Jolovan Wham of Singapore's Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics on the perils of capitalism and getting assaulted in his line of work.

Jolovan Wham is the Executive Director of Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), an NGO that advocates for migrant worker rights and welfare, providing shelters for trafficked people and women and conducting vocational training and health education seminars. Here he talks about getting beaten up by gangsters, the most rewarding drink of his life and what's wrong with capitalism.

I’ve lived with migrant domestic workers throughout my childhood and teenage years and spent a lot of time talking to them. I know what it is like to have to work long hours, to be at an employer’s beck and call and not have adequate rest and days off.

I realized that I wanted to help migrant workers when my domestic worker went on strike and there wasn't anyone to do my laundry for me anymore. 

My parents didn't realize that making me share a room with a domestic worker when I was a boy would have such an effect on me.  

I find it scandalous that domestic work is still so poorly regulated and we think it is ok to make them work round the clock.

[Singaporeans tend to treat migrant workers badly] because we have been given so much power and we forget to check ourselves.

The lack of employment protections and a hypercapitalist culture that treats people as commodities also normalizes abusive and exploitative behavior.

When migrant workers are protected, we will benefit as well. Their exploitation and oppression is linked to ours.

Capitalism doesn’t care where you're from or who you are. It is only concerned about containing costs and maximizing profit. If it can dehumanize and exploit you, it will.       

I often feel powerless when a worker isn’t able to get access to justice because of the lack of effective and accessible remedies. 

I once burst into tears in front of a bunch of bureaucrats whom I thought weren’t handling an abused worker's case appropriately. 

I was assaulted once by some agents and gangsters who were not happy that I was trying to prevent a Bangladeshi worker from being forcefully repatriated. Fortunately, I managed to squirm away but I never thought this job would entail such risks. 

The most rewarding moment of my career was getting drunk with Bangladeshi construction workers after a successful claim for their money.  

Sometimes, it is important not to take yourself or the issues too seriously. Having a sense of humor really helps.

In my free time, I try to stay sober and sing in tune at a Mandopop KTV bar. 

If I weren't working with migrant workers, I'd find a rich husband to marry me.  

Refugees and asylum seekers are an international issue which require international cooperation. Turning boats away is inhumane.