Tuesday, 29 July 2014, a delegation from the Indian Women’s Association presented TWC2 with a donation of $4,000. Above, IWA president Pui Lahiri (second from right) presents the cheque to TWC2 president Russell Heng. Other leaders of the IWA who came to our office were Seema Chatterjee (left), Viji Ramakrishna (second from left) and Devika Misra (right).
As agreed with IWA, half the money will go to TWC2’s ProjectRoof to help workers of Indian origin. ProjectRoof is a new programme — only just getting off the ground — where we help workers who aren’t allowed to work (due to injury or other unfinished cases) rent a bunk somewhere. Officially, employers are supposed to provide accommodation, but quite often workers report that it is impossible to continue staying in the employer’s dorm due to threats of immediate repatriation or other intimidating behaviour by their superiors. TWC2 have come across cases of already injured workers being physically assaulted, or bundled off to the airport in the middle of the night.
While they cannot stay on in employer accommodation, being injured and unable to work however means they can’t afford alternative lodging of their own. Some workers have relatives in Singapore whom they can rely on in the interim, but others would have to sleep on the streets if not for help by TWC2.
The donation by IWC will help to kickstart this new project. TWC2 is hoping to raise more funds from other well-wishers to keep it going.
The other half of the donation from IWA will go towards our existing FareGo programme. FareGo provides top-ups to injured workers’ EZ-Link cards so that they are able to make their way to hospitals for treatment. A week after the donation was received, two workers already benefitted from it.
Natarajan Kugan (right) injured his left leg over a year ago, in May 2013. His work permit has been cancelled and he has’t been allowed to work by MOM ever since. In any event, the leg needs time to heal. He is desperately short of income, yet has to make his way quite regularly to Changi General Hospital for physiotherapy.
“One time go and come back, cost four dollar over,” he says. “If no bus card from auntie, I die like that,” he adds. “Auntie” is TWC2 executive committee member Jill Ratnam who takes charge of FareGo eligibility-checking and distribution.
In her gentle way, she is very strict about applying criteria and conditions. Workers wanting a top-up must demonstrate to her satisfaction that they have an upcoming medical appointment at a hospital. Repeat top-ups (of $30 value) are not allowed until four months have elapsed. She reminds workers to use the EZ-Link card sparingly; the top-up must last for four months’ worth of appointments.
Alagumi Sivagnanam is in a similar situation as Kugan. He is being treated in an equally far hospital: Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Yishun. “If no bus card, how I go hospital? You think I walking?” he asks rhetorically. “My leg like that, how can walk?”
Sivagnanam’s injury is on his right leg. The work accident occurred on 30 May 2014, and ahead of him, he is likely to have several months’ of hospital appointments to attend.
FareGo and Project Roof make real differences to workers’ lives.