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[Tuning In] Nicole Ooi wants migrant workers to feel at home in Singapore

Written by Taro Ishida Published on 

Ooi leads Welcome In My Backyard, an initiative to change existing prejudices and help migrant workers in Singapore.

Nicole Ooi is the leader of Welcome In My Backyard (WIMBY), a migrant worker initiative that aims to challenge existing prejudices against migrant workers and create a safe space for them within their neighborhoods. Nicole has a background in Psychology, and shares a strong passion for mental health and the arts. She hopes to create a welcoming and genuine society for all people living in Singapore.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

KrASIA (Kr): What are the goals set by WIMBY? How will the organization achieve this? 

Nicole Ooi (Ooi): We started WIMBY in April when it was first announced that migrant workers were going to be moved into rehousing sites, close to residential areas. Some people were unhappy and started a petition against it. Hence, we wanted to counter these negative sentiments, so we started our first initiative, where we got people living in different residential areas of Singapore to write notes to these migrant workers, welcoming them into their neighborhoods.

From there, we started panels and discussions with the main goal of humanizing migrant workers in the eyes of Singaporeans. We want to foster interactions that will allow forming close relationships between Singaporeans and migrant workers. We also formed a Facebook community group and ran events like karaoke sessions, and afternoons out with migrant workers and the local community.

Another key issue we wanted to tackle is the mental well-being of migrant workers. Even after they started going back to work, some still felt quite trapped as they couldn’t move around freely, while others were facing financial difficulties. Hence, we ran a campaign about mental health for both migrant workers and domestic helpers, and partnered with the domestic worker organization ‘MaidForMore’.

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