Pro Bono Week 2023

Written by Khor Jia Wei

The NUS Pro Bono Group (PBG) recently organized its annual flagship event—the NUS Pro Bono Week (PBW). PBW aims to increase recognition about the legal needs of various segments in society to NUS Law students and to inspire the student body to be more involved in volunteering with the various pro-bono groups in the community.

This year, the PBW comprised 3 initiatives: an experiential learning journey to Geylang, a Human Library, and a fundraising night market.

Conducted by Citizen Adventures, the Geylang tour allowed students to learn more about various social issues in Singapore and their legal ramifications. These included overcrowding of migrant workers in residential spaces in Geylang and the legalization of sex workers.

Students on the Geylang tour conducted by Citizen Adventures

For the Human Library, our students were privileged to have had the opportunity to speak with esteemed representatives across a wide variety of charitable organizations to learn more about their work in the community and to better understand their individual journeys in the field of pro bono. Some of the library “books” included Mr Gregory Vijayendran SC from Rajah and Tann LLP, Ms Lin Huiyu from the Ministry of Manpower, and Mr Chooi Jing Yen and Mr Chen Yongxin from Eugene Thuraisingam LLP.

Students speaking to representatives from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)
Students speaking to representatives from Eugene Thuraisingam LLP
Students speaking to Mr Gregory Vijayendran SC, Chairman Pro Bono SG and Parnter, Rajah and Tann

To end the week on a high note, students also joined in the PBG Night Market. The Night Market was planned with the aim to raise pro bono awareness as well as raise funds for Singapore NGO and PBG partner, Pro Bono SG.

Students visiting one of the student run businesses at the Night Market
Students visiting one of the student run businesses at the Night Market

NUS PBG would like to express our utmost gratitude to the following organizations and individuals:

  • Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), Community Justice Centre (CJC), Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST), Financial Industry Disputes Resolution Centre (FIDReC), Jamiyah Singapore, Justice Without Borders (JWB), Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Pro Bono SG, Providence Law Asia, Singapore Association Of Women Lawyers (SAWL), Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO), Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities (THKMC) for their time and kindness in engaging our students; and
  • Associate Professor Helena Whalen-Bridge (Faculty Advisor, NUS Pro Bono Group) and Mr Clement Cheong (Manager, Student Affairs, NUS Faculty of Law) for their kind assistance throughout the organisation and preparation process.

Thai-Ed With Love 2023

Written by Khor Jia Wei

From the 4th of January 2023 to the 8th of January 2023, a team of 18 NUS Law students from the NUS Pro Bono Group (PBG) embarked on a 5-day trip to Bangkok for Project Thai-Ed with Love. Started in 2015, the latest iteration of Project Thai-Ed with Love was organised in collaboration with students from the Thammasat University Pro Bono Society (TU PBS).

Group photo at the Thammasat University Faculty of Law Campus

The objective of the project was to allow students to develop a global perspective on pro bono, through a comparison between the laws and pro bono cultures of Singapore and Thailand. The main theme of discussion for this iteration was the laws surrounding sex workers in Singapore and Thailand.

Students from both NUS PBG and TU PBS had the privilege to attend a panel discussion with Assistant Professor Mataluk Orungrot (Researcher, Thammasat University Faculty of Law) and Ms Vanessa Ho (Representative, Project X). Project X is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Singapore that provides assistance to members of the sex worker industry. The panel discussion covered a spectrum of topics ranging from the state of the law and enforcement in both countries to the role that governments and NGOs play in the sex work industry. Armed with the newfound perspectives, students from both universities broke into smaller groups to carry out further discussions before reconvening to present about the ideas and views that were generated.

Breakout discussion amongst NUS PBG and TU PBS students

In addition, we also had the opportunity to attend a workshop conducted by Amnesty International Thailand. This exposed both NUS PBG and TU PBS students to the views of an international NGO and the activities that they conducted.

