ItsRainingRaincoats is a Singapore charity that aims to build bridges of integration between migrant workers and residents of Singapore. We work to improve their welfare and believe that their seamless integration into our community will benefit not just our migrant workers but Singapore as a whole.
ItsRainingRaincoats (IRR) is an initiative that aims to improve the lives of migrant workers in Singapore, by building bridges to strengthen their integration into our community, city and country. We employ authentic and nimble strategies to help improve the quality of the workers’ lives and make them feel valued, appreciated, safe and welcome in Singapore. Our raincoat emblem symbolizes the protection we provide them from their metaphorical thunderstorms.
OUR STORY SO FAR
ItsRainingRaincoats started in 2015.
Prior to that, our founder Dipa Swaminathan had been helping migrant workers in her personal capacity.
In late 2014, she found 2 migrant workers on her road getting drenched in a thunder storm as she drove past. Destiny made her stop, pick them up in her car and take them home to allow them to take refuge from the rain. She gave them some hot coffee and food to eat, some dry clothes to change into and sent them on their way after the rain stopped. She also passed them what would turn out to be a very valuable gift, a small piece of paper with her personal number should they every require any help.
A few months later, one of those two workers attempted to commit suicide because he hadn’t been paid his wages for 6 months. Attempted suicide was a criminal offence back then. When the police found Murugan, the only number he had with him in his wallet was the little scrap of paper from Dipa. The police called Dipa and asked her if she could post bail for Murugan. Dipa not only did that but she helped Murugan secure his back wages and have the charges dropped against him with support from the Singapore Police. Murugan was back at Dipa’s gate a month later, like a man reborn and full of gratitude. This episode was a powerful lesson for Dipa, one that made her realize that with very little effort, she could make an impactful difference in the life of a worker in need.
So began our journey. We consistently and organically grew year and year, and when the Covid 19 pandemic hit the dorms in 2020, IRR had to step up and help the hundreds of thousands of workers caught in its storm. We rose to the occasion without a playbook or precedent and helped the workers struggling with various issues they face including living in crowded dormitories, poor quality food, low wages, transport in open lorries without seatbelts, little rest and a general sense of isolation.
To support migrant workers on many fronts IRR identifies needs and provides support to any workers that came to us for help. Our volunteers are all unpaid and many have their own day jobs and families to look after. But we collectively aim to create an ecosystem of support – building teams, tech tools, identifying different avenues of help and channeling resources where they are most needed.
Some of our key contributions during Covid (many of which continue):
- 24 hour hotline setup within 48 hours of the lockdown being announced for the workers to come to us for any help
- Emergency fund raising for bereaved families of migrant workers who lost their lives
- Over 600,000 hot meals for workers in need of support via Project Belanja and another 200,000 separately
- Large scale distribution of essential items, care packs, fruits
- Collection and distribution of phones, games and reading materials
- Data cards distribution drive
- MAD WISH: a learn English initiative that supports learning and integration into community
- Ad hoc counselling for workers who need it
- Increasing awareness of migrant workers issues through media
- Advocacy work with government bodies
- Multi-language microsite created for workers to access specifically designed resources
In addition, our ongoing activities include the Starbucks redistribution drive, our festive activities for Chinese New Year, Tamil New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali, Christmas and International Migrant workers day.
We also help individual workers with specific issues like salary and reparation matters etc.
We have corporate outreach programmes and have recently launched our youth wing ItsRainingRaincoats NextGen.
We provide workers with large items like washing machines, refrigerators and bikes which are sourced sustainably from members of the public who may be disposing these items. This way we are able to marry the twin goals of compassion and sustainability to achieve a greener footprint for Singapore.
We run collection points at our volunteer homes and match the needs of our migrant workers like clothes, luggage, shoes, and other essential items. These efforts not just help our migrant workers but also eventually reduce the burden on government agencies, employers, healthcare institutions and other stakeholders.
WHAT KEEPS US BUSY
We have come a long way since early 2015 with over 1500 volunteers, several awards along the way and a wide network of connections among migrant workers, employers, dorm operators, contractors and sub-contractors, government agencies, NGOs, the media and members of the public who collectively form the village that allows us to do what we do. We have a combined social media following of nearly 50,000 and growing.
Our journey so far has been organic and when we are asked what our plans for growth are, the answer is simple: the only constant is growth. We will continue to evolve organically, extend our branches where the needs are and not be limited by a clinical blueprint.
A year round initiative where volunteers pick up unsold food from nearly 50 Starbucks outlets and distribute goodies to thousands of workers.
A drive to collect preloved items and CNY goodies for workers. Workers can then pick up items they need via our CNY free bazaars.
Distribution of more than 5000 care packs and over 20,000 biryani meals to help our worker brothers observe Ramadan,
One of our longest running initiatives distributing data cards and pizzas, samosas to workers working on the streets.
Our rides to the Singapore Flyer, using donated SG Rediscover vouchers, are a huge hit as workers come to enjoy the attraction in their Sunday best.
Inviting 3,000-7,000 migrant workers, the local community come together to serve up favourites like roti prata, curry puffs and ice-cream.
international migrants day
Activities like cricket matches, games, competitions organized on this day in collaboration with MOM
Donations of gift-wrapped, brand new items like umbrellas, tshirts, backpacks to more than 80,000 workers every year.
Learning & Development
A means for development for migrant brothers, courses like MadWish - an English learning program are fully subscribed to.
Daily Discretionary Items
We work to provide items that make workers' daily lives better - phones, laptops, home appliances.
Ad Hoc Complaints Assistance
We help workers with individual complaints (of salary non-payment and other issues) to our greatest capacity.
Dental Vision Care
Migrant workers often suffer silently with dental/ vision problems, we have galvanized dental clinics and optometrists to help.
worker family support
IRR has tried to support the victims and their families, and given a name and face to each victim, in an attempt to dignify their losses.
data card drive
We support migrant workers with data topups on their phone. A small topup of $10 helps ensure they remain connected to their family and friends.
We help get pre-loved items including bicycles, clothes, and appliances to migrant workers from various locations across Singapore.
art for a cause
Various initiatives that use art as a form of appreciation towards the workers, as well as a means to meaningfully engage with the migrant workers.