New clubhouse off Still Road for foreign domestic workers to socialise, take classes, get counselling
Foreign domestic workers (FDWs) and their employers should have early conversations on arranging for a mandatory day off each month that cannot be compensated away, before the requirement kicks in from Jan 1, 2023.
Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang said this on Sunday at the official opening of a clubhouse where maids can socialise, pick up skills, undergo counselling and remit money.
Run by the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast), the Fast Hub is located at the former Telok Kurau Secondary School. The Singapore Land Authority gave Fast a lease to use the site.
Fast is a charity that provides social support services, training and work-life balance activities for FDWs.
The hub has three karaoke rooms, a yoga studio, gym and culinary studio, as well as an aerobics and dance hall. It also has a music studio for band practice and a community hall that FDWs and their employers can book to celebrate occasions like birthdays.
The facility off Still Road replaces a 500-capacity clubhouse in Jalan Bukit Merah, also run by Fast, and previously used by FDWs for recreation. The new place is able to accommodate about 10 times the number of people.
Ms Gan said the Fast Hub will enable FDWs to spend their days off meaningfully. “Activities such as Zumba and pilates will promote healthy living. Cooking classes will allow our FDWs to hone their culinary skills.”
She added that apart from meeting recreational needs, the clubhouse provides well-being support through counselling and mediation services.
At the ceremony, a group of 20 FDWs were appointed as “Care Sisters” after they completed a training programme on mediating disputes between maids and counselling those in distress.
The programme, which is a collaboration between the Ministry of Manpower, Fast and other community partners, comprises three modules – psychological first aid, suicide prevention and peer mediation.
Ms Gan gave an example of a Care Sister, Ms Crisanta, who gave useful tips to help her friends reconcile their emotions of being away from home and assured them that she is just a call or text away.
“This is the type of peer support network we aim to grow and we hope more FDWs will join us as Care Sisters,” she added.
During the ceremony, scholarship grants worth $1,800 each were given out to 20 FDWs to receive training in elder and infant care by Fast-approved training providers.
Sponsored by the Sheng Siong Group, which donated $50,000, the scholarship aims to have more FDWs equipped with the necessary qualifications to support Singapore’s ageing population. The remaining $14,000 in grants will be given out in future.
Awards were also given out to eight FDW-employer pairs to recognise exemplary performance and positive contribution. Fast received more than 100 applications and the awardees were chosen after rounds of deliberation and house visits.
The first-prize winners, who received $2,000 cash and a hamper, are Ms Jean Ong Wei Wei, 44, and her Indonesian maid Mutriyanah, 34, who goes by one name.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Ms Ong, a pre-school educator, said Ms Mutriyanah took great care of her father when he was ill and wheelchair-bound in 2014.
“She was careful with his diet, making sure he ate healthy and assisted him with his daily exercise routine. Most of all, she was very encouraging and always told my father that he can do it. With her help, he was able to walk again within a year,” added Ms Ong.
To show their appreciation, she and her father visited Ms Mutriyanah’s parents in Java, Indonesia in 2019.
Ms Ong also invested over $8,000 to help Ms Mutriyanah start a farm business in Indonesia.
Said Ms Mutriyanah: “There are no words to describe how grateful I am to my employer. With my farming business up and running, my family in Indonesia is able to lead a more comfortable life.”