Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Foreign workers, Singaporeans band together for fund-raising concert

By Chia Yan Min, The Straits Times, 27 Nov 2012

BANGLADESHI construction worker Komol Kamal has helped raise $667 for Dibashram, a gathering space in Little India for foreign workers.

The 28-year-old plays tabla in a 10-man band - five Singaporeans and five Bangladeshis - which held its first concert last Friday at The Hub Singapore, a space for entrepreneurs in Somerset Road. They played tunes from pop to traditional Bangladeshi music.

Entry was free and the crowd of about 80 could choose the amounts to donate.

The gig was organised by Beyond The Border, Behind The Men, an initiative spearheaded by three Singaporeans that aims to alter perceptions of foreign workers here.

Ms Bernice Wong, 24, one of the founders, started working with foreign workers as a volunteer with non-governmental organisation Transient Workers Count Too.

Said the freelance photographer: "There is often an 'us versus them' divide in Singaporeans' perception of migrant workers - we think they're dangerous and we should keep away."

The band, which started rehearsing for the two-hour concert last month, held some practices in Dibashram, on the second storey of a shophouse in Rowell Road. Some members, who met through Ms Wong, got together for the first time in July and the others came in the months after.

The space is privately funded by full-time volunteer Debbie Fordyce, 58, an American who has lived here for more than 25 years.

Mr Kamal, who has been playing the tabla since he was eight and has been here for seven months, said: "I didn't expect to have a chance to play music here so I was very surprised and really enjoyed it."

Said fresh graduate Ang Xin Hui, 24, the bassist: "Before meeting them, I was worried about how we were going to communicate. After I got to know them, I realise they're down to earth, contented and happy people."

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