Challenging themselves to “do good famously”, three interns from British advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty Limited (BBH) came up with the idea of having one of them, Ian Napier, live and work as a migrant worker for a short while, and report on what it feels like to be one in Singapore. His colleagues Mark and Victoria would provide the publicity support for the project which they named Made By Migrants.
Explaining the idea, Victoria Phantharangsi wrote in an email to TWC2:
What we aim to achieve with this is to show that there’s more to the Migrant Worker than just the labourer. We want to give them a voice, humanise them, and foster a sense of collegiality and engagement between Migrant Workers and Singaporeans. The message is a positive one, with the outcome being a display of a sense of pride on the part of the Migrant Worker and pride from Singapore as the provision of this employment essentially breaks the poverty cycle for people overseas.
Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of fairness. It ensures a fundamental human right to dignity and a decent life. We believe that our plan to reveal the positive and human motivations for engaging in Migrant Work achieves this.
Succeeding in finding a construction company that would take Ian on, the project went ahead. Ian kept a diary and did periodic interviews with his fellow workers. He even spent his weekends socialising with them — all part of the immersion.
The website (www.madebymigrants.com) provides bite-sized first-hand reports, photos and a number of video interviews.
Here is one in which Ian talks about the mission:
And this other video is an interview with Junsheng, a 22-year old father of two young daughters from Jiangsu, China:
Ian was also featured in the Sunday Times, December 11, 2011.