Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Kind 'uncle' on MRT train lauded for his acts

SEP 4, 2015,

S'pore Kindness Movement honours man who told foreign workers to keep their seats

Melody Zaccheus

A Singaporean "uncle" who told three foreign labourers on a train to keep their seats when they offered to give them up to local commuters was honoured by the Singapore Kindness Movement yesterday.

Mr Rimy Lau, 68, was presented with a certificate commending his gesture and a figurine of Singa the Courtesy Lion by the movement's general secretary William Wan at the organisation's Hill Street office.

The movement said Mr Lau's caring gesture "helped to make Singapore a nation of kindness and graciousness".

His kindness was spotted and photographed by this reporter who documented it in a Facebook post, and later, was featured in an online Straits Times story. The account of the incident was shared more than 60,000 times and was read by more than 800,000 people.

The former Regent Singapore Hotel housekeeping supervisor told the men, from India: "You don't always have to give up your seat. You come here to build our homes, so you can sit also, you know?"

The post sparked a discussion on how Singaporeans treat foreign workers here.

One of the trio, Mr Saravanan Samidurai, 28, was invited to the ceremony. He was presented with a Singa figurine as a token of appreciation for taking the initiative to make way for Mr Lau, a senior citizen. Mr Lau had directed most of his comments to Mr Saravanan who spoke the most English of the trio.

They included instructions on how to get around Singapore as Mr Saravanan had been in Singapore for just three days and was taking the train for the first time.

Mr Saravanan took out his phone to take a selfie with Mr Lau.

Mr Wan said they became "neighbours" on the train by chance but became "friends by choice".

"What happened is a good example of what all Singaporeans should do, regardless of race, religion and language," said Mr Wan.

Mr Saravanan said Mr Lau's efforts made him feel welcome.

Speaking through a translator, he said he experiences class discrimination back home due to the caste system in India. He hails from a remote village in Trichy in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. His parents are farmers and live in a hut.

"Mr Lau - a Chinese Singaporean man speaking to me on my first few days here - made me feel like an equal," said Mr Saravanan, who is working with NKH Construction in Singapore. He is working on an HDB upgrading project in Clementi, where he is involved in the installation of lifts and handrails.

Mr Saravanan, who has two older sisters, earns about $750 to $800 a month and hopes to save about $500 of this for his family.

Mr Lau's kindness has even resulted in him being recognised when he walks down the street, but he brushed the praise aside. He said: "Some people treat construction workers differently, they refuse to talk to them. That's not right. We should treat everyone the same."

Singaporean uncle's kind act towards foreign labourers in train goes viral

AUG 25, 2015,

Melody Zaccheus

SINGAPORE - We often see foreign labourers giving up their seats on public transport to Singaporeans. Some of us might mumble a "thank you" and gratefully slip into the seat while others might reject their offer and look away.

On Monday (Aug 24) however, Mr Rimy Lau, 68, did a little more in an act that has been roundly praised online. He encouraged three construction workers in an off-peak train in the evening to keep their seats after witnessing them scoot aside to make way for some Singaporean commuters.

Directing his comments to one of the trio who spoke the most English, he said: "Hey you can sit down... You don't always have to give up your seat, especially not to men on the train. You come here to build our homes so you can sit also you know?"

His action, captured in a Facebook post by this reporter who was in the same train carriage as them, has gone viral. The post has been shared more than 8,700 times. Organisations such as the Singapore Kindness Movement have also shared it - the movement's page chalked up more than 10,000 likes in the span of three hours on Monday night.

People who commented on the posts praised Mr Lau for his inspiring act and recounted similar experiences of foreign workers rushing to offer their seats to Singaporeans - many a time with little acknowledgement.

The worker, Saravanan Samidurai, 28, initially appeared puzzled by Mr Lau's interaction with him. But when he understood, he broke into a wide smile, whipping out his mobile phone for a selfie with Mr Lau.

Mr Lau, who has worked as a housekeeping supervisor at the Regent Singapore hotel for 20 years, said he learned that the workers were new to Singapore. Here for their third day, they had told him that they were on the way to a construction project in Admiralty.

Speaking to The Straits Times, Mr Lau said; "They were so kind-hearted… They wanted others to sit down. I told them that it was not necessary as there was still space in the train, and they are new here with a long ride ahead before they would reach their destination."

This reporter also witnessed Mr Lau dishing out advice on how to navigate Singapore's transport network. He homed in on the Little India MRT station and shared with them some bus routes.

He also said that Mr Saravanan could contact him "any time" if he needed help.

Praising Mr Lau, Facebook user "Joshua N Faith Sudharman" wrote: "Proud of this Singapore uncle!"

Another user Patricia Wong wrote: "A great reminder to be kind and polite to the many foreign construction and cleaning workers who are helping us build and clean our homes and roads - we can all start by acknowledging them with a smile or greeting or thank you."

Mr Lau, a bachelor, said the workers shook his hands and waved goodbye to him after he got off at Ang Mo Kio where he lives.

"They were lost at Raffles Place and I saw someone ignoring them as they asked for directions to get around. As Singaporeans we should be courteous and help out when we can.

"They come here to work. This is how we can take care of them," he said.

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