Unlike other clubhouses in Singapore, The Fast Befrienders Clubhouse comes to life just only every Sunday – on the off day of most of its members, foreign domestic helpers.
On any given Sunday, members groove to fast-paced dance music for zumba in the community hall, while others work out on a treadmill in the gym. The aroma of home-cooked food tempts the senses, and a convivial atmosphere soothes the soul.
Started in 2014 by the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST), a non-profit organisation, the Fast Befrienders Clubhouse has more than 6,000 members to date, and the number grows every weekend.
The foreign domestic workers pay $10 for a year’s membership to take part in classes and use the facilities, and they pay a nominal fee for classes that require materials and ingredients. Besides the community hall and the gym, the clubhouse also has computer room, kitchen, music room, activity room and counselling room.
Besides holding celebrations of important national events for its members, the Fast Befrienders Clubhouse has regular zumba, line dancing, cooking and crochet classes conducted either by external instructors or by domestic workers themselves.
Volunteer Jenny Ifurung, 41, who is also in charge of running the kitchen, says it is “her home away from home”. The Philippine national spends every Sunday at the clubhouse, helping with preparations for events and making sure that the kitchen is kept clean.
For Filipina Cherry Cristobal Marasiga, there are more than enough reasons to spend her Sundays at the clubhouse. She makes full use of the basic gym and is in charge of its upkeep. “I used to spend my Sundays window shopping. Now, I exercise and it makes me feel rejuvenated, helps me save money and prevent high blood pressure, which runs in my family,” she said. “This is my place.”
Domestic workers of the same nationality congregate at different loctions in Singapore on their days off, but at the clubhouse, the community comprises a myriad nationalities, with English as the common language. For new members whose command of English is poor, there are always clubhouse volunteers available to translate.
Some, like Ms Ifurung, have even picked up basic Bahasa Indonesia while trying to converse with other members.
Besides being able to pick up new hobbies with friends, these foreign domestic workers are also acquiring a skill that can offer a source of income when they return home.
“We hope that the clubhouse will create a sense of belonging for them, and also provide social support and work-life balance,” said Mr William Chew, executive director of FAST.
Find out more about the Fast Befrienders Clubhouse here.
By Seah Kwang Peng, The Straits Times, September 2017
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