In the lead up to the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sept 27, the staff of the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ACMI), together with students from Marymount Convent and well-wishers, handed out gifted care packages under their Bread Basket (BB) programme to over a thousand migrant workers living in the dormitories.
Bread broken for others
The BB was started in 2010 to distribute groceries to these workers. Over the years it gradually evolved into a spiritual programme for church groups, especially catechism youth. Its three phases “Open Our Minds”, “Nourish Our Hearts” and “Feed Our Souls” are taken from Deuteronomy 6:5 which says “You must love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.”
Pre-Covid 19, the BB’s highlight was a visit to the workers’ dormitories where participants would bundle care packages and then distribute them. Participants would then pray and reflect on their experiences in light of Catholic social teaching, and end their BB with a Mass and thanksgiving.
However, in the time of pandemic and its attendant safety measures, and with no volunteers permitted, ACMI staff participated in the BB for the first time.
Solidarity in support
Socially distanced within the grounds of Agape Village, the team spent two whole days praying over and packing 600 care packages containing masks, hand sanitisers, toiletries and snacks for the migrant workers. Thank-you notes and helpline cards were also included to let recipients know that, if they ever needed support, the ACMI door was always open.
Jan Teng from the skills development team shared with great elation, “During the packing, even though I was tired from the standing and moving of boxes, I was filled with delight, knowing that the migrants will receive these care packages of love. I’m truly thankful for all that they have done for our country!”
The BB not only teaches participants to “pay it forward” but also gives them some quiet time to reflect on what it means to be humble and not take material blessings for granted. “Taking time off from work to help out allowed me to look at myself differently,” said Abigail Chua, an ACMI intern. “I realised that items that might seem insignificant to me mean a lot to the migrants.”
Love in action
Esther Chia, Executive Director of ACMI, highlighted that “the BB is an expression of God’s love for our neighbour. The first Letter of St John emphasises that this is the commandment we have received from Him, that whoever loves God, must also love his brother. The act of putting together these care packages is not only an expression of our care for migrants, but also our response to God’s commandment to love as He has loved us, regardless of who we are.”
ACMI is blessed to partner with generous donors and helpers like the 10-year-old students from Marymount Convent who assembled 70 care packages as part of their Values-In-Action (VIA). Truly, these outpourings of love are a reflection of St Paul’s words in his letter to the Colossians to “Over all these clothes, put on love, the perfect bond.”
Respect for human dignity
In his 2020 Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis reminds us that in our outreach and care for migrants, we must try to welcome, protect, promote and integrate them into our community.
In Singapore’s context, we can begin this approach by simply listening to their stories to understand why they have come here to live or work. Hence, we are able to better appreciate who they are as individuals and not just mere migrant workers or foreign spouses. They are someone’s father, brother, sister or husband who is loved and missed – a person with human dignity.
Let us not forget Pope Francis’ reminder that “Building the Kingdom of God is a duty common to all Christians, and for this reason, it is necessary that we learn to cooperate.” Indeed, love in action and respecting unity in diversity is of paramount importance when reaching out to our migrant brothers and sisters. Only thus will they see the face of Christ in us.
Contributed by ACMI