A speaker from Amnesty International Thailand delivering the workshop

NUS PBG and TU PBS also engaged in a Pro Bono Culture Exchange, where we shared about our respective societies and the various pro bono projects that we organised. In this segment, Former Dean of TU Faculty of Law A/P Munin Pongsapan shared about pro bono culture in Thailand while PBG Faculty Advisor A/P Helena Whalen-Bridge shared learning points on student pro bono and pro bono culture in Singapore. This session allowed both NUS and TU students to learn from each other’s best practices and broaden our horizons as to the possible initiatives that could be kickstarted in our respective societies.

NUS PBG members sharing about PBG initiatives

We were also privileged to have had the opportunity to visit the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court of Thailand. Through an introductory lecture into the court systems and the procedures of the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court as one of the four Specialised Courts, we gained a deeper understanding of the Thai judiciary and its legal system.

Photos at the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court of Thailand (courtesy of the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court of Thailand)

Above and beyond the law, we were also glad to have made new friends with our counterparts from TU PBS.

The NUS PBG would like to express our immense gratitude to the following individuals:

  • Mr Pornchai Wangpasertkul (Deputy Chief Justice, Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court), Mr Sakkapan Chitchong (Secretary, Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court), and Mr. Worrawong Atcharawongchai (LLM’08) (Vice Presiding Judge, Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court) for kindly hosting our visit to the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court;
  • Associate Professor Munin Pongsapan (Former Dean, Thammasat University Faculty of Law) for the gracious hospitality and warm welcome;
  • Associate Professor Helena Whalen-Bridge (Faculty Advisor, NUS Pro Bono Group) and Mr Clement Cheong (Manager, Student Affairs, NUS Faculty of Law) for their kind assistance throughout the organisation and preparation process, and Associate Professor Helena Whalen-Bridge’s remarks during the pro bono sharing session;
  • Assistant Professor Mataluk Orungrot (Researcher, Thammasat University Faculty of Law) and Ms Vanessa Ho (Representative, Project X) for their valuable insights and time;
  • Ms Kitiarsa Rungnapa (Lecturer, Centre for Language Studies, NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) for accompanying us on the trip and always looking out for our well-being.

PBG Cohesion 2022

20 August 2022 marked PBG’s first in-person cohesion event in 2 years after the COVID-19 pandemic. Our members travelled to the Bukit Timah Campus on Saturday morning to join in the activities meticulously planned by the PBG EXCO. 

The morning started off in the familiar Level 3 Auditorium. Students listened attentively to Professor Helena as she gave an opening speech to welcome our new PBG members, as well as kick off the academic year.

Our Development Officers – Edwin and Joshua – also briefed our members on the basics of engaging in pro bono work. Concepts like maintaining confidentiality and the backbone of pro bono work were brought across to students.

Then, the students split up into their respective projects to get to know their fellow projectmates and project directors. The project directors took over with a briefing of immediate steps they had to do (applying to TalentConnect) or what they could expect over the year. 

The day was concluded with a series of exciting station games – a staple for any cohesion event. Ranging from mind-simulating games such as Minefield to more physical ones such as Captain’s Ball, our members got to bond with their projectmates and project directors. A prize presentation for the station games followed right after, where the winners were awarded with attractive Grab vouchers for their stellar performance during the games. 

All in all, PBG Cohesion was a great way to welcome PBG’s new members this AY, as well as to kickstart the various projects. We wish all members a fruitful year ahead!

All About Appreciation: Pro Bono Appreciation Event 2022

By Ng Ziqin from Justified

Taking in the rows of students dressed in suits in the Auditorium on Monday, 25 July 2022, one’s first thought might be that they were there that evening to attend a private screening of Minions: The Rise of Gru.

Instead, the members of the Pro Bono Group (PBG) had gathered in the Auditorium to celebrate its annual Pro Bono Appreciation Event, which was held in person for the first time in two years. PBG had invited all the beneficiaries it had worked with in the past year down to the Bukit Timah campus for the event to express their gratitude and appreciation for their meaningful partnership over the years. Among the beneficiaries in attendance were representatives from Methodist Welfare Services (MWS), the Community Justice Centre (CJC), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) and Baker Mackenzie Wong & Leow.

