Transient Workers Count Too celebrated International Migrants Day 2012 with a sports carnival 16 December 2012. Several rounds of men’s and women’s volleyball and women’s futsal were played. We also took the opportunity to do more outreach to inform workers of their rights, and to recognise the long service to Singapore families by domestic workers who had been here for at least ten years.

Five men’s volleyball teams and nine women’s volleyball teams signed up. The women also organised four futsal teams.

With so many teams, it was a tight schedule. We only had two courts in the hall, both used almost continuously from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Raymond Ang, our social worker who doubled as the games manager was on his feet all day lining up the teams for their turns.

The men’s volleyball teams were surprisingly good, leaping high and punching hard. The women however seemed to have much more fun, laughing at every mistake they made.

Which was the whole point of it — to have a day devoted to what workers want to do and how they want to enjoy it.

“Back in June, when we talked with domestic worker networks about ideas for an IMD event, they immediately said, ‘How about a sports day?’,” recalled John Gee, TWC2’s executive committee member who took on the role of chief organiser. “So that’s what we decided to do.

“We paid particular attention to the domestic workers’ wishes because we also wanted this to be a celebratory event for the introduction of a mandatory weekly day off in 2013.”

Organising a sports day is no bed of roses. Volunteers from the National Institute of Education helped out for months, seeking sponsorship, preparing and distributing a publicity leaflet, producing two promotional videos, and packing and transporting goodie bags. On the day itself, they found 15 volunteers to help.

But TWC2 also hopes the students took away important perspectives from helping out. “These are teachers of tomorrow,” says John, “so an engagement with migrant workers and their issues may have an impact far beyond the 15 individuals concerned.”

The Indonesian and Filipino Family Networks (IFN and FFN) helped greatly too, taking on the task of recruiting teams, and as the day’s very full calendar showed, they were all too successful.

In addition to a nearly continuous cycle of games, the day included several side events.

TWC2 awarded Long Service Certificates to 108 members of IFN and FFN who had been working ten years or more in Singapore, helping Singapore families raise children or take care of their elderly.

There were dance items in the afternoon for a change of rhythm.

And the obligatory lucky draw at the end of the day.

Despite the fun that participants had at TWC2’s event, it is undeniable that most migrant workers in Singapore don’t know about International Migrants Day (IMD). Others just have a hazy idea of what it’s about, but awareness is spreading, says John Gee. “It shouldn’t be too long before it is practically as well recognised as International Women’s Day,” he added.

Considering that one in three employed persons in Singapore is a foreigner, “it would be great to see IMD celebrations on a much bigger scale, maybe with one major central event such as a sports day or concert and some local ones across the island, so every migrant worker has the chance to go, and every Singaporean who is interested can also get involved,” John suggests.

“I’d like to see civil society organisations that haven’t got a primary focus on migrant workers becoming involved, because migrant workers aren’t just interested in pay and conditions, but many other things besides, and some good partnerships could come about from this.”

He agrees that government funding would be a big help. “It would say to migrant workers that they’re here as working partners, and are respected as such. It would also relieve small organisations like our own of the big annual undertaking of raising money for IMD events, which can take a lot of time and energy.”

The success of IMD 2012 would not have been possible without many helping hands. TWC2 wishes to thank:

IFN and FFN for getting the teams together, taking part in the planning, providing volunteers on the day, and finding dancers;

NIE students for the many things they helped with and being there on the day itself;

UN-Women (Singapore) who donated $1,500 to buy prizes;

ONE (Singapore) who donated lucky draw prizes;

Individual donors who gave $3,100 to cover the costs;

Donors of goodie bag contents: The Ministry of Manpower (wash bags), Ginvera, Body Shop (cosmetics), DBS Bank (pens) and One (Singapore) (wrist bands);

The staff at United World College (East Campus) where the event was held and whose helpful attitude made a massive exercise easier.

Last but not least, we thank our staff and TWC2 members and volunteers who did a great deal to help bring everything together in the run up to IMD and on the day itself.