Holly Hart is a Singapore-based lawyer at U.K. law firm Allen & Overy, one of our platinum corporate sponsor of Justice Without Borders.
Allen & Overy has a dedicated pro-bono function in its headquarters in London, but its endorsements to NGOs locally are supported as well, from a regional team. In addition to Holly’s legal practice, as the head of Pro Bono and Community Investment for the Singapore office, she helps select non-profit organisations that Allen & Overy can partner with and provide support to, a mission the firm takes seriously and is passionate about.
A native Australian, Holly relocated to Singapore over a decade ago. She’s no stranger to NGOs and aiding the wider community where the needs lie. Back in Australia, she was part of and founded a non-profit which focused on securing scholarship places for indigenous children to receive top-tier educations across the country.
Her experience at NGOs and drive for helping the less fortunate made her a natural fit for Allen & Overy’s pro bono mission in the Asia when she moved to Singapore.
“I firmly believe in investing in the community, I believe in upward mobility, particularly the empowerment of women,” said Holly. “At A&O, I’m tasked with finding ways we can invest in the community and leverage our legal knowledge and skills beyond the traditional offerings that are available in Singapore.”
“So what JWB gave us was an opportunity to invest in Singapore that was a really scalable project; I always look for scale when it comes to community investment,” Holly explains.
Allen & Overy’s partnership with JWB spans several different forms. Out of the firm’s Singapore, Jakarta and Hong Kong offices, the firm supports JWB not just in the form of financial contributions, but also running research projects on data privacy, providing legal advice on illegal loan arrangements to migrant domestic workers (MDWs), advising the organisation on the implications of cryptocurrency donations, and also across a range of issues including JWB’s strategic development and board composition.
Last year, the firm’s Hong Kong office also helped on a case that recovered all the funds a MDW had paid under an illegal loan.
“We are extremely proud of the partnership, and pretty in awe of what both the A&O and the JWB team can do together,” said Holly. “I think there’s a lot of trust there between the organization and I know that they will continue to produce significant results, and we will continue to support them.”
The help that MDWs in Singapore needed wasn’t immediately apparent to Holly, she concedes. “Singapore is a fantastically wealthy country with excellent services like public housing and transport, and universal education. It’s just so well done so you don’t initially imagine that there might be some people that fall through the cracks,” she said. “There wasn’t much publicity or common knowledge about the existence and extent of need in Singapore, certainly not for me, a foreigner, in the first year I lived here. The excellent services are great for the people that can access them which doesn’t always include the migrant workers.”
That need became very clear however when Holly met Douglas MacLean, Executive Director and Founder of JWB. “Doug is able to articulate exactly what the issue is facing workers so precisely, not just in Singapore, but across the region. He can provide perfect examples of ways that we can help,” she noted.
It was also Holly’s first-hand experience with MDWs that drove home the message. Holly had settled down in Singapore, married and grew a family. She, herself, had to employ an MDW in order to be able to get back to work. Supporting MDWs has become, in part, a personal cause.
“We adore our domestic worker, and we treat her like a friend and as part of our family.” said Holly. “MDWs have the right, like all of us, to be treated well, paid well, looked after, be well rested and have the ability to have honest and open relationships with their employers but we know that it isn’t enshrined everywhere.”
By Jess Seah, PR Volunteer @ JWB
Platinum sponsor series features our platinum sponsors in 2021. They share their experience in teaming up with JWB, why they are passionate about helping migrant workers and how this partnership makes a difference.