The Cuff Road Food Programme is Transient Workers Count Too’s signature project. Not only does it address a critical need among workers who have been abandoned and left destitute, it offers an important contact point between the organisation and those in need of help. Workers not only get a hot meal, they get a consultation about their cases and a friendly ear.

The first bar chart shows the number of meals TWC2 served each week through 2011. By the end of the year, the cumulative total of meals served since the project began in 2008 had crossed the quarter-million mark, to reach 260,348.

To view a larger graph, click on the image.


Because the two restaurants participating in the Cuff Road Project are both located in Little India, serving South Indian and Bangladeshi food, it is only natural that the clients we get are mostly from India and Bangladesh. These two nationalities also form the bulk of Singapore’s male migrant workforce. We see a smaller number of Sri Lankans. We don’t see Chinese migrant workers or female domestic workers in our food programme. Instead, these groups come to us via our hotline and other outreach activities.


What do the numbers above mean? A bit of explanation about the process at the Cuff Road Project is necessary.

When a worker first walks into our soup kitchen, he is briefly interviewed to ascertain eligibility for our food programme. He is asked if he is currently working or in conflict with his employer, or whether he has been abandoned in some way. When he meets TWC2’s criteria for eligibility, his case details are recorded and a meal card is issued to him, valid for the rest of the month.

Thus, the chart above, for example, indicates that in April 2011, 315 Bangladeshi workers qualified for our programme. 125 Indians and 22 Sri Lankans did too. The total number of registrants for the month was 462.

The following month, the process starts all over again. Men have to re-register for the programme. Generally speaking, a significant proportion of one month’s registrants would show up again the following month; thus there would be many workers in the April records who would appear again in the May records. However, those who, sometime in April, had gone back to work, or more likely, been repatriated, would no longer show up in the May data.

Because of this roll-over effect, it would not be correct to add up the various months to arrive at an annual total. The 2011 total of new cases seen at The Cuff Road Project was 1,458 persons (all of whom were male).

However, what the graph does show quite starkly is that monthly totals can change quite a bit. For the first half of 2011, they were dropping quite dramatically. The writer had some concerns that men were being repatriated fairly aggressively, often without our hearing whether their cases were settled or not. This was not a good sign, as our experience is that when men have had their cases settled, they often come around to Cuff Road again to say good-bye to the friends they have made, and to report to the case workers whether they were satisfied or dissatisfied with the outcomes.

It could be that the downward trend indeed represented fewer cases emerging, but the decline seemed too steep to be real. TWC2 still believes that an accelerated rate of repatriation in the first half of 2011 was a more likely explanation.

The numbers started to climb again in the second half of 2011. How to interpret it is hard to say. It could be that the trend of repatriating men prematurely came to a halt — perhaps with TWC2 blowing the whistle, the Ministry of Manpower stepped in more often? — but it could also be a symptom of the economic downturn.

See also:

Cuff Road Project 2011: Types of cases seen

Cuff Road Project 2011: Injured workers’ length of stay

Cuff Road Project 2011: ‘Company cases’ and overstayers

Keywords: The Cuff Road Project, TCRP, soup kitchen, free meals, statistics, graph, graphs, india, bangladesh, sri lanka, percentage.