Once Upon a Pandemic, Migrant Workers Built a Quilt Home

Over a million deaths worldwide.

The largest global recession since the Great Depression.

The worst crisis ever encountered in the history of the aviation industry.

The fastest crash in global stock markets in financial history.

And so much more.

The cause of all this? The COVID-19 pandemic. 

The year 2020 is one for the history books. Evidently, the pandemic has been one of the most devastating events in modern history. 

It single-handedly destroyed normalcy all around the world and has brought our lives to its current state.

But there is one group of people in Singapore that was hit by this pandemic like none other – our migrant workers living in dormitories.

For months, these workers had been quarantined – isolated in their rooms in a dormitory, in a country far from home and family.

That being said, Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre and 3Pumpkins joined hands to help this community by launching the “Stay Home Quilt” art project with sponsor Maybank Singapore.

“Stay Home Quilt” Exhibition: Migrant Workers
Migrant workers collaborating on their own creative fabrics

The name of this project is in line with the quarantine that the migrant workers were put under in their dormitories. It also conveys the pent-up emotions of these migrant workers, such as frustration and longing from being so far away from their families. This project also aims to build a bridge between local residents and our migrant workers. How?

After the Circuit Breaker, over three sessions, while still abiding by all restrictive measures, a few Tzu Chi volunteers entered two temporary dormitories to interact with 61 healthy migrant workers. These workers and residents worked on their own creative fabrics which were then sewn together to form a ‘quilt home’, as shown below:

“Stay Home Quilt” Exhibition: Quilt Home
‘Quilt Home’ exhibited at Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre

In light of National Day, this exhibition is now up at the Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre from 9 August to 29 December 2020, free of charge, for you to witness the collaboration of the different communities in Singapore.

For each completed piece of fabric artwork, Maybank will make a S$20 donation to Tzu Chi to support their future programmes for migrant workers.

Each fabric tells a different story about each worker. Some poured out their innermost emotions surrounding the pandemic onto their fabric, like how much they’re missing their family, while some shared their gratitude towards Singapore.

“Stay Home Quilt” Exhibition: Residents
Residents taking photos inside the ‘Quilt Home’ to make their well-wishes

One worker, Rengasamy Kannaperan from India, sewed the names of his family members on his fabric, and also the words “I love Singapore, I like it very much. Singapore is a country which I respect. Thank you, Singapore. There are Tamil writings in so many places. It feels the same as my own country. My second home is Singapore.”

Together, this ‘house’ shows that no matter where we are from and how different we are from one another, we’re all fighting this fight together, and we will stand by each other. This symbolic home carries a different meaning for different people.

For the locals, it reminds us of our humble beginnings as a village and the perseverance it took us to make it this far. At the same time, for the migrant workers, it symbolises their hometowns and even their temporary isolation facilities during this challenging time, as a beacon of hope.

“Stay Home Quilt” Exhibition: Entrance
The entrance of the Javanese-style ‘quilt home’

Local artist Jimmy Ong, who led this project, and a few other Tzu Chi volunteers had envisioned a traditional Javanese house when designing the exhibition, so they gathered recycled rattans to make the beams and 55 triangular fabrics for the walls and roofs of this magnificent ‘quilt house’.

Tzu Chi is a non-profit organisation that has provided various communities in our nation with immense support throughout the pandemic – delivering vegetarian lunches and sending encouraging messages to our front liners, providing essential items and services to underprivileged families, and even rallying residents to sew fabric masks at home for migrant workers. 

Not all superheroes wear capes, do they?

So to see the magic of unity yourself, head on down to 30A Yishun Central 1, Singapore 768796, from 10am to 7pm, anytime till 29 December. 

The project is also supported by Singapore International Foundation, The Majurity Trust, PAssionArts in Nee Soon GRC, Chong Pang Community Arts & Culture Club and Nee Soon East Community Arts and Culture Association.

Singapore, let’s stand together in this fight. Because together, we are so much more.

Visuals courtesy of Tzu Chi Singapore.

Baani Kaur

Aspiring to achieve great heights like every human in the world, but till then, enjoy the most dramatic and sarcastic person you will ever read from.

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