After an opening address from Vice Dean (Student Life and Global Relations) Associate Professor Eleanor Wong (better known as Prof El), the outgoing Project Directors (PDs) of PBG’s various projects took turns to go on stage and deliver their thanks to the beneficiaries whom they had invited to the event. At the end of each speech, a representative from the beneficiary organisation was invited to join the PD onstage to receive a small gift and pose for a photo together. 

The PDs’ thank-you addresses were heartfelt and personal. Many of the PDs mentioned the names of specific individuals from the organisations they had worked with and referenced instances when they had been grateful to receive practical guidance from the beneficiary in undertaking their projects. Although the scale of the event was modest, a wholesome spirit of gratitude pervaded the atmosphere, making the auditorium seem much fuller than it actually was. 

Besides the PDs and Prof El, the Presidents of PBG for AY 21/22, Ryan Koh, and AY 22/23, Whang Chia Ning, also delivered speeches. 

In her closing speech, Chia Ning thanked the outgoing EXCO members for their hard work and dedication throughout the trying COVID period. She also thanked the beneficiaries for attending the Appreciation Event.

“My team and I are excited to reaffirm our partnerships over the next academic year. It is my sincerest hope that we will continue to take PBG to even greater heights while promoting access to justice.”

Whang Chia Ning, PBG President AY 2022/2023

The event ended on a sweet note with refreshments outside the Auditorium at 9 pm. Many beneficiaries and PDs—both outgoing and incoming—took the time to socialise. Beneficiaries and EXCO members could be seen milling around the entrance of the Auditorium, seated at the round metal tables and chatting animatedly over chocolate muffins, curry puffs, chicken pies and packet drinks for a long time after the event had officially ended. 

To quote Prof El’s opening address: “I love the philosophy underlying [the Pro Bono Appreciation Event]. It’s not the ‘Let’s Show Off How Many KPIs Our Students Achieved’ Dinner or the ‘Annual Pro Bono Oscars Award Ceremony’. Rather, it’s the beneficiary appreciation dinner.”

To Prof El, “appreciate” was an apt descriptor for the Pro Bono Appreciation Event for three reasons. These reasons have much to do with the three possible interpretations of the word “appreciate”. 

The first meaning of ‘appreciate’, is to ‘increase in value’. At first glance, this might seem to have very little to do with pro bono. However, one of the reasons that NUS Law strongly supports initiatives like PBG and clinical education is because active participation can build up or appreciate students’ knowledge and skills, increasing the breadth, depth and value of students’ abilities. Even better, it does so as a side effect, since most students don’t do pro bono because of this meaning of appreciation. 

The second meaning of ‘appreciate’ is to ‘have a full understanding of a situation’. One of the goals of law school is to mould law students into good lawyers who don’t just understand the what and how of law, but who understand and who appreciate the who and why of law. This is another thing that engaging in pro bono projects can teach us.

“Whether it is about raising a person’s awareness of the law or helping that person to exercise their legal rights, every pro bono project puts you right next to the who and thereby shows you the why,” said Prof El. “For that kind of beneficiary appreciation alone, pro bono is well worth doing.”

And finally, we come to the most obvious meaning of the word ‘appreciate’—to show gratitude. 

“Appreciation means, of course, gratitude,” said Prof El. “And tonight is all about us at NUS Law saying thank you to the many beneficiary organisations, friends and colleagues who have worked so hard with our students to facilitate and create opportunities for service. Service is the core of what it really means to be a lawyer and we are extremely grateful that through your collaboration and efforts, our students get to experience that core.”

