We asked new volunteers who helped out at our July Outreach to contribute some reflection and feedback. Here is one:

By Ying Zhen

It was my first time participating in a TWC2 outreach activity. I was a little nervous at first because I did not know if I could do what was expected of me. But with the help of the experienced volunteers, it went relatively well. It was my first time speaking to so many transient workers in one sitting and I’m grateful for the opportunity to hear first-hand their concerns and challenges.

What helped:

  • Registering for the event was easy and fuss-free.
  • The briefing at the beginning was very helpful. In particular, I was grateful for the practical advice on how to attract the workers’ attention and how to respond in various situations.
  • Assigning a specific area to each group, so we didn’t end up covering the same area.
  • Going through the Chinese translation for specific terms.
Our goodie bags were tied together with raffia

Our goodie bags were tied together with raffia

What might have been helpful:

  • Some of the information covered at the briefing could have been disseminated in advance (perhaps via email). In that way, volunteers can have some time to digest the information.
  • I ended up working in a pair instead of a group of three. It went quite well so perhaps dividing the group into pairs instead of threes may help in reaching out to more people.
  • Having space on the survey form to fill in extra comments. The survey focused on the workers’ basic pay but many workers had difficulty determining that since they usually work overtime. It would have been great if there was a survey question to address this issue.
  • I wish I had a pair of scissors with me to cut the raffia string that was holding the goodie bags together so the workers didn’t have to wait that long for their goodie bags. (I struggled with the knot for so long that a worker finally helped to burn the raffia string with his lighter.)

In summary, the session really helped me to understand the workers’ concerns. I found myself tongue-tied as they asked me questions like why errant employers were allowed to get away with not paying their workers. I realized I have to learn to answer these questions in a satisfactory manner. There is still so much I have to learn about transient worker issues in Singapore.

I also found myself getting caught up in conversations with the workers. I was torn between wanting to listen to their concerns, and getting more surveys done/giving out more leaflets to other workers.

To conclude, this experience has reaffirmed my decision to be a volunteer with TWC2. I hope to be able to tap on my experience for my work with the public education team. I am definitely keen to participate in the subsequent outreach activities.