Migrant workers treated to an evening of festivities on Deepavali, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Migrant workers treated to an evening of festivities on Deepavali

Despite being about 6,000km away from home, Indian migrant worker Chinnaiah Alagu felt right at home celebrating Deepavali at Changi Lodge 2 in Tanah Merah Coast Road on Sunday.

Mr Chinnaiah, 29, and more than 1,000 other migrant workers staying at the dormitory were treated to an evening of festivities that included performances, games and activities.

Mr Chinnaiah, an MRT track repairman who has been working here for five years, said he was there for the food and mingling with compatriots.

“This celebration makes me miss home and my wife,” he said. “It is a thoughtful event, especially the painting of diyas (small oil lamps) because that is what we do at home.”

The celebration was organised by the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Assurance, Care and Engagement (ACE) Group, together with its partners, volunteers and stakeholders.

Changi Lodge 2 residents queueing up for food during the Deepavali celebration at the dormitory on Nov 12, 2023.. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Before the guest of honour, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Koh Poh Koon, arrived at Changi Lodge 2, the queue for briyani and dessert had snaked to the end of a block at the dorm.

Addressing migrant workers and guests, Dr Koh said he was happy to join them at the event. He said: “Deepavali, being the festival of lights, symbolises the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil. So, today, I want to wish everyone all the goodness in your life and all the happiness you can have.”

A dance performance by four-man group, Thangavelu Boys, received the loudest applause when they gave an energetic street dance number.

The migrant worker group, comprising two Malaysians and two Indian nationals, had practised three times in the last three days.

One of them, a cleaner who gave his name as Mr Mohan, 33, from Tamil Nadu, said: “I showed my wife and children on a video call what it is like to celebrate Deepavali in Singapore. I just wanted to show them we are looked after, and it is equally bright and colourful here.”

Many migrant workers had participated in other smaller activities such as the painting of diyas and games such as identifying Indian sweets.

Sarah M. Wibawa, 17, a volunteer from the National Junior College Youth Give Back programme, said that within an hour, more than 100 lamps had been painted by the participants.

“Some of the designs are unique, and the migrant workers waited patiently for the acrylic paint to dry before collecting their hand-painted lamps,” said Sarah, who was busy fanning the lamps to dry them.

Migrant workers painting diyas (small oil lamps) during the Deepavali celebration at Changi Lodge 2 on Nov 12, 2023. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Volunteers from MOM, Love and Comfort – a charity – and The Salvation Army participated in packing the food that was contributed by the Indian Muslim Social Service Association. Among the volunteers were family members of MOM staff.

Mr Tung Yui Fai, chief of ACE Group, said: “It is not just a way to celebrate with them (migrant workers), but also give them a sense that Singaporeans are also celebrating with them on this festive occasion.

“It is very much part of our mission to care for them.”

Changi Lodge 2 residents receiving the food packed by volunteers. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Mr Johnathan Cheah, founder and chief executive of S11 Group, which manages dorms like Changi Lodge 2, said that previously, there were smaller celebrations conducted by dorms.

Since the pandemic, more partners, including ACE Group, “make the event even more meaningful”.

Mr Cheah said: “(With partners) you bring about a lot of good things into the dorms... What we are able to create is a wholesome event, catering more to the different needs of the migrant workers.”

Apart from the celebration at Changi Lodge 2, other activities such as movie screenings, cricket tournaments, and dance and cultural performances also took place at various migrant worker recreation centres and community clubs across the island.