Photographs courtesy of Joshua Chan from Pro Bono Group 

PBG Cohesion 2020

On September 5 2020, NUS Pro Bono Group held our annual cohesion session. This year’s cohesion was held over zoom in light of Covid-19, but was nonetheless a great opportunity for the new members to get to know their fellow club members. Senior members were also able to share their pro bono experiences as well as answer queries through a panel discussion and Q&A segment. Following that, breakout sessions were held for the members to learn more about their projects and bond with their project members.

Now that all our new members have been formally inducted, we look forward to working on the projects we have in store for everyone this academic year!

PBG Cohesion 2019

A big THANK YOU to everyone for joining us at PBG Cohesion 2019! PBG Cohesion marks the start of a fruitful year; this annual event introduces our members to the Club’s events for the year and provides them with an opportunity to bond with like-minded peers about the meaning of pro bono work. 

PBG Cohesion 2019 was off to a good start as distinguished guests from LSPBS sat down with our students for a panel discussion. We really appreciated Mr. Bernard Chung, Ms. Lee Chia Ming, Mr. Tan Shen Kiat as our guest speakers and Ms. Regana Zara Mydin as our moderator. Their thought-provoking sharings gave students an insight on the value of pro bono, as did their patience when answering questions about the pro bono scene in Singapore.

The panel discussion was followed by intra and inter-project games were new members get to bond and make new friends! As part of our community engagement activity, members had the chance to use their artistic skills to design T-shirts for our beneficiaries. Using fabric markers and dyes, members were given white shirts to personally design a T-shirt for our migrant worker beneficiaries, FAST and ACMI.  Members enjoyed the activities as it allowed them a hands-on experience, creating tangible products that could benefit our beneficiaries directly..

All in all, PBG Cohesion 2019 was an engaging experience for our members. We would like to extend our deepest gratitude towards Allen & Gledhill for sponsoring our club shirts. Allen & Gledhill is an award-winning full-service South-east Asian commercial law firm providing legal services to a wide range of premier clients, including local and multinational corporations and financial institutions. The Firm is consistently ranked as a market leader in Singapore and South-east Asia, having been involved in a number of challenging, complex and significant deals, many of which are first of its kind. The Firm’s reputation for high-quality advice is regularly affirmed by the strong rankings in leading publications, and by the various awards and accolades. With a growing network of associate firms and offices, it is well-placed to advise clients on their business interests in Singapore and beyond, on matters involving South-east Asia and the Asian region. With offices in Singapore and Myanmar; its associate firm, Rahmat Lim & Partners in Malaysia; and its alliance firm, Soemadipradja & Taher in Indonesia, Allen & Gledhill’s network has over 550 lawyers in the region.

This wraps up PBG Cohesion 2019 and we hope that you will look forward to working with us in the year ahead. Once again, we would like to welcome all new members aboard this journey!

PBG Student Achievement Awards

The Student Achievement Awards (SAA) recognises exceptional individual students or student organisations for their noteworthy contributions to the University in areas outside the academic curriculum. (

Our faculty advisor, Assistant Professor Helena Whalen-Bridge and our past President and Vice-Presidents have identified and nominated individuals in the EXCO who displayed exceptional leadership and PBG projects that have demonstrated an increased impact over AY 2016/17.

We are pleased to announce that the Students4Migrants project has received the Gold Award for the Community Projects category, while our previous President Hairul Siddeeq and Vice-President (Internal) Carol Yuen have received the Gold and Bronze Awards respectively in the Leadership Category.

Read on for their thoughts and feelings!

Madeleine Poh, S4M Project Director

Students 4 Migrants (S4M) was founded in 2014 and since then members have worked hard to achieve recognition and results for the project within the community that we help and within the community we aim to inspire. I believe the work that was done in S4M deserves an award, as well as everyone (Faulty Advisors, founders of S4M, past and present leaders and members) who devoted their time and effort to S4M. I believe that every participant of the project has made a weighty contribution to the project. Our collective and cumulative work has resulted in impressive results and I would like to express my deepest gratitude to everyone. May the past, present and future batches continue to work together, nurture and support S4M. Thank you!

