Photo credit: ZACHARY LEE


Zachary Lee, 21, is waiting for university to start at the end of this year. After completing his National Service recently, he witnessed the COVID-19 pandemic worsen in Singapore and how it impacted different people in the community. Unlike his peers, he didn’t look for part-time jobs or internships to gain experience before college. Instead, he linked up with a few friends to distribute donations of food, clothes and other basic necessities to the migrant workers living in the apartments in Geylang.

Dear Youth,

My time after finishing National Service has been nothing short of amazing. I know the nine months before the start of university is a really long period of time, and most of you would have worked jobs or secured internships to gain experience, but I spent my time doing something different that I’m really excited to share with you about.

The COVID-19 virus has definitely affected just about every aspect of our lives, more so for others in our community. For one, I noticed that migrant workers could no longer spend their weekends relaxing outside because they were stuck in their dorms.

I also learnt more about their plight from an unexpected conversation I had with a coffee shop aunty who worked in Geylang.  She mentioned there were many migrant workers staying in apartments in the area, and they seemed quite isolated, especially on their days off, as they could no longer go out much.

That’s when I decided I would make a difference for them, in whatever small way I could. Even though the COVID-19 restrictions were tight,  with a five-person visitor cap per house, I was determined to find a way to work with these limitations and reach out to this marginalised group.

A few friends and I teamed up to gather donations from various companies and individuals – food, clothes, some basic necessities that we felt these workers might need and appreciate. We then went to their apartment units in Geylang to deliver food to them and have a chat with them.

These migrant brothers were so open about sharing their lives, and it felt really good to be a listening ear to them. They told us about their hometowns, their favourite parts of Singapore, and even trusted us enough to share their struggles. Watching their faces light up as we exchanged stories and experiences over biscuits and packet drinks made our efforts worthwhile.

This experience taught me the real meaning of community – that it is about embracing those around you, no matter their circumstances, where they’ve come from or where they’re going. Giving to the community is one thing – the real blessing comes from the relationships you form with people and seeing them as valuable members of society who matter.

Never again will I look at migrant workers the same way again. When I cross paths with them, I make it a point to give them a smile, maybe have a short conversation with them if I can, and find some small way to make their day a little better. Every small act of kindness can go from a ripple to a wave in someone’s heart.

There’s so much more to these migrant brothers than meets the eye, and you never know what friendships and the bonds you can create with just some biscuits and packet drinks.



This article was published on Nov 16, 2021

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