Multilingual Multicultural Asia: Exploring the dynamics of multilingualism within the context of increased urbanization and migration in Asia
Around the world, multilingualism is increasingly becoming the norm, requiring us to reconsider the ways in which we work. With multiple languages being used in communities, and multiple cultures coming together in new and unique ways, new opportunities and challenges are being presented to community development workers trying to bring about relevant, sensitive and lasting change.
In particular, this event aimed to provide:
- a better understanding of the challenges faced across Asia due to increased urbanization and migration, and the activities people/organisations are undertaking in different contexts,
- a vision for the benefits of considering communities languages and cultures in the way that you work and the opportunities available for change and transformation within increasingly multilingual contexts,
- an opportunity to build new relationships and encourage collaboration with others to serve more effectively in different contexts.
For the first time, this Language, Education and Development CoP event was held in Singapore. Specifically chosen due to the relevancy of this topic, the three days provided a chance to see first hand how the National University of Singapore’s College of Alice & Peter Tan (CAPT) and Healthserve, two exciting and innovative local initiatives, are responding to the opportunities and challenges presented in Singapore due to migration and increased urbanization. We were privileged to be able to include visits to these different activities within our event, providing for truly experiential learning throughout the three days.
While this event had a specific focus on urban and migrant contexts, it was also designed to be relevant for those working in more rural contexts where communities are facing the other side of the implications of urbanization - for example the loss of youth and working aged adults.
Tuesday 28 November
08:00 Bus departs accommodation for Harvest Care Centre
09:00 - 10:30 Session 1 - Setting the Scene (Welcome, Introduction, Global context, Features in Asia, the SDGs)
10:30 - 11:00 Break
11:00 - 12:30 Session 2 - Big issues, personal stories (event narrative - key issues)
12:30 - 13:30 Lunch
13:30 - 15:00 Session 3 - Leaving (Impact of migration on rural life. Causes and effects of migration and urbanization. Why are people moving?)
15:00 - 15:30 Break
15:30 - 17:00 Session 4 - Arriving & Receiving (What is happening in urban communities? Causes and effects of migration and urbanization.)
17:00 - 17:30 Session 5 - Field Visit Preparation
17:30 - 19:30 Geylang Small Group Tour
19:30 Bus departs Harvest Care Centre for accommodation
Wednesday 29 November
08:30 Bus departs accommodation for Field Visit 1
09:00 - 12:30 Session 6 - Field Visit 1 - National University of Singapore’s College of Alice & Peter Tan (CAPT)
12:30 Bus returns to hotel
13:00 - 14:00 Lunch
14:00 - 15:30 Session 7 - Field Visit 1 Debrief
15:30 - 18:00 Free Time / Film Showing
18:00 Bus departs for Field Visit 2
18:00 - 21:00 Session 8 - Field Visit 2 - Healthserve
21:00 Bus returns to accommodation
Thursday 30 November
08:00 - Bus departs accommodation for Harvest Care Centre
09:00 - 10:00 Session 9 - Field Visit 2 Debrief
10:00 - 10:30 Break
10:30 - 12:30 Session 10 - Societal Multilingualism & Translanguaging (Connections between language and culture and identity, sense of place, 'belonging', community, value.)
12:30 - 13:30 Lunch
13:30 - 15:00 Session 11 - Digging Deeper World Cafe (Key issues impacting MUM: multilingual education, migrants motives, SDGs ++)
15:00 - 15:30 Break
15:30 - 16:30 Session 12 - Planning Forward (Partnership and working together to address complex issues, key tools to try)
16:30 - 17:00 Closing Reflections
19:30 Bus departs Harvest Care Centre for accommodation
(Schedule subject to change)
Multilingual Multicultural Asia: a Language, Education and Development CoP event
Join us as we explore the impact of migration and urbanization on communities across Asia and beyond. (28-30 November 2017, Singapore)
- What impact is the movement of people having on the communities where you live and work?
- During the week we will focus on 3 key topics: multilingualism, urbanization and migration. These terms can mean very different things to different people. Here are a few links to some possible ideas.
- Dr Goh, Chairman for Healthserve, helped open the event by explaining why he thinks this is such an important event to hold in Singapore and particularly here in Geylang - "the crucible of the world."
- In this session we explored some statistics on the topics, getting a global perspective on the changes taking place:
-Today, 54% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. It is expected to increase to 66% by 2050.
-In 2014 there were 28 mega-cities (453 million people, 12% of the world’s population). Of these 28, sixteen are located in Asia.
-In 2015 there were 244 international migrants. And of these, half are women and over half are born in Asia.
