How can we show the warmth of home to our migrant workers who are missing families this CNY?
Fong Yihui // January 31, 2022, 12:45 pm
Migrant workers share a meal of Chinese New Year delicacies and dumplings with volunteers (not pictured) from Christian Communications Singapore. Photo courtesy of Pastor David Lee.
For Chinese migrant workers like Liu Guo Dong, 49, the Lunar New Year season can be particularly difficult.
It is a time typically spent reuniting with family.
Guo Dong, who has been working in Singapore since 2014, calls his family in China daily, but still looks forward to the day he can be with them again.
Friends from church have been standing in the gap.
“Before Covid, I used to visit the church weekly, and enjoyed gathering with Christian brothers and sisters. But with the recent spike in cases, the rules are stricter again,” said Guo Dong, who attends the Sunday evening Mandarin service at Mount Carmel Bible-Presbyterian Church.
Gua zi and home-cooked meals: Mt Carmel BP Church
Guo Dong is one of 85 migrant workers from China who work at a construction site near the church. Members of the Sunday Evening Mandarin Service (SEMS) of the church have been in regular touch with workers from this particular building project for a few years. They have been befriending workers at various worksites in the area for almost 20 years; they continue to keep in touch even after the workers move on to new projects.
Pre-Covid, members from SEMS would invite the workers to their homes for meals.
Now with restrictions to stem the spread of Covid, women from the ministry have been taking home-cooked food to the worksite every fortnight. Church members also visit them regularly to encourage them, and help them remit money or renew their passports.
“The fellowship is very important to them. They are far from home and missing their families,” a spokesperson from the SEMS outreach told Salt&Light.
“They were very touched by our warmth and care, and some of them started to come to church with us,” the spokesperson shared. At one point, there were 300 migrant workers attending the weekly Mandarin service.
Some have given their life to Christ. The church has supported at least one who attended seminary, and is now a pastor in China.
“You can continue your mission outreach in your backyard just by taking the bus, MRT or driving down to the dorms.”
This Chinese New Year, the ministry will be sending special treats such as gua zi (melon seeds), peanuts and oranges to their friends at the worksite. The group also treats them to seasonal delicacies during special occasions like the Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival and Christmas.
Migrant workers have had a tough time over the last two years, with movement curbs introduced in April 2020 to stem the spread of Covid in dormitories. While the restrictions have been progressively relaxed since September 2021, only up to 3,000 vaccinated workers per day are currently allowed to leave their dorms to visit any place in the community.
Churches and organisations continue to show love and care to homesick migrant workers over CNY. Here are some ideas on how you can get involved during this festive season and beyond.
Online festivities: HealthServe
Almost 20,000 migrant workers recently took part in online CNY festivities supported by HealthServe, where they had a chance to win e-hongbaos (red packets).
HealthServe sent a counsellor who shared tips on mental wellness – and how migrant workers can care for themselves and manage stress.
The event, organised by a remittance company, also featured talks by the Singapore Police Force on protecting themselves from scams.
“The festive season can be a difficult period for many migrant brothers who are far away from home and missing their family.
“I pray that the initiatives planned with our partners will be able to bring them some joy and respite from work, and remind them that they are not alone in Singapore,” said Michael Cheah, Executive Director of HealthServe.
How you can help
Donate: HealthServe is looking to raise $100,000 through a Chinese New Year virtual fundraising event in February 2022. The funds will go towards their efforts to support disadvantaged migrant workers who are often unable to work due to work injuries or other employment complications. See here for how you can contribute.
Run: Work off those kilos gained over CNY in a virtual run to raise funds for the work of HealthServe. Follow them on Instagram or Facebook to get details on how to sign up; these will be released in mid-February.
A taste of home: Christian Communications Singapore
On the 14th day of Chinese New Year which coincides with Valentines’ Day (February 14), a counsellor will be sharing tips with Chinese migrant workers on how they can enhance their long-distance relationships with their spouses.
The Zoom talk will be organised by Christian Communications Singapore (CCS).
“We want to show them the love of God, and treat them as brothers and sisters.”
CCS has also worked with a dorm canteen to provide 300 Chinese migrant workers with pork dumplings – a traditional New Year dish eaten in China. Some 200 non-Chinese migrant workers (who may not eat pork) will receive red packets instead.
They will also distribute goodie bags to 500 migrant brothers. Contents include mandarin oranges, pain relief patches and fish oil supplements.
“We want to show them the love of God, and treat them as brothers and sisters,” said Pastor David Lee from CCS.
He also added that in villages in China, men typically do not attend church. “The men have usually gone to big cities or overseas to work, in search of a better income. The men usually feel uncomfortable among the women, elderly and children in churches in villages.”
CCS has Bibles and tracts in multiple languages available for those keen to find out more about the faith.
How you can help
Donate: Donate towards goodie bag drives, regular visits and daily operations.
Volunteer: Volunteer for special events (such as packing and distribution of goodie bags) and visits. CCS is also looking for volunteers with specialised skills especially in the healthcare or legal sectors.
Pray: Pray that God will open doors to provide CCS with relevant manpower and resources for their outreach.
Calligraphy and oranges: Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach
Over CNY, non-Chinese migrant workers will be engaged through activities like calligraphy and games at recreation centres for migrant workers. Oranges will also be distributed.
Recounting how he enjoyed his first experience with calligraphy at a reunion dinner, Sam said: “It will also show them how similar the Indian and Chinese cultures are because there is deep meaning in each word.”
Workers will also be given goodie bags containing biscuits and canned food, as well as cooking supplies such as oil and pasta for them to make their own meals at their dormitories.
AGWO is a movement of Hope Initiative Alliance.
“Chinese New Year is a chance for churches to do global missions, locally, since borders are still largely closed,” said Rev Sam Gift. “You can continue your mission outreach in your backyard just by taking the bus, MRT or driving down to the dorms.”
How you can help:
Bake: Home bakers can make and share their family’s favourite sweet or savoury snacks before or after the Chinese New Year period. You may also donate unopened goodies that have not expired. Ingredients in the snacks should be halal.
Drivers and volunteers are needed to distribute these gifts. The items are needed on February 5, 2022.
The Cookie Drive is an initiative by Dorms Mum with AGWO. Find out more here.
Adopt a dorm: Volunteer for events, educational programmes and excursions with migrant workers to places of interest around Singapore. Or adopt a dormitory with your church or group of friends. To find out more, visit Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach or call 6304 3486.
Invite a friend for a CNY meal
Outreach over the Chinese New Year period is also becoming more personal, given current Covid restrictions on gatherings.
Various individuals and volunteers Salt&Light spoke to said that they will be taking small groups of guest workers out for meals over the Lunar New Year period. Some will be inviting them to their homes.
What you can do
- Invite individuals such as the cleaning auntie in your estate, the petrol station attendant who cannot go back to his homeland, or the coffee shop uncle estranged from his family to your home or out for a meal.
- Pray for the migrant worker brothers who are working hard to support their families. They are not able to go home due to Covid and really miss their families during the festive season.
- Pray for how your cell group may be able to support a group of migrant workers.
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