Wed, Dec 19, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Migrant workers honored for their contributions to Taiwan

From sharing culture to picking up trash to fighting for labor rights, 10 migrant workers were honored on Sunday at the inaugural ‘Migrant Stars’ award ceremony

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

This year’s Migrant Stars and Migrant Star Role Models pose for a photo after the inaugural Migrant Stars award ceremony on Sunday.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times

Pindy was saddened to hear Taiwanese denouncing events at Taipei Main Station held by Indonesians. Not only did they complain of congestion, but many comments were directed those who left trash behind.

In March, the Indonesian caregiver shared her thoughts on Facebook and asked if any of her compatriots would like to help clean up Taichung’s Central District (中區). To her surprise, 40 people showed up. Despite initially drawing stares and negative comments due to the stereotype of Indonesians being unsanitary, the community eventually accepted them after months of hard work.

“Some of us indeed do bad things, but their actions are often magnified,” Pindy says. “And many people are doing good things, but they are seldom discussed.”

One-Forty, a nonprofit dedicated to providing skills training to migrant workers and facilitating intercultural understanding, is trying to change that. Pindy was one of 10 Southeast Asians honored at the first Migrant Stars Award Ceremony on Sunday, a joint effort between One-Forty and similar organizations in Hong Kong and Singapore. The opening video set the tone, with domestic caregivers from throughout the country discussing their passions, whether it be baking, painting or fashion, and dreams beyond the long hours they work.

One-Forty cofounder Kevin Chen (陳凱翔) says that the awards have two purposes: to help people see the migrant workers in a different light and to empower migrant workers to become more active in their community. The categories include talent, community leadership, education and social care.

“It’s a shame that we’re the only ones who know about many of the inspiring things that they do,” he says. “There’s so much that deserves to be shared.”

CLEANING UP TAIWAN

Chen and his team have heard many moving tales from the 400 or so students that have passed through One-Forty since its inception in 2015, and he hopes to uncover more from the 680,000 Southeast Asian migrant workers that are currently in Taiwan.

Before the Migrant Stars were honored on Sunday, 10 current and former students also received trophies as Migrant Stars Role Models. A video spotlighted Halim, a curtain factory worker from Indonesia who, in addition to being an avid hiker, has spent time cleaning up Taiwan’s mountains and beaches. After attending a recent event at Taipei 101, he and a group of Indonesian friends went to Elephant Mountain (象山) to pick up cigarette butts. They have also done cleanups at Laomei Park (老梅綠石槽) and recycled fallen sky lanterns near Pingxi (平溪).

However, it wasn’t always easy. At first, Halim and his friends would often receive strange looks from Taiwanese, some of whom even made fun of them, as Pindy also experienced.

“Some of our group speak poor Chinese so they couldn’t explain what they were doing,” he says. “But I told them, we can’t stop just because of some hurtful comments. Eventually our efforts were picked up by the news... Now people thank us.”

Pindy says Taiwanese treat migrant workers much better today than when she first arrived about 12 years ago. Much of the poor treatment experienced by migrant works stems from a lack of cultural understanding. For example, some employers would forbid them to pray, while others would serve them pork. Brokers warned them never to speak out.

“I barely had any time off because the boss thought we would get up to no good if we had free time,” she says. “So I wanted show Taiwan that this is not true.”

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