In this series of photographs titled Singapore Dream, photographer and visual/performing artist Sean Cham contrasts the dreams and realities of migrant workers.
Syedur Rahman Liton, 32
Liton came to Singapore in 2010. In his home country of Bangladesh, he had graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences and agriculture in 2004, and then worked as a supervisor in different factories. He also taught mathematics, linguistics and agriculture on a voluntary basis.
In Singapore, he is a crane supervisor. Also a published poet in Singapore and in Bangladesh, Liton has written close to 200 poems, in both Bengali and English. He had picked up poetry in high school at age 14, and independently sought feedback from his teachers and professors.
Liton, who writes about world issues, conflicts and crises, believes that all humans should be treated equally. He came to Singapore to earn money for his family, and to expose himself internationally as a poet.
He hopes that one day he would be able to alleviate the problems in his country by educating and helping his countrymen break out of poverty.
Nurul Bashar, 27
Bashar, a Bangladeshi, came to Singapore in 2008 and has worked in many different companies, mostly as an electrician and engineer.
When he was 20, he had to quit medical school after only a few months and leave for Singapore as he had to earn money to support his family. His father was also ill then.
Bashar has four siblings, one of whom is his twin brother. They have done everything together since they were kids, and after Bashar left for Singapore, his twin brother felt lonely and joined him a year later.
Bashar had to work very hard to earn money to pay his father’s medical bills, which amounted to $10,000. He even worked on weekends to make extra money. Because he was so busy working, he did not go back to Bangladesh to visit his father. His father, who suffered from blood cancer, passed away two years after Bashar left Bangladesh.
When they are not working, Bashar and his brother spend their Sundays strolling at East Coast Park or Kallang River.
They have been paying for their 19-year-old brother’s medical school fees. It is Bashar’s dream that his brother become a doctor and fulfil the dream he never had the chance to live.
Saksri Phonthong, 39
Saksri came to Singapore in 2001 at the age of 24. He currently does steel reinforcement in the construction industry and also engine maintenance.
He was a car mechanic in Bueng Kan, Thailand, working in his brother’s garage from age 10. After secondary school, he enlisted in the navy where he was a frigate mechanic. When he left the navy, he had seven certifications for areas such as first aid, security, fire prevention and survival.
Saksri enjoys watching action movies, especially the Rambo series. He has become conversant in English by self-studying English books and articles. He is currently studying political science at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University Singapore, and volunteers with the Friends of Thai Workers Association.
When he returns home, he hopes to start a family and be a self-sufficient farmer in Bueng Kan. He also hopes to save enough to open a car repair shop.
Check out Sean Cham’s work on his Facebook page.