Old Raffles Girls' School turned into alternative gathering site for maids

SINGAPORE – The former Raffles Girls’ School at 20 Anderson Road is now being used as an alternative gathering site for foreign domestic workers (FDWs).

Amphitheatre @ 20 Anderson Road has been open since Feb 21 and will remain open for FDWs to use every Sunday till the end of June.

It aims to be a safe space that will provide services and activities for FDWs while adhering to safe management measures amid Covid-19.

The Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) worked with government agencies such as the Ministry of Manpower for the initiative.

Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang took a tour of the site on Sunday afternoon (March 7) and said the initiative was still in its pilot phase but more sites were already being looked at to take it further.

“We’ve been planning together with CDE for several months to provide additional safe gathering places for foreign domestic workers,” she said.

“Because of the pandemic, several of the usual hangouts for the foreign domestic workers on their rest days have been affected and also are subject to safe distancing measures.”

The alumna said she thought it was a worthy use of the old site of her alma mater.

She said: “(Being here) brings back memories. I’m glad that we can make good use of the school now that it’s vacant.”

The CDE has roped in various partners to provide services and activities for the FDWs, including art jamming, telecommunication and remittance services, and the sale of food, drinks and clothes.

It is currently open only to FDWs, who are issued a blue token as an additional safety measure on top of existing safe distancing measures when they enter the premises.

Ms Evelyn Obillo, 49, a FDW who has been working here for 19 years, said she strongly supported the initiative as it provides a safe haven for maids.

“I think CDE did a good job in acquiring this place, and it’s really huge,” she said.

“This is very good for us domestic helpers, as it will ease overcrowding in the hot spots. In here, we are sheltered from rain or sun and we feel safe and secure.”

Filipino domestic worker and CDE member Evelyn Obillo (centre) said she strongly supported the initiative as it provides a safe haven for maids. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

About 300 FDWs were seen at the premises on Sunday, with dozens of CDE volunteers engaging them in activities and ensuring they comply with safe distancing measures.

Mr Shamsul Kamar, executive director of CDE, said he hopes to have more Singaporeans volunteer for the initiative to engage the FDWs.

“We can do more, we can work with all our stakeholders, have more activities and engage them, bringing in the many Singaporeans who want to volunteer,” he said.

“I think we will definitely change the landscape and make Singapore a better place for all. Not only for our Singaporeans, but our guests also.”

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