Hairul Siddeeq, President

It is a great honour to be a recipient of the NUS Student Achievement Award for Leadership, and this definitely belongs to the entire Pro Bono Group for all we achieved in AY 2016/17.

First of all, I’d like to extend my deepest gratitude to Professor Eleanor Wong and Professor Helena Whalen-Bridge for giving PBG their resources, time and fullest support in all our activities and events. Prof Helena, in particular, has been with us every step of the way with her trademark bright smile and her valuable advice. I am grateful for the amazing opportunities she offered for us to take on in our term.

Next, a big thank you to our various beneficiary groups, some of whom I’ve had the privilege of working together with. Thank you for continuing to collaborate with us in our various projects, and this award motivates me to continue finding new avenues to serve the community at large.

Lastly, and most importantly, I want to thank all the PBG members, especially the PBG EXCO members, who stepped up and served with distinction in AY 2016/17. I have nothing but fond memories working together with every single one of you. Special thanks goes out to the VPs, Carol and Janice, for being a joy to work with and being the voice of reason which tempered my (sometimes irrational) excitement and enthusiasm.

I definitely experienced both highs and lows in my term in the Pro Bono Group. But the people I’ve worked with made the ‘highs’ much sweeter, and the ‘lows’ all the more worth it . Thank you all!

Carol Yuen, Vice-President (Internal)

It has been a real pleasure for me to have served as Vice-President of PBG. PBG has allowed me to connect with and derive joy from so many different groups of people — enthusiastic teammates and members, receptive beneficiaries, understanding partner organisations and supportive faculty.

It was a tremendous team effort to have carried out all our projects meaningfully, and I had always felt that we were working together to provide the best pro bono work for our beneficiaries.

Thank you so much for your passion and dedication, and for trust in me to lead PBG!


Revietalize 2017

From 3 to 9 December 2017, the NUS Pro Bono Group (“PBG”) participated in an inaugural exchange in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Vietnamese universities participating included the Foreign Trade University (“FTU”), Hanoi Law University (“HLU”) and National Economics University (“NEU”).

Day 1: The Game of Life

The “Game of Life” was a masterful in-house creation put together by members of the PBG team and was truly a fitting start to our week’s programme. Featuring mini-games that simulated various stages of childhood and adulthood, participants competed to out-think and out-last one another to clinch tokens symbolizing their “standing” in life. The catch: we had rigged the game in favour of specific players.

Through its many stages, the Game of Life sought to communicate the idea of privilege, its various manifestations and how these hidden barriers often prevent the disadvantaged in society from accessing legal services. By bridging the concepts of privilege and access to justice, the Game of Life laid the groundwork for us to broach substantive issues regarding access to justice viz its constitutional, legislative and governmental recognition.


Day 2: “How to build your own project”

One could say that the raison d’être for the exchange was our sharing on “How to build a project”. This was a key forum for the Vietnamese students to think about and discuss socio-legal issues that they wished to pursue as formal projects. It was also a valuable opportunity for the students to explore the possibility of inter-university projects.

A recurring topic of interest was the protection of women’s rights among ethnic minorities. There was a general consensus regarding the need to reach out to communities isolated in rural areas, as well as a strong interest in organising village-stays for the Law students to immerse themselves in the culture of the beneficiaries’ community. This would allow the students to identify legal issues affecting these rural communities, such as the prevalence of domestic violence and underage marriage, and tailor their outreach to address these needs.


Day 3: Visit to the Action to the Community Development Centre and NHQuang & Associates

The PBG team, together with students from FTU, were hosted by the Action to the Community Development Centre (“ACDC”), a non-governmental organization (“NGO”) providing legal services to people with disabilities, as well as a NHQuang & Associates (“NHQuang”), a public interest law firm in Vietnam. These visits offered us rare insights from respected actors at the forefront of the Vietnamese pro bono scene. At the same time, it was a chance for our Vietnamese counterparts to network with potential partners regarding future collaborations on new projects.

