have been unable to see their families in the last two years.”

Reflecting On This Project

Both Irwan Shah and Amirul Haikal feel blessed to have been part of this giveaway and shared their reflections about the plight of migrant workers.

Irwan Shah (centre) and Amirul Haikal (right) carrying the T-shirts.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has been especially tough on them because their movements are restricted and their living conditions may not be ideal during these times,” claims Irwan. “It must be really difficult to not be able to see their loved ones back home.”

Amirul echoes his sentiments. “I’ve always respected them for their contributions to Singapore’s infrastructure despite constantly facing unjust working conditions,” explains Amirul. “Now with the restrictions imposed on them due to COVID-19, I cannot imagine what they must be going through. So, it is important that we continue to support them.”

Despite believing their efforts would have made a difference, players and staff of the Stags acknowledge more needs to be done.

“We need to continue the efforts to improve the dormitory conditions so that they will be happier here and in better living conditions. It’s time to give back to them – support them,” believes Irwan.

Similarly, Amirul believes that we need more awareness of migrant worker issues. “Awareness is important but we collectively also need to lend support to these workers, from providing basic necessities to improving their living conditions. They deserve our fullest support for all they have done.”

To Amirul’s point, the club has taken crucial first steps to assist members of the migrant workforce and it will be interesting to see how the Stags continue to sustain this support moving forward.

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