S'porean shares experience of staying 3 nights in foreign workers dormitory in Yishun in 2013

He wanted to experience what it was like for himself.

Belmont Lay | April 26, 2020, 01:27 PM

A young Singaporean has put up a Facebook post of photos he took back in October 2013 when he voluntarily resided in a foreign workers dormitory in Yishun for three nights.

The Singaporean, Keith Neubronner, wrote that he was moved to live among the foreign workers after he had returned from a pilgrimage to Brazil a few months before and had seen many homeless people.

As a result of that trip, he wanted "to reflect on the most basic blessings in my life", he wrote, and made arrangements with the dorm manager to be there.

He added that he was sharing his photos now not as a champion of migrant workers' rights, but to just put them out there.

via Keith Neubronner

Dorm was packed

According to Neubronner, the three-storey dorm housed about 500 people, he estimated.

via Keith Neubronner

There were 10 people in one room with four bunk beds, which meant two people had to sleep on the floor.

There were no mattresses except for wooden bed frames.

"I didn't sleep well at all, but many told me they're used to it," he wrote.

He also revealed that he didn't manage to take photos in the rooms as the workers didn't appear keen.

Workers are graduates in home countries

Rooms are rented by companies -- the workers' employers -- who pay for them.

via Keith Neubronner

The cost is about S$80 per person then.

The workers could be painters and grass-cutters, or other odd-job labourers.

Many of them are graduates in their home countries, Neubronner revealed, and came to Singapore to work, lured by the prospects of a S$800 monthly pay.

As a result of the many-men-per-room arrangement, people of different nationalities reside together, and make do and live with one another despite the differences.

How they cook and eat in the dorm

The arrangements for dinner were straightforward: One person in the room would cook for the rest so the workers each took turns.

via Keith Neubronner

via Keith Neubronner

This way they won't get tired cooking individually and end up waiting for the limited stoves available -- about 30 or 40 of them.

Workers typically get back at about 8:30pm.

Food usually comprised rice, curry and an omelette.

People simply ate what was served there even if they did not like it.

Toilets and sinks were gross

Neubronner revealed the toilets were the squatting kind and the individual cubicles did not have doors -- facts he found revolting.

There was also no toilet paper, just a hose serving as a bidet.

via Keith Neubronner

via Keith Neubronner

Workers washed their clothes, vegetables, poultry and brushed their teeth in a long cement sink.

Neubronner called it a "stomach-turning sight".

via Keith Neubronner

via Keith Neubronner

via Keith Neubronner

Dorms are confined spaces

He revealed that workers left for work by 6am and the lights go out at around 12 midnight.

It would not be surprising if workers lacked sleep as a result of any disturbances caused by others in the room, Neubronner wrote.

Workers typically head to work in lorries that come to pick them up.

Neubronner also wrote that he understood why workers getting a chance to go out of the dorm one day a week to visit places like Little India was such a treat compared to being cooped up inside.

In his first photo in the post, Neubronner also reminded readers that he was not sure if the foreign workers dormitory he visited is still the same these days: "To be honest, I don't know if this dorm still looks like this, or is even still around."

"This was in October 2013."

You can read and see more photos here.

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