Thursday, December 8, 2011

An insight into the life of migrant workers a.k.a. Made By Migrants

There are over 870,000 migrant workers in Singapore of which construction workers play a significant part.

What do you think life might be like to be a migrant construction worker? When you see construction workers in your daily lives, do you ever stop to think about what their stories are? Or that they themselves are part of a culture and community?

Well this is exactly what a recent project - Made by Migrants - undertaken by three international interns at advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) Asia Pacific hopes to get you thinking about.

The project seeks to give an insight into the lives of migrant construction workers, to humanize them, and give them a sense of identity. It also hopes to draw out a sense of pride and collegiality between migrant workers and the rest of Singapore, and give a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the migrant worker community.

Of the team of three, one of them, a young man named Ian, heralding from the UK, lived the life of a migrant construction worker for 2 weeks, living and working alongside them.

Being a construction worker can be treacherous but this pales into insignificance when faced with the ambition to secure a better future, the ability to support their families back home with health care, and their children with education. 

After the first night in the dorm - which is an adapted cargo holder and looks something like this...

Ian starts his first day with a a relatively "easy" first morning and as a result, his expectations are way off course. Ian is shocked when he realizes what the majority of his first afternoon's work will entail...stripping a ceiling down with a pneumatic drill. 

After a backbreaking day's work, it's time to make the journey back to the dorm. We're used to seeing the ride home from the other side - this is what it looks like from inside the truck. 

In between the hard graft the best part of the day is lunch in the old soldiers church...

followed by coffee (as demonstrated by Yeuping)

and nap time (as exemplified by Tatuporn)- vital to replenish energy levels for the rest of the days hard labour.
Like the rest of us, the workers live for the weekend, which kicks of with a spread under the motorway bridge and giving thanks for the opportunities they've been given in life of which there is footage in the video here. You can also find out a little bit more about one of the workers, Tatuporn, and why he came to Singapore and became a construction worker. 

After one week,  Ian is feeling relieved that he hadn't signed up to do this for 6 - or in some people's cases - 20 years, and is fast learning survival strategies from his co-workers like using the air from the drill to cool down in the sweltering heat, as demonstrated by Sunsheng here.

The project comes to an end this week, but not before another interview is posted on the website adding to the fascinating insights already shared. Do visit the project here are take some time to understand and empathise with the enormous sacrifices the workers face, reflect upon the fact that we are all working towards the same ambitions and play your part in understanding them as part of the social fabric of Singapore - and not just a transient workforce.

You can also engage with the migrant workers featured on this project through the Facebook page here or by via Twitter here.

All images courtesy of Made By Migrants


mmerciencore said...

What an incredible eye-opener, will be following Ian's account with great interest. We take so many things for granted. An amazing initiative by the interns at BBH Sg.

Ms Demeanour said...

Thank you. We really all need to slow down and open our eyes to what is going on around us and how that all fits in the bigger picture. It's so easy to get caught up in ourselves and not take time to appreciate other people's stories. It's a great initiative which I was so pleased to share. There are a couple more gems I've discovered recently which I'll be writing about soon so watch this space if you enjoyed this one!

Amanda Silver said...

I think every imigrant has a very interesting story to tell.. and I'm glad there is somebody out there to let us know some of the most amazing stories

Ms Demeanour said...

Thanks Amanda - I hope that there will be more story telling in the future for groups like these as they are all part of the rich tapestry of what makes up Singapore :)