Harmony Makers – Sazzad Hossain
At 23, Sazzad has impacted hundreds of lives by empowering migrant workers with the ability to better communicate in Singapore. He hopes to bridge communication gaps and misunderstanding between Singaporeans and migrant workers. He personally faced similar challenges when he first arrived here more than a decade ago.
Question 1 : Why do you think the prejudice exists?
Answer : I think it’s the lack of understanding. People don’t really know about things and when you don’t really know much about something, you have a lot of conflicting ideas in your head and most of the time they are negative. So, from that point onwards, people have a lot of negative thoughts and ideas and that results in misunderstandings and miscommunication.
Question 2 : If you had to come up with a focused statement on how you feel about communication?
Answer : Communication is the doorway to understanding and getting insights about one another.
Question 3 : In your experience, why did you decide to focus particularly on language?
Answer : I felt that a lot of people did not really get the opportunity to communicate with the migrant workers. A lot of migrant workers could not express themselves due to the language barrier. So, if they could be better equipped with the right language and communication skills then they could express themselves, share ideas and get the world to know them.
Question 4 : Why did you decide to start something like this at such a young age? What was that pivotal point that made you move into it?
Answer : For me, I saw language not as a luxury but as a necessity. This is because a lot of migrant workers could not understand the safety instructions at the workplace which are communicated in English. I know of a particular incident where one of the workers could not understand the safety briefings given to him before carrying out some repair works. When there was a gas leakage for the air-con that he was repairing, he had no idea what to do and instinctively used his bare hands to cover the gas leakage. His hand got charred and had to be amputated eventually and he was sent back to his country. That story really got to me and I felt like I can’t wait anymore as people’s lives are at stake.
Question 5 : What have been the biggest challenges for you personally in doing all of this?
Answer : We had two main setbacks . One is convincing the employers of the migrant workers that communication is a key issue not just for their betterment, welfare and productivity but it is also critical for bonding amongst the staff members in their workplace. Secondly, it’s about how communication is a big factor to social inclusion where they can be better understood by Singaporeans and the larger community.
Question 6 : When they experience these things, do you get a sensing that they are affected?
Answer : I feel that they are not necessarily angry but they felt isolated and misunderstood. They work really hard everyday and they are away from their families so everything seems to work against their favour. So in these times of difficulties, even a smile makes a difference as a smile is universally understood as a positive expression. The workers do feel a bit more secure that there are people who care about them.
Question 7 : So what are your future plans?
Answer : Right now we feel there is this invisible barrier between migrant workers and Singaporeans. We narrowed down the issue to two root causes. One is the language barrier that people have as well as the social stigma that Singaporeans have against migrant workers. So we try to package this together and provide a one for one solution where if a Singaporean buys a T-shirt that says ‘ Trust me, I’m no stranger’ to show support for the migrant workers and tell them that they are not a stranger in our society, then an English guide book will be gifted to a migrant. In the short run we are actually showing support for the migrant workers so they will feel appreciated in Singapore. In the long run, we are actually breaking down the language barrier. That is what we are working towards.