#FH70 A Day of Friendship, Food, and Music: Celebrating Inclusion at Majulah Belanja

#FH4Inclusion is a commitment across our global offices to make a collective impact on social inclusion, an initiative that is an essential part of FleishmanHillard’s 70th anniversary celebration. Our team in Singapore supports the cause for inclusion of low-wage migrant workers; they’re an integral part of our city’s economy and social fabric, and we want to help tell their stories.

We found an enterprising partner in Geylang Adventures. This young team has been actively advocating for the inclusion of migrant workers through various community activities which provide opportunities for locals and migrant workers to know and better understand each other. One of their biggest community activities is Majulah Belanja and we decided to partner and support them in organizing this event.

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The FH and Geylang Adventures team all set to take on Majulah Belanja 2016

Majulah Belanja is a combination of two Malay words, translated respectively as “onwards” and “to treat”, piecing together to form an affectionate and colloquial representation of “passing the treats forward”. The event seeks to raise more awareness and understanding of migrant workers and their cultural backgrounds through food, a much-loved aspect of Singapore’s culture. Beyond our team from FH, a host of migrant workers and local participants also gathered on a Sunday morning to cook and dine together, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie.

dsc_0035Seeing the activities that were in store for them, more migrant workers decided to join the event that morning

Majulah Belanja was held at a migrant workers’ dormitory; inconspicuously tucked away in a sleepy industrial zone within the well-developed neighborhood of Woodlands.

dsc_0007Preparing this area of the dorm was a two-day effort

The event kicked off with grouping Singaporeans and migrant workers into teams of four. To foster conversations between the two groups, various ice-breaking sessions began. Already, we were seeing interesting conversations happening among the newly formed teams.

dsc_5839The ice-breaking sessions worked really well and got everyone cracking jokes and laughing

Perhaps the most interesting portion of the icebreaking sessions was the aptly-named Creative Expressions form which posed personal questions to the participants, such as “My secret superpower is…” and “Draw something that reminds you of home”, to get them to open up to each other.

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It was entertaining to read all the funny, witty answers that the migrant workers came up with. These answers gave migrants workers and locals a perspective into each other’s lives, helping each side empathize with the other by removing the many labels that define and divide them.

dsc_0140-v2A sneak peek of the ice-breaking questionnaire

Eventually all the shyness and hesitation faded, giving way to more hilarious and cheeky interactions among the participants.

dsc_5868One of the many cheeky selfies taken at Majulah Belanja

To add to the excitement, the organizers had a camera drone, to capture the kick-off. Everyone looked up with a big smile and cheerfully waved at the drone as it flew by.

img_2125Participants waving at the camera drone

dsc_5886Excited and all set to showcase their cooking skills

That was followed by a cheering contest where the emcee had participants shout out two words that Singaporeans love to use, “Sedap!” (Delicious!) and “Shiok! (Pleasure!)”; setting the scene for an exciting cook-off.

Migrant workers were given the opportunity to choose dishes they would like to prepare based on the wide range of sponsored nutritious ingredients such as fortified rice, meat, vegetables, and even seafood such as crabs and prawns sponsored by the gracious partners. Our FH team also stepped in to help sort out the ingredients and allocate portions for each team, making sure everyone had plenty to cook with.

img_2115Volunteers ready to hand out ingredients before the cook-off begins

Many migrant workers also participated enthusiastically at the various activity booths set up by event partners and sponsors. Artify Studio, a local art studio, brought in painting materials, allowing both locals and migrant workers to showcase their innate artistic capabilities on canvas.

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The Band of Doodlers, a group of local artists, also collaborated with participants to add more artistic flair onto the 15-metre long wall in the kitchen, transforming it into an inviting and beautiful space for the dorm’s residents.

dsc_0248The work of the immensely talented Band of Doodlers and participants

Migrant Mail was another heartfelt initiative which encouraged migrant workers to write letters back to their family and friends, with all costs sponsored by the event team. Many of them took up the opportunity to diligently write long letters to those that they love and miss.

dsc_5939Patiently writing letters back home to their loved ones

Meanwhile in the kitchen, dishes were being expertly prepared by both the migrant workers and local participants. Of course, this was not an all-serious affair. Laughter was constantly heard from all around the kitchen as participants earnestly worked together in cooking-up the perfect dish. What took many of us by surprise was that despite the possible language barriers, most teams got around the preparation of the ingredients and the process of cooking swiftly. Pretty soon, the aroma of various exotic dishes wafted through the entire kitchen.

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mb_dish2Expertly prepared dishes that the teams cooked-up

While the chefs got busy, the others tapped into their artistic skills for the watermelon carving contest. The creative designs got everyone guessing which team would claim the top prize. But most of all, it was heartwarming to see the bonding amongst all participants.

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dsc_0195Creative, quirky, and skillful watermelon carvings at Majulah Belanja

Bringing the event to a climax, The Migrants Band Singapore, a local band formed by migrant workers, came on stage belting out heart-stopping renditions of Bangladeshi tunes, adding to the festive mood at Majulah Belanja.  Phones were quickly whipped out by the audience for pictures and videos. One of the migrant workers was even live-streaming the performance to his family back home!

dsc_6089The Migrant Band in action

Local artiste Sara Wee appeared for a special guest performance, ending the session with an amazing collaborative jamming session with the Migrant Band.

dsc_6232Sarah Wee (front) and The Migrant Band. Their fusion performance at the end was brilliant.

Big smiles beamed on the faces of our new friends as they collected prizes for their culinary and artistic efforts during the awards ceremony, which brought the cook-off to an end.

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Excited prize-winners

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Big smiles and excitement in the kitchen before they served up a mouth-watering dish

dsc_0053Anu and Min Mei from FH were Motivators at the cook-off, cheering and guiding their teams to a great time.

dsc_5852Local participants and their new migrant worker friends sharing a laugh as they teamed up for the cook-off

dsc_6248The joy of giving and sharing your time

For those of us who volunteered our Sunday for Majulah Belanja, it was an opportunity to get closer to the migrant worker community and to actively understand the work that goes into building authentic, enduring, and enriching relationships at the grass-roots level.

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dsc_0259The FleishmanHillard Singapore team

In Singapore, our #FH4Inclusion journey taught us a lot about the challenges that our migrant worker friends face, and how each of us can play a part in addressing the emotional needs and feelings of social belonging for a more inclusive Singapore. Like many other activities in Singapore, Majulah Belanja is one of a growing number of decisive steps forward in Singapore’s journey to build a more inclusive, vibrant society and we’re humbled to be a part of this movement.