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EVA LIM-SNG (b. 1975)

FRIEND OF MIGRANTS

It all started with fish heads. In 2016, Eva Lim-Sng was in the fish farming business when her friend, David Goh, who sat on the board of the company, suggested they cook fish head curry for migrant workers. They went around asking their friends for help. “People told me, ‘Eva, I can’t help you, because my heart is not for the migrant workers, my heart is for the elderly and children’. And it occured to me that if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it?” she recalls.

The pair persevered, renting a central kitchen to cook 500 fish heads, which they packed and delivered to migrant workers living in Westlite Dormitory, whose owner they knew. Eva and David quickly discovered that while fish head curry is a beloved local dish, it is not typical fare enjoyed by the workers, and so they switched gears. As friends’ suggested other ideas, the scale of their efforts grew.

Together, they co-founded an initiative called Project Chulia Street, organising large-scale fiestas at various workers’ dormitories in Singapore that were filled with food, entertainment and activities that would bring Singaporeans and migrant workers together. The group organises two fiestas every quarter, visiting dormitories that can house 5,000 workers each. Each fiesta attracts about 100 volunteers, made up of both corporate employees as well as individuals who come of their own accord. They also occasionally work with partners to provide health screenings for the workers.

At the heart of it, Project Chulia Street hopes to change the perceptions that Singaporeans have about these individuals who have helped to build our nation. She cites some popularly held views: that these workers should not complain about the food they eat or about their living conditions. “We have an impression that we know what is good for them,” she says. “But most Singaporeans don’t know what they really want, because they have not experienced having that relationship – being in the dormitory, understanding them.”

Eva recalls the first time she saw her 5-year-old son interacting with the workers during a recce trip. She says: “They were just really happy to see him – I think because they really miss their kids. Some of these barriers are built by us. But there are no barriers when it comes to building relationships.”

Project Chulia Street is one of the 7 projects supported by T:>CARE, initiated by T:>Works to support projects created and developed by women to make positive change in our communities. To know more about Project Chulia Street, visit http://www.chuliastreet.org