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Building Peace, Building Expertise

PracticeForte Day Out – Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST)

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Article By: Pamela Lun & Cheryl Lim

 Stepping into the premises of the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST) is like stepping into a never-ending party. Music boomed throughout the premises as a talent competition was being organized for the afternoon. Groups of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) formed dance groups and grooved to the latest beats, while 1 or 2 daring individuals showed off their vocals with Adele and Celine Dion classics.  Off the stage, FDWs were gathered in groups chit-chatting, gymming or going for the free enrichment classes held within FAST. It is not difficult to see why so many FDWs choose to spend their Sunday off-days there. In the time that they are there, they regain their dignity. They are no longer known as helpers or seen in a position of servitude; they are individuals in their own right engaging in their interests and passions.

2018, 1st of July, our team at PracticeForte Pte Ltd headed down to FAST to conduct a painting session with 23 FDWs, alongside the kind help of local and foreign artists who volunteered their time to guide them. What seemed initially clumsy as FDWs of different nationalities attempted to communicate with each other soon became a heartening sight where barriers were broken through the sharing of paint, and the sharing of stories.

An afternoon of painting uncovered more than just the talents many of these FDWs had. More importantly, it uncovered the stories behind their art. Some ladies chose to draw things that might seem meaningless to the observer, but which hold deep meaning for them. One Filipino lady drew many ring taps forming a necklace. When asked, she revealed that it was a good luck charm her cousin had collected and made for her before she left for Singapore.

A Sri Lankan lady painted the lanterns of Chinatown. She mused that these lanterns were one of the first things she saw when she arrived in Singapore 20 years ago. She began tearing as she recounted her long and difficult journey in Singapore.

Another Filipino lady drew a picture of a saint which was in a small booklet given to her when she left the Philippines 22 years ago. She still carries the booklet with her till this day and took it out to show us.

Others chose to pen slogans that they wanted others to know about, such as “I only respect others who respect me when I’m not around” and “DREAMS… I’m almost there”.

Such was an afternoon that returned to our FDWs the voices that should’ve been heard long ago.

In January this year, PracticeForte Advisory (the professional network of lawyers, accountants, forensic professionals, business consultants, mediators, therapists and counsellors managed by PracticeForte Pte Ltd) set a twin pillar focus of “Building Peace, Building Expertise”. Advocating for mediation as a suitable dispute resolution mechanism between employers and FDWs is part of a series of our “Building Peace” initiatives. A special event, organised in conjunction with our third anniversary on 5th August 2018, will include an exhibition of these artwork. Painted on cotton canvas bags, they will be displayed at the Chinatown Heritage Centre in the month of August. A tour of the museum which illustrates the lives of migrants in Singapore both past and present will, we hope, help all who attend come to a greater awareness of the lives of the FDWs surrounding them.

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