The ACDC boasts a track record of successfully advocating for legislative changes that enhanced protections for disabled persons. We were heartened by the receptivity of the government to engaging NGOs in consultation exercises in the run-up to legislative change and were convinced that the conditions in Hanoi were ripe for student-led pro bono initiatives.

NHQuang & Associates also has a unique mission to champion pro bono legal assistance in Vietnam. Among its many beneficiaries, the firm supports small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and social enterprises, including farmers looking to start a business or villages seeking to break into steel production. The firm is also active in policy advocacy ranging from national issues to the regulation of the legal profession.

We were struck by NHQuang’s commitment to improving the pro bono scene and wider national legal system. Besides travelling to other countries to conduct comparative studies, the firm was also in the midst of a 10-year petition effort for an e-litigation system in civil matters, so as to boost transparency by increasing access to judicial decisions.


Day 4: Visit to Tien Xuan Secondary School

We were privileged to attend a legal awareness workshop organized by our hosts from FTU CLE. The workshop, held at Tien Xuan Secondary School, aimed to educate the ethnic minority students about their rights under Vietnam’s child labour laws through various interactive activities. The PBG team also delivered a brief presentation on protection for child labourers under Singapore’s employment law.

Day 5: Action plans

The final act of our week’s exchange programme was a brainstorming session with our Vietnamese counterparts. Based on the legal issues we identified, we hammered out action plans, set out timelines to track the development of their projects, and made a commitment to each other to check in periodically on the progress. We hope to see the fruition of their projects in the near future!



It is always a happy occasion when the NUS PBG gets the chance to discuss and explore the potential for student pro bono with foreign universities. Beyond encouraging our Vietnamese counterparts to start their own projects, we hope that this exchange will yield future collaborative projects on issues that transcend borders.  The trip has also led us to appreciate the strong bottom-up pro bono culture in NUS Law that enables our students to initiate and develop their own projects. We hope to steward this proud tradition and inspire NUS Law students to participate actively in pro bono work.


Pro Bono Awareness Week 2017

On 2 October 2017, the NUS Pro Bono Group (PBG) commenced its annual Pro Bono Awareness Week (PBAW), which aims to raise awareness about the various projects and beneficiaries under the multiple branches of the PBG. This year, we expanded our outreach to students at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University and non-law NUS students, because we believe that everyone can learn from and participate in the pro bono ecosystem.

PBAW Seminar Series

In line with the event’s theme of ‘Challenging All Assumptions’, PBG hosted 3 panel discussions that critically discussed issues surrounding migrant worker and sex worker rights, as well as rehabilitative opportunities for past offenders. We sought to challenge rooted assumptions students may have about the legal rights and challenges these vulnerable groups face, so as to inspire participants to tackle these issues in their existing projects, or even to pilot new ones.


A diverse panel at the ‘Migrants Matter’ seminar

First, in our installation of 3 panel discussions, ‘Migrants Matter‘ invited panelists to weigh in on legal obstacles faced by migrant workers in Singapore and the concomitant legal and policy solutions enacted to address them. The panel included Mr. Gabriel Koh, Senior Assistant Director at the Joint Operations Division of the Ministry of Manpower, Mr. Jevon Ng, a social work executive at the Humanitarian Organisation for Migrant Economics (HOME), Ms. Felicia Ong, an associate at Beacon Law Corporation, and Rahman, a construction worker currently volunteering for HOME.

Participants were apprised of the harsh realities of the employment landscape, which included problems like late payment of salaries, insufficient rest days, or even inadequate medical treatment of workplace injuries. The session was enriched by Rahman’s anecdotal sharings about, inter alia, the third degree burns he suffered at work and the difficulties he faced when claiming compensation for his injuries.

In response to the varied issues raised, the panel identified new initiatives, most notably the Employment Claims Tribunal (ECT). The ECT aims to provide employers and workers with an efficient and low-cost mechanism to resolve their disputes. One notable feature of the ECT is the introduction of compulsory mediation to help reach a settlement agreement. Only if the mediation fails, will the employee’s claim proceed to the tribunal.

