Over 44,000 migrant workers across the 43 purpose-built dormitories received an automatic $10 top-up to their prepaid SIM cards from Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), funded in large part by Facebook and the Community Foundation of Singapore.

With the assistance of telcos Singtel, M1 and Starhub, workers with zero balance in their prepaid card accounts as at 1 May 2020 received this automatic top-up without the need to take any action.

In addition, 10,000 physical top-up cards will also be distributed to those in factory-converted dormitories.

With this top-up, the workers who had to remain in their rooms since the start of Singapore’s lockdown (“the Circuit Breaker”) or earlier, will be able to make regular IDD phone calls home to their families – a timely gift for those observing Aidilfitri (Eid al-Fitr), which this year fell on 24 May 2020.

Those who relied on free data cards or dormitory wifi would previously only have been able to call home using telephony apps if their family members had smartphones or could overcome poor 3G connectivity in the remote villages. TWC2’s top-ups, on the other hand, enable normal phone calls.

One of the recipients, Bangladeshi worker Md Abu Shahin who stays at Sungei Tengah Lodge, had only $1.50 left in his prepaid card account and said his family was too poor to afford smartphones — therefore internet calls were not an option. Divesh Kumar, a resident at the S11 Dormitory, was fretting over what to do with his dwindling account balance when the free top up came by surprise. “I very lucky! Thank you very much,” he said.

With this last phase of our phone top-up campaign, TWC2 would have spent nearly $1 million providing phone top-ups for migrant workers since this exercise started on 5 April 2020, benefitting more than 90,000 in total. This is about 31% of the work permit (construction) worker population in Singapore. TWC2’s campaign has thus far raised over $270,000, which was spent in the first phase of top-ups.

“When the lockdown was first announced, we knew immediately that it was critical to help workers maintain a line of communication to the outside world and with their families back home,” said Debbie Fordyce, president of TWC2.

“To have achieved this was unprecedented and no small feat for a small NGO like ours. But we could not have done it without the support of many.”

Facebook is a notable contributor for this latest round of top-ups. The company broke ground on their first Asia-based data centre in Singapore in 2018.

“We are pleased to provide this support, enabling these workers to maintain connectivity with their families, especially during these difficult times. We look forward to welcoming them back to our jobsite, once we can safely resume works,” said Greg Nimerick, Facebook’s Regional Data Centre Construction Manager

’’Though simple, CFS finds this initiative meaningful and impactful. It provides mental respite and emotional comfort for our guest workers to connect with their loved ones back home. Sayang Sayang Fund is happy to partner with TWC2 in this effort as part of the MigrantsOK@Home programme introduced to support our workers through this difficult time,” says Catherine Loh, CEO of The Community Foundation of Singapore.

Covid-19 patients in a number of hospitals also received top-ups so that they could re-assure their families that they were recovering well.

The beneficiaries of TWC2’s phone top-ups include newly warded migrant worker Covid-19 patients in the hospitals, so that personnel from the Ministry of Health could call them to facilitate contact tracing.

New phone chargers were also purchased for hospitals to give out, as the patients did not have access to their belongings after being warded, so as to avoid bringing possibly contaminated items into the wards. A supplementary assistance of EZ Link (transit) cards were given to help workers who did not have anyone picking them up upon their discharge from the hospital.

Note: all values in Singapore dollars.

About Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2)

Low-wage migrant workers are the hidden backbone of our society. They build our award-winning architecture, keep our streets clean and help raise our children.
Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) is dedicated to assisting these low-wage migrant workers when they are in difficulty.

About Facebook

Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.

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About Community Foundation of Singapore

The Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) is a non-profit organisation founded in 2008 to encourage and enable philanthropy in Singapore. We match donors’ interests with causes and offer ways for them to make a greater impact through donor advised funds. We also collaborate with charity partners to identify programmes that support diverse communities. Our purpose is to enable real and meaningful change while inspiring a philanthropic culture in Singapore. CFS is a registered charity with Institution of a Public Character status