Students In Singapore Bring Migrant Workers Closer To Our Hearts By Giving Them A Voice

Familiar strangers living in Singapore

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This is a common sight in Singapore.

We all know who they are — they are the people who build our houses; they are the people who clean our houses.

Yet we barely know much about their cultural background, which is quite disgraceful considering the fact that they literally built our nation.

Our progress as a country would not have been possible without the sweat and blood of these migrant workers.

A group of four college students in Singapore recognised this social issue in Singapore and have come up with a campaign to tackle this problem: Familiar Strangers.

Familiar Strangers and what it does


Kenji Kwok, one of the group members, said that the main concept of this project is to humanise migrant workers in the eyes of Singaporeans.

The campaign collects and shares stories of low-wage migrant workers in Singapore online through Facebook, Instagram and Youtube to create awareness.

Why is there a need for this campaign?


Kenji Kwok said:

If you were to ask Singaporeans “Do you know about migrant workers?” they would be like, “yeah I know there are migrant workers near my house, building my house.

He added that Singaporeans however, are not entirely sure which country the migrant workers are from, the happenings in their lives, their hardships or what puts a smile on their face.

In essence, the migrant workers are familiar strangers to us Singaporeans.

According to the Ministry of Manpower, statistics in 2015 revealed that 1 in 5 people in Singapore are migrant workers.

That makes up a lot of migrant workers in Singapore and also a whole lot of people we are neglecting in our society.

Campaign Familiar Strangers gets up close and personal with migrant workers in Singapore


Kenji and his team went around Singapore seeking authentic and personal stories from the migrant workers in Singapore.

These are a few of the many stories Kenji and his teammates have collected:

Do not be fooled by her sweet smile — Ms Elvie has nothing left to her name after she spent all her money on her parents and her children’s education.

Back home, Babu’s neighbours often gossip about him because he did not finish his education. Babu was contented to be able to escape from all the pressure by coming to Singapore and at the same time, provide for his family.

Not only is Zahirul fluent in his writing, he also gave up his bright future for his younger siblings to receive higher education.

He told Familiar Strangers that after his brother graduates and becomes a doctor, he will be joining him to study English Literature over in France.

For now, he will still be working as a construction worker to provide for his family for another three years.



These personal stories serve as a gateway for Singaporeans to realise that our fellow migrant workers have dreams they want to fulfill too, just like us.

Ultimately, this campaign encourages our society to be more inclusive and accepting and these stories will definitely be able to move the hearts of many people living in Singapore.

This campaign has gone above and beyond for the migrant workers living in Singapore

As if going around on foot to collect personal stories is not sufficient, the team at Familiar Strangers also organise various activities for these migrant workers to feel more included in our society.


For instance, Familiar Strangers hosted a Migrant Workers’ Photography Workshop. One particular participant was also really enthusiastic about sharing the pictures he took and even sought advice to improve his photography skills.

The Visual Arts Centre Singapore will be having an exhibition displaying the photographs taken by the migrant workers. It serves as an attempt to understand the perspectives of this group of people in our community.

We live in the same country; we bleed the same blood


They are no different from the massive crowd rushing to work at Raffles Place every morning.

After all, these migrant workers travelled all the way to Singapore, away from their families to make a living.

If the team at Familiar Strangers can make time to speak to the migrant workers, perhaps it is time for the lot of us to make some new friends from a different country!


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Featured image via Familiar Strangers Facebook
With reference to Familiar Strangers Facebook, AJ+ video

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