When the Covid-19 Circuit Breaker began, the plight of the migrant brothers was on top of the mind of Christopher Boey, who encountered them through his social enterprise.
BYFB (Barang For Your Buck) is a social enterprise that supports migrant workers by providing them with low-cost shopping options.
“With the number of Covid cases on a rise, I felt the need to do something for them and I could not stop thinking about them,” said Christopher. Prior to this, Christopher worked with vendors who registered to be part of his flea market events. Together, they brought the shopping experience to the migrant workers and vendors would sell new and pre-loved clothes, shoes, bags and electronic gadgets at affordable prices.
“Many of our migrant brothers live in “far flung” corners of Singapore and have limited opportunities to travel to town or to a shopping mall to make purchases, so we decided to bring it to them.”
“But beyond that what I really wanted to encourage was to raise awareness and improve public appreciation of the migrant communities in Singapore.” Through these flea market events, Christopher encouraged his vendors to strike up conversations with the migrant workers.
He recounted an experience at a flea market event: “I asked him why are you buying this and he told me that he was buying the shirt for his brother in Bangladesh.”
Christopher, a 30-year-old Catholic, said these encounters with the migrant workers opened his mind and made him see them more as a fellow brother or friend instead of persons who are different from him.
These encounters with the migrant workers have also taught him that there are many ways to be happy. For instance, it was not just shopping which brought joy to the migrant workers but it is also about being in the company of friends. To have those friendships with others and to feel cared for were what really mattered.
“Their idea of happiness went beyond having the materials,” he added. “In my many conversations with them, they were not just buying an item for themselves but it was always for someone whom they cared for and cherished (back home).”
Another lesson he and his vendors learnt is to treasure what we have. “I was surprised at how much they could see in the value of an item and was even willing to pay for it. That really made me put much care and consideration into the things I bought and threw away” said Christopher.
During the circuit breaker period in April, BFYB together with Ribbons Craft Decoupage, Social Gifting and other volunteers provided a total of 5,500 reusable fabric masks, 4,000 surgical masks, 37 bottles of hand sanitisers and 48 bottles of disinfectant liquid through ACMI to Homestay Lodge dormitory.
He was very grateful to all the donors and volunteers for their generosity and also to those who have taken the time to sew the masks. All the items were delivered to Homestay Lodge and distributed by the dormitory operator to the workers.
Currently, BFYB is also sourcing for pre-loved smartphones to be donated to migrant workers so that they can install mandatory apps which are needed when they return to work.
He hopes that more people will come together to show their appreciation and support towards the migrant brothers and sisters in our midst.
“Our migrant brothers and sisters are just like you and me, with hopes, dreams, (and) aspirations. Yes, their life circumstances may be different but what makes them happy at the end of the day is the relationships that they have with others and receiving care from the community,” said Christopher.
Contributed by ACMI