“One year ago, I didn’t speak English. I didn’t even know what a TED Talk was. I never imagined that I would be giving a speech in front of an audience of four hundred people,” said Saiful Islam, a Bangladeshi migrant worker. Saiful’s story is emblematic of a larger social message: “migrant workers are more than just guys in yellow helmets and high visibility vests, beneath all that – Singaporeans and MWs are very alike.”
“So next time you sit beside a migrant worker in the MRT or stand in front of him in a queue, try to strike up a conversation, you will realise very soon that there is more similarity between us than meets the eye. And if you feel that language barrier is the problem, one can always fall back on the universal language of smiling.”
Saiful is a graduate student of SDI Academy, a Singapore-based social enterprise which seeks to empower migrant workers through teaching them English and computing skills. When Saiful arrived in Singapore five years ago, it was a very painful time in his life – he was doing back-breaking physical labour to support his family which had sold off their ancestral property to pay off a mountain of debt. Through sheer determination and hard-work, Saiful gained English proficiency and technical certifications. He constantly kept trying to improve himself, he used every opportunity to upskill and become better.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx