Written by Clare Isabel Ee | Images as credited
The ‘gladiator’ platform was one of the main attractions at the CAMPOS Carnival. Image by Melissa Wang
In the late afternoon sun of 17 April 2015, a large inflatable ‘gladiator battle’ platform was delivered to the grounds of Residential College 4 (RC4). In the Multi-Purpose Hall (MPH), members of the Yale-NUS community set up audiovisual equipment. Colourful, vibrant decorations were hung all around RC4, with signs that pointed one way for cricket, others for foosball, snacks and food, and arm wrestling.
At 10 minutes to 6 pm, a snaking queue of 500 construction workers formed along the walkway from the Yale-NUS permanent campus’ worksite to RC4.
The CAMPOS Carnival had come to RC4, and the guests-of-honour couldn’t wait for it to start.
The carnival, organised by the student organisation – the Committee for Appreciating and Meeting People On Site (CAMPOS) – was a huge success. The students of CAMPOS had 40 student volunteers helping out during the carnival, to run booths, games and to participate in activities with the workers and have a good time. The workers mostly hailed from China, India and Bangladesh.
“We wanted to bring people together in the most natural and universal of ways – having fun,” shared John Reid (Class of 2017), one of the founders of CAMPOS.
“The site fence is more than just a physical barrier, it is a segregation between the migrant workers and the rest of society. In our own small way, we wanted to reach across that fence and have genuine interaction in a way that wasn’t top-down or forced.”
The migrant workers unwound over games like foosball. Image by YNC Photography
Over the last two years, CAMPOS organised four major events to connect the Yale-NUS community and the workers building the permanent Yale-NUS campus. From setting up a photo booth on site and providing stamps and envelopes for workers to mail photos back home, to a Chinese New Year celebratory dinner, CAMPOS events have brought to life the organisation’s clearly defined mission of appreciating the hard work of migrant workers.
“We wanted to combine the best elements from our previous events – scale, appreciation, and quality of interaction… For this event [compared to past events], we massively increased the amount of time and interaction with each worker,” John explained.
Towards the end of the evening, the atmosphere in the MPH was bursting with energy, as workers, students, and staff sang and danced enthusiastically. One student band performed three songs in different languages, to cater to the variety of languages spoken amongst the workers: one in English, one in Mandarin, and one in Bengali.
“At Yale-NUS, we value learning about community wherever we come into contact with it,” said Tara Dear (Class of 2017), who was a central figure on the dancefloor.
“The carnival was an ideal way of showing our appreciation for the construction workers and creating a space where staff, students and workers could all interact with one another in a lighthearted and meaningful way.”
Student Tara Dear (far right) joined a group of workers for a karaoke/dance party. Image by Melissa Wang
When the Yale-NUS permanent campus is completed, this group of workers will no longer be working at Yale-NUS, and CAMPOS will need to decide on a new direction to take in terms of their mission.
“Two possible directions we are thinking of expanding in are an advocacy or appreciation group for the larger migrant worker population in Singapore, or a service appreciation group for any future workers and staff on our new campus,” said John.
Whichever they decide, we’re sure we’ll hear of another event from them in the near future!
Stay tuned to campos.commons.yale-nus.edu.sg for more updates on CAMPOS happenings, or to check out photos of past events.