Chiang Hui Xin is a second-year NUS Law Student and has been a JWB volunteer since 2014. She has been active in pro bono matters while also managing her studies and other activities. We have asked her to share a bit more about herself and what drives her to volunteer her time and skills in such a generous manner.
Hui Xin, tell us a little about yourself
I am a second-year student studying in NUS Law Faculty. I chose to study law because it allows me to help others—be it protecting one’s life and liberty, or one’s rights, or seeking due compensation for one’s injuries. Along the way, I have come to understand many deep-set and systemic difficulties in helping others gain access to justice, particularly for disadvantaged groups such as migrant workers or lower-income clients. I am grateful to have met many inspiring individuals and organisations (like Justice Without Borders!) who strive hard and work tirelessly every day to make a difference in their own way. This has continued to motivate and inspire me greatly to continue contributing as much as I can in my capacity as a law student, and to help others overcome the many difficulties and challenges in obtaining access to justice.
How did you get involved in migrant workers’ access to justice?
Before entering university, I helped a friend film a video on migrant workers. We approached migrant workers in the Marina Bay and Central Business District areas. I interviewed them on their lives in Singapore and in their home countries. We also followed them around during their off-days. Filming the video, which was titled “Everyday Heroes,” changed many things for me.
For one, it opened my eyes to how segregated the migrant worker population is from the local population. Juxtaposed against the towering skyscrapers and affluent locals enjoying tea break indoors were foreign workers lying on the ground outside and taking a breather from the afternoon sun. The lack of social integration of these workers means that they tend to stick within their community and spend their rest days within migrant worker communities. When they face problems in Singapore, it is not difficult to imagine that workers would not know what to do, where to go, or how to go about protecting their rights.
The experience inspired me to learn more about migrant workers, and the laws and regulations with respect to foreign labour in Singapore and to think deeper about possible reforms and ways in which the current system could be improved to help workers better safeguard their rights and welfare. This was one of the reasons that spurred me to study law in university.
What work have you done with JWB?
I have done an array of things, all of which have been extremely rewarding and insightful! From legal research to case work, each task has allowed me to understand the law in Singapore as it applies to migrant workers from both theoretical and practical perspectives. I have also learnt many practical skills on the job, such as writing emails professionally, conducting client interviews and doing translation.
What has been the most interesting part of the work?
To be on a case with a migrant worker and the pro bono lawyers from the beginning. Not only did I learn a lot from following a case and seeing how it develops, I came to understand real-life practical issues such as evidentiary problems or concerns with costs that could affect a client’s case.
Which aspect of your JWB experience has been the most challenging or memorable?
The most memorable aspect of my JWB experience was when one of our clients expressed his deepest gratitude to us just for being there to try to help him with his problem. It made me realise that while getting a favourable outcome is always the main goal, there are many other aspects of pro bono work—such as providing support to the client—that makes it truly meaningful and worthwhile.
Other memorable aspects have been getting to know the amazing people in the organisation, JWB founder Douglas MacLean and JWB’s Singapore pro bono officer Rachel Hines, who have been integral in mentoring us and whose humility and dedication continues to impress and inspire me. I am also very happy to have gotten to know and made good friends with the rest of the summer fellows.
What are some other causes you are passionate about?
I am a vegetarian and am passionate about animal rights. I believe animals, like human beings, deserve a chance at life and happiness and, like us, have their own families and emotions that should be respected.
I am also involved in work done by the NUS Law Criminal Justice Club. Criminal law concerns the lives and liberties of people, and I think the practice of it is one of the most direct ways in which lawyers are able to use their skills and expertise to change someone’s life.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to do things that give my mind a rest – such as baking, playing the cello and listening to music. As much as I can, I like to see life as an adventure and live everyday as it is!