When the Circuit Breaker began, the migrant brothers whom Christopher Boey, 30, a Catholic had encountered through his social enterprise – Barang for your Buck (BFYB), was on the top of his mind. BYFB is a social enterprise that supports migrant workers with low-cost shopping options.
“With the number of 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 COVID-19, Christopher together with vendors, who would register to be part of his flea market events, brought the shopping experience to the migrant workers where vendors would sell new and pre-loved clothes, shoes, bags and electronic gadgets at affordable prices.
Christopher said: “Many of our migrant brothers live in “far flung” parts 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.”
Christopher said: “I wanted to raise awareness and improve public appreciation of the migrant communities in Singapore.”
Through flea market events, Christopher encouraged his vendors to strike up conversations with the migrant workers.
Learning valuable life lessons from the Migrant Workers
Recounting an experience, Christopher said: “I asked him why are you buying this, and he told me that he was buying the shirt for his brother in Bangladesh.”
For Christopher, these personal experiences and conversations with the migrant workers opened his mind to see the migrant worker as not just someone who is different from himself but as a brother and a friend.
These encounters with the migrant workers also taught him that there are many ways to be happy.
For instance, it was not just buying the items which brought joy to the migrant workers. but it was being in the company of friends, having that friendship with others and being cared for were what really mattered. “Their idea of happiness went beyond having the materials.”
Christopher 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 that the migrant workers taught Christopher and his vendors was to treasure what he has. Christopher said: “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.”
Just like you and me
BFYB together with Ribbons Craft Decoupage, Social Gifting and other volunteers provided 5,500 reusable fabric masks, 4,000 surgical masks, 37 bottles of hand sanitizers and 48 bottles of disinfectant liquid through ACMI to Homestay Lodge dormitory during the circuit breaker period.
“It was a small effort on our part to show support to them during this stressful and challenging time.” said Christopher.
Separately, BFYB is sourcing for pre-loved smartphones. These will be donated to migrant workers so that they can install mandatory apps, which are needed when they return to work.
Christopher hopes that more people will come together to appreciate and support the migrant brothers and sisters in our midst.
Christopher closed by saying: “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.”