And explored some urban changes around the world, including this dramatic change in Chongqing, China:
- We also heard a personal perspective from Bangladesh, reflecting on the situation of the Rohingya in that country, and had a brief overview of the Sustainable Development Goals. As we continue through the event we will look to connect the issues we discuss with the SDGs and explore how they interact with the goals.
- In this session we moved from global trends to personal impact. Table groups used a body image (brilliantly drawn by our youngest participants!) to visually display the range of beliefs, feelings, skills, and activities that the different people involved in the migration process might experience. We heard 4 stories - from someone left behind in the village, a migrant moving to the city, a long-term city dweller, and an NGO worker - and together with participants own experiences groups developed their body images.
- Take a look at the full set of bodies developed during the session.
- After lunch, we spent time focusing on those leaving, the migrants, and those being left behind (often rural communities). Table groups watched one our favourite, but incredibly sad, videos about children being left behind in China as parents move for work...
- Groups then developed matrices exploring the reasons, benefits and challenges for migration - charting out the wide range of reasons, including economic, social, political and environmental factors. We then watched a second video, an extract from a longer documentary following a Pakistan man moving to Dubai for work. His emotional reflections on his experiences led us into a creative task where each group came up with a response (using poem, short story, drama etc) to the factors they had previously identified.
- Session 4 moved the focus onto the other 'side' of migration - the impact and implications of migration and urbanization on those arriving and those receiving. We began by reflecting on our own personal experiences of moving:
- Think about a time when you arrived somewhere new and different to your home for the first time. How did you feel? What things helped you feel at home?
- We then watched 2 videos of how communities, organisations and individuals are responding to and receiving migrants - asylum seekers in the UK and migrant workers in Singapore. While the videos are focused on very different situations, with different responses, the underlying desires and values are very similar - the pain of loneliness and the desire for relationship and belonging.
- Then followed a period of organised chaos - undertaking an 'alternative' stakeholder analysis, exploring all the stakeholders who are involved in migration and what their challenges and opportunities might be. Groups then moved around the room and looked for other stakeholder's challenges that they felt their stakeholder might be able to respond to. Linking stakeholders, using ones opportunities and resources to respond to another's challenges and needs, can both help to find solutions and build relationships and address loneliness.
Session 5 - Field Visit Preparation
- Our final session of the day allowed time for us to prepare for the field visits we were to have on the second day. In the morning we have the opportunity to visit the College of Alice and Peter Tan, to see how they integrate the themes of active citizenship and community engagement with their students. And later in the evening, we will get to visit one of the migrant workers dormitories, to meet with the residents and learn about their experiences. We then took some time to reflect individually on our own personal goals for the visits and shared them with a neighbour.
Field Visit 1: Geylang Tour
- After this session we had the privilege to take a tour around Geylang with migrant workers from China as our guides, together with Healthserve volunteers as translators. We were shown the area, taken for dinner, and had the opportunity to ask questions about their experiences in Singapore and their engagement with Healthserve.
- One service provided by Healthserve is the provision of meals for workers who are currently unable to work because of health problems. In the picture above one of the workers, responsible for keeping track of tokens for purchasing food, is checking the list of names before handing out the tokens.
- Clients waiting outside the Healthserve clinic. They pay $5 to see a doctor or dentist, compared to the $30+ it would cost at a government hospital.
- Well, that's not something you see every day - a peacock on your way to breakfast!
Session 6 - Field Visit 2: College of Alice & Peter Tan (CAPT)
- The morning of day two was spent at CAPT, learning from Dr Tan (Director of Outreach & Community Engagement) and a fantastic group of the college's students. It was a fascinating experience, hearing firsthand about the students' backgrounds and experiences, and the motivations and values they are gaining while residents at the college.
- After some time for small group discussions, we were taken on a tour of the campus, providing time to ask questions and get to know one another better.
- We were also joined by Bangladeshi poet (and migrant worker), Mukul. He shared about his experiences and brought along some copies of his new book, the follow up to his first publication 'Me Migrant'.
- After lunch we had time to reflect on the values and activities that we observed and learnt about during our first two visits. We shared these ideas and then took time to think about how helpful we think they could be for our own work, and how much we already see them implemented. Some of the values and activities observed included:
- -Equality in giving and receiving
-Valuing all people
-Seeing people as clients, not beneficiaries
-Vision and planning
-Reframing clients as leaders
-Respect for others
-We are with you
-Mentoring of young people
-Identifying and adding value to the skills clients have
- Small groups then selected one of the ideas and spent some time exploring some first steps to using or implementing that value or activity.
- We finished the afternoon with the opportunity to watch a film on the movement of 130 million migrant workers in China returning home for Chinese New Year. Last Train Home is a touching portrait of one family's struggles and emotions as they try and make this journey.
- The documentary raises many important questions, including how this movement of people impacts relationships between parents and children. As a recent BBC news article highlighted, children will go to extraordinary lengths to be with their parents.
