Familiar Strangers: Storys of migrant workers in Singapore

Kenji Kwok
Kenji Kwok

Familiar Strangers is a campaign to both collect and share the stories of low-wage migrant workers in Singapore.

„We strive to provide numerous platforms for them to tell their own stories, in their own words and other means of expression, such as through photos and videos.

Through that, we hope to give Singaporeans an opportunity to learn more about the lives of low-wage migrant workers here, from reading the unfeigned and heartfelt stories that they have shared with us.“


 See more of this project on http://www.familiarstrangers.sg

A Final Year Project by students from

Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Singapore (WKWSCI, NTU)

If you would like to get in touch with them, drop them a mail at hello.familiarstrangers@gmail.com


China: Drinking the Northwest Wind

Like so many of Mao’s pronouncements, it sounded simple. “The South has a lot of water; the North lacks water. So if it can be done, borrowing a little water and bringing it up might do the trick.” And thus, in 1952, the spark was lit for what would blaze to life four decades later as China’s most ambitious engineering project—a scheme to bring some 45 billion cubic meters of water, mostly from the mighty Yangtze and its tributaries, up to the north China plain to Beijing and the parched farmland and factory towns around it. The central route of the project began carrying water from Hubei to Beijing in late 2014, and, like so many of Mao’s plans, it has left a swath of human devastation in its wake. (Text by Susan Jakes, Multimedia by Sharron Lovell, Tom Wang)

See more on Chinafile:


Sharron Lovell is a multimedia storyteller and