SINGAPORE – The recreation hall at Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) was filled on Sunday Nov 9 with migrant workers, some of whom were decked out in international dresses. They were present to attend the ACMI (Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People) Training Centre Graduation 2008.
From an initial registration of 500 students, 429 completed computer, English, hairdressing, baking or dressmaking courses offered by the ACMI Training Centre. The centre is a skills training and reintegration service run by ACMI, a Catholic non-profit organisation that promotes and looks after the welfare of migrants in Singapore.
Chairperson of ACMI Connie Fong praised the students for their determination and discipline. "They work six days a week, yet use their precious rest day to pursue a course over the last eight months," she said.
"As long as [you students] have a dream to improve your life, we at ACMI will continue to work with you to realise your dreams," Ms Fong said. "With the right skill, there may be opportunities for you to join other industries here in Singapore."
Ms Fong also voiced her concern for those who could not attend their graduation "simply because it’s not their off day" and also for those "who don’t even have a day off in a month".
Two of the determined students present were Isnaini and Istikomah whose employers had encouraged them to take up courses at the centre.
Indonesian Isnaini, 28, has been working for the same employer since 2000. One day, she showed her employer’s mother the Ministry of Manpower’s newsletter that highlighted a migrant who was graduating from the centre.
Her employer’s mother said to her, "You also can take, what!" Isnaini has since completed courses in dressmaking, English and hairdressing. Her employer paid the course fees.
"I want to pick up a skill so that when I go back to my village, I can operate a business," Isnaini said.
Istikomah, in her 20s, also from Indonesia, has been working for the same employer for almost 10 years. She heard about the centre from a friend and told her employer she wanted to take the computer course so that she could keep up with others and to use that knowledge to find a different job in future. The employer agreed that it’s good for her and encouraged her to take it. She hopes to take up more courses.
Istikomah now uses her two Sundays off a month to learn new skills at the centre. She said that her employer is proud of her new computer skills. "She always says to me, ‘Oh good! Now you learn something new… you must study seriously’," Istikomah said.
Istikomah encouraged other foreign domestic workers to consider taking up these courses instead of spending their off days out with friends. "We make new friends here (too)," she said. -By Joyce Gan
ACMI Training Centre
The centre has been active since June 2001. It relies solely on volunteers to teach various courses on Sundays. Among them:
•Volunteer teachers from the
Singapore American School conduct computing skills training on Sundays at their Woodlands campus.
•Volunteers from the Catholic Nurses Guild conduct caregiving classes. This is especially helpful to those seeking
caregiving jobs in Singapore.
•Professional beauty trainers will conduct basic beauty and nail care courses in 2009.• Volunteers will teach small business enterprise courses in 2009.