Domestic workers, who graduated from courses run by the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, throw confetti in celebration on Aug 21.

Present premises rundown and costly to maintain

The migrants commission’s training centre will relocate to Nativity Church for three years as the organisation looks for larger premises.

The move, to take place later this year, is because of the rundown state of the present centre and its high cost of maintenance, said the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ACMI).

The centre for foreign domestic workers is currently housed at the former St Joseph’s Convent at Hillside Drive, near to the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The organisation had looked at several locations before deciding on the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as ACMI wanted a place near its present location.

However, the relocation would mean smaller premises. In view of this, ACMI plans to space classes at the new centre over two terms in a year instead of having a single nine-month-long term.

ACMI executive director Jeremy Khoo told CatholicNews it is not cost effective to rent commercial space on a daily basis as the centre is used mostly on Sundays.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the 10th anniversary celebration of the ACMI Training Centre on Aug 21.

The event, held at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, saw 500 migrant workers graduating from courses.

Cooking, baking, dressmaking, hairdressing, caregiving, beauty and wellness, small business enterprise, computer and language courses will still be offered, depending on demand, said ACMI.

Nativity Church has also allowed ACMI to use catechism classrooms in addition to five rooms the commission had converted from what used to be a hall.

ACMI also gave an update of its other initiatives. Its soup kitchen for foreign workers has been replaced by a “bread basket” service.

The need for food packets diminished as foreign workers moved into dormitories that have canteens and provision stores. A permit is also needed to serve food to them, said ACMI chairman Mark Goh.

What ACMI does now is distribute provisions such as tinned food, rice, instant noodles, biscuits, and toiletries to foreign construction workers. The commission distributes 1,000 packets to dormitories a few times a year, thanks to the generosity of donors.

Meanwhile, ACMI course graduates told CatholicNews they found the lessons useful as they are able to acquire skills which could prove useful when they return home.

Filipina Ma Helen P Odquier, who took a hairdressing course, said she hopes to start a business when she returns home, or the very least, be able to do her children’s hair. She also intends to take other courses such as dressmaking. She said the teachers are patient and give their best.

Ms Mira, an employer who accompanied her domestic worker to the graduation ceremony, said she is happy to see her helper complete her course. “It’s better for them to come and learn something than spend time idling,” she said, adding that she encouraged employers to allow their domestic workers to attend such classes.

ACMI training programme coordinator Connie Fong said courses such as cooking, hairdressing, and beauty and wellness are popular. However, there is now a real need for English training with the increase in Indonesian and Myanmar domestic workers.

According to ACMI, its goal is for domestic workers to be able to start their own business with their savings when they return home.

ACMI also conducts English and Mandarin classes for foreign spouses from China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The centre has trained over 8,000 students. ACMI also welcomes volunteer trainers. n

Registration for classes at the new premises begins on Nov 13. Classes start on Dec 18. For more information, call 6280 5424 or email general@acmi.org.sg

By Darren Boon
darren.boon@catholic.org.sg

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