Session 8 - Field Visit 3: Migrant Workers Dormitory Visit
- In the evening we had the rare chance to visit a migrant workers dormitory.
- The sheer size of the place, housing up to nearly 8000 men, was overwhelming. Our bus was one of a continuous stream of buses bringing back men–most from south Asia–working in the oil and gas industry. We were warmly welcomed by the dormitory management team and given a tour of the facilities available to the residents; including sports and recreation areas, a supermarket, food court, and of course a money transfer outlet - to send money back to families in their home countries.
- We then had time, in smaller groups, to chat with some of the residents - to learn a little about their lives and experiences here in Singapore. The stories we heard were eye opening, inspiring, and sad - in many cases all at the same time.
- Healthserve also have a clinic at this dormitory, serving the residents through providing affordable healthcare where they live.
- It is hard to put into words what we saw and experienced, better then to share an extract from one of the shortlisted poems at last year's annual migrant workers poetry competition:
Across the seas, I have a home
Too far to reach, too close to forget
A place where I find genuine comfort
A place far better than the rest of the world
But then I have to bid my farewell
Say my goodbyes without shedding tears
Leave those who are dear to me
For a better life, for the future I see
Now, I am in the land of the lion's head
Searching for grace, counting the days
Fearing that at the end of my plea
All my struggles will be nothing but history
Yes, I long for that place I call home
Too far to reach, too close to forget
The road back there, I shall once heed
For at the end of my journey, there shall I rest
(Extract from Home, a poem by Edna Pilapil Manatad.)
- The final day of our short time together. We've travelled a long way - "migrating" from place to place - but we still have a long way to go!
- We started the day, reflecting on what we saw the previous evening. Groups discussed what issues they observed and what resources or services were available to residents, and who was trying to do what to meet these needs. Tables then organised the issues depending on which of the core topics (migration, urbanization, multilingualism) they most closely connected with. We finished by reflecting personally on how they think the experience might change the way they think about working with migrant, urban and multilingual communities.
- Having spent much of our time together trying to get some small insight into the experiences of migrants and reflecting on the impact of this movement of people on both rural and urban communities, we then took time to dig deeper into multilingualism. We started with a presentation on the concept of translanguaging and the implication of it on communities with which we are working.
- We then reflected on the concept of translanguaging in light of our experiences on the field trips, exploring:
-our perceptions on the notion of translanguaging,
-initial thoughts on translanguaging as it may impact our work, and
-any other additional comments or questions that didn't fit the other categories!
- After lunch we turned our attention to four specific areas of discussion, using a World Cafe style:
1) Adult literacy
2) Work amongst migrants
3) NGO planning and strategy
4) Multilingual Education
- Participants moved between the four tables, developing ideas through each rotation.
- After the three rotations, each table facilitator fed-back a brief summary of the discussions held at their table - take a look at a short summary of some of the highlights.
Session 12 - Planning Forward
- It can be all too easy to have a good time together, learn some interesting things, and then return to work (facing all the normal pressures) and not put our learning into practice. With a desire to finish our time together with some specific ideas (and maybe even plans!), participants spent time in teams/individually to develop some plans.
- Using the forcefield analysis tool, groups:
1) decided a goal based on their team discussions,
2) listed out the changes that are helping meet these goals,
3) listed out changes that are hindering meeting these goals,
4) sorted the changes so as to identify the most significant changes, both positive and negative,
5) identified helping things that can be strengthened, hindering things that can be weakened, and hindering things that could be changed into something that helps.
- Time to stop, reflect and give thanks for our busy three days together! A simple whiteboard to help collate some of our highlights from the week...
- One of the questions we asked for feedback on was this:
Within your team or work back home, what two adjustments, changes or new things do you hope to try as a result of your participation in this event?
- Some exciting responses included...
"Engage the youth more in social works. Plan for the people coming to the cities."
"We haven't even thought about the issues of immigrants. this really impact both country, individual and family. I would request my organization to incorporate this issue with language preservation and promotion."
"Identify key people to serve as champions for change. Work across organizational boundaries to collaborate and share resources."
"Possibly explore the migrants in our country-how we can help them plus how they might be a resource to us."
"Address more advocacy for MLE in a more urbanized context. Research more on translanguaging."
- We finished as we started, recognising our hosts Healthserve and thanking them and all our other partners who have made this week possible. We learn so much through working with others, about them and their contexts... and about ourselves.
- It is finished - Diane was clearly happy!
- In addition to the resources linked within the narrative above, we have compiled a list of additional resources (articles, videos, reports, web pages) connected to the topics covered during the event. Take a look at the list and links and let us know of any other resources you find helpful so we can add them to the list!