Mr. Gabriel Koh and Mr. Jevon Ng also crossed swords over the issue of whether the government was doing enough for these migrant workers. Jevon argued that recent changes to the law fell short of achieving their desired aims, while Gabriel stressed resource limitation considerations which the government had to balance.


Panellists and participants at the ‘Second Chances’ panel discussion

Next in our seminar series was ‘Second Chances’, which set out to challenge stereotypes against ex-offenders, and to evaluate how the criminal justice system, as well as policy solutions, have helped to rehabilitate offenders and facilitate their re-entry into society.

The panel in session included Ms. Candy Lim, Assistant Manager Youth Residential Service/ Rehabilitation and Protection Group at the Ministry of Social and Family Development, Mr. Ng Shi Yang, a Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS) Advocate and Mr. Darren Tan Tho Eng, an associate form TSMP Law Corporation.

Notwithstanding existing legislative and policy frameworks to enable rehabilitation of offenders, the panel unanimously stressed the difficulty of ensuring a positive family environment, especially for youth offenders, the conundrum of eliminating offenders’ stereotypes against themselves, and the need to mobilise both legal and community resources to champion criminal rehabilitation. The panel also lamented the difficulty of putting criminal rehabilitation on the political agenda, as well as a complementary need to encourage ground-up initiatives to reach out to ex-offenders in the community.

Looking ahead, the panel raised a swathe of legislative and policy measures which may rejuvenate the rehabilitative process. Ideas raised included expanding the category of offences which are entitled to community-based sentences so as to provide more recourse to non-custodial sentences, targeted recreational or skills-based programmes for ex-offender communities and greater legal awareness among youths.


Ms. Vanessa Ho weighing in on some of the issues raised at the ‘Sex Workers are Human Too’ seminar

Concluding our seminar series, and PBAW 2017, was ‘Sex Workers are Human Too’ on 13 October. Our lively panelists, Ms Vanessa Ho, Project Director of Project X, and Mr Leon Koh Weijin, a lawyer who has provided legal aid for Project X for 2 years, shared candidly on the landscape of sex work in Singapore. We realised that the problems sex workers faced went beyond the legality of the work they engaged in – issues of police abuse in the interrogation process and discrimination during profiling of sex workers at the immigration checkpoint based on indicators such as nationality and financial status were also pressing concerns sex workers faced.

While these problems seemed insurmountable, the panel encouraged participants to take small steps towards tackling this issue, through engaging our Ministers as well as raising awareness to gain wider recognition for the rights of this vulnerable group of persons. Meanwhile, as sex workers navigate the ambiguity of Singapore’s current laws, the best stop-gap measure is to empower them with existing provisions that can lend them aid.

Keramat Dormitory Learning Journey

The Keramat Dormitory Learning Journey on 8 October was a rare opportunity for participants to get a glimpse into the living conditions of migrant workers in Singapore. Participants were privileged to receive a guided tour around the dormitory, including spaces earmarked for workers to cook their own meals and grow their own vegetables.

Over a session of manicures and henna, the workers shared how excited they were to start work in Singapore, but, at the same time, how dearly they missed their families back home. While the students had expected the workers to lament the hardships of working in Singapore, they were instead inspired by stories of courage and sacrifice.

The students were also surprised to find that many of them were fluent in English, and some in Chinese as well! The opportunity to spend an afternoon with the workers has left students with a deeper appreciation of the contributions of migrant workers, and a greater conviction to empower them to work and live in Singapore.

As PBAW draws to a close, NUS PBG would like to express our immense gratitude to all panellists for taking the time out to share their invaluable experiences with our participants, and to all students who participated in PBAW 2017. We hope that PBAW has motivated you to do your part in tackling the many issues affecting various disadvantaged groups in society, and that you will continue to walk with us in our vision to involve, to inform, and to inspire.