This year, the New Freshman Pro Bono Project was targeted at migrant workers. Titled Project BUILD, we organized a carnival at the NUS main campus’ Sports and Recreation Field, involving an inflatable gladiator pit, and bubble soccer (simply the most hilarious game ever).

Some of the brave and sporting freshmen also took up the challenge of designing and facilitating station games, many of which ended up being strangely reminiscent of the Law Camp 2015 Orientation games. About 40 freshmen and 40 workers were put in small groups of 8 in which to enjoy a morning of fun and laughter — an arrangement that Prof. Sheila ingenuously thought of to best facilitate interaction. As we alighted the bus, the workers were greeted with the inviting sight of a wide-open field with a bouncy gladiator battleground and even-more-bouncy bubbles. It was a day of play, with no work for once.

“Hard hats given to the workers, kindly sponsored by 3M! Also featuring FOCC Pro Bono head, Cheryl, who needs to take a module on ‘How to wear a hardhat’.”

Leading up to the carnival, the NUS Law students went down for weekly sessions at Healthserve’s centre at Tai Seng. Usually, the workers would be there for English lessons or to use the computers for recreation. The students spent entire evenings chatting with the workers — its amazing to know that we had so much to exchange with them that some of our conversations went on for more an hour! The students got to know the workers much better — some of them had been working in Singapore for decades, while others had just come over for a few months, and were excited to make their first Singaporean friends. These younger ones would be about our age (or younger!), doing manual labor in a faraway land to support their families back home.

It really struck me when I learnt how frequently the workers phoned back to their families. Many of them would make this long distance call up to three times a day — morning, lunch break and after work! I am sure most of us would not have that much to say to our families! Even for those in a long-distance relationship, a very devoted person I know only Skypes his girlfriend once per day!

But I suppose for the workers, phoning back regularly is all they can do to bridge the thousands of miles. They are not sure what is worse — to never have stayed home with their child, or to have spent a few years with their children only to be wrenched apart by financial necessity.

With a slightly better understanding of their situations and backgrounds, perhaps we could be more inclined to reach out to them in our daily lives. Sometimes all it takes is to smile and greet the workers who we walk by every day at the access point of a worksite. Better still, we may even stop for a little chat and be a friend that can, for a little while, provide respite from the monotony of their labour. We may even be pleasantly surprised to learn about the pride they take in their work, or the gratitude they have to have found work on our island. Cheers to the migrant workers who helped build our nation!


Organised by NUS Law and Healthserve.

Sponsored by 3M, PrintInfinito and Red Bull.

Written by: Leonard Chua, who together with Siow Wei Loong , Yeow Yuet Choong, Kua Choon Searn and Kyle Yew, were the organizing team for Project BUILD.

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