Dunman High school students, in collaboration with HOME Singapore, started a project that provides Hokkien Language classes to Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) in Singapore.
The project, entitled For Dignity and Worth, began as a school community service project with the aim of providing FDWs a means of integrating into Singaporean society. As the students researched possible ideas for their project they visited the HOME website and discovered some disturbing facts about the lives of Foreign Domestic workers in Singapore, including the reality that a startling 98.7% are subjected to exploitation during their deployment in Singapore, mainly in terms of excessive working days and hours, or low/no salary.
“We are very honoured to have a chance to conduct lessons on Hokkien to the foreign domestic workers at HOME with a group of my friends. Although we only had lessons twice, they are very unique and valuable experiences. It is through these two lessons that we realize that they are a neglected group in our society that needs our help and support, in terms of gaining more language skills and also gaining more understanding and respect from Singaporeans … Foreign domestic workers are workers, too.”
– Zhou Zhiyuan and Wang Ruobin, Dunman High school student
Apart from providing the language classes, the students felt compelled to raise awareness about the mistreatment and often unfair working conditions of FDWs. They engaged other students and teachers in a 3 day advocacy event at their school, providing information about FDWs and asking students to pledge their support in changing attitudes and behaviours towards FDWs. To further encourage Singaporeans to engage in the cause, the students created a video that features interviews with HOME volunteers, students, and teachers as well as statistics and true stories from FDWs.
“Personally, I found that “For Dignity and Worth” was immensely successful in achieving its aims. For myself, I learnt much more about the Foreign Domestic Worker situation in Singapore and I was quite appalled at our treatment towards them. As an individual, I resolved to be kinder and nicer to the domestic workers. Furthermore, being in charge of the Advocacy Event, I was even more motivated to execute our plans more effectively so as to raise awareness amongst my peers. It was definitely not easy, setting out to gather responses for our survey, designing the booth etc., but at the end, when we, as an entire team, looked at the pledges and video responses from the students, we knew it was all worth it. It is sufficient to know that we have done our part in educating our peers about the situation, and as best as we can, encouraging them to show care and compassion to these foreign domestic workers that are integral parts of our society.”
– Ashleigh Toh, Dunman High school student
It is inspiring to see students taking concrete steps towards addressing the issues facing FDWs in Singapore. This is a campaign that can empower a generation of Singaporeans to change their view about the role of migrant labour in Singapore or as student Cai Peng Fei put it, “create a small spark of change in the Singaporean community”.
Thank you to the class 5C35 of Dunman High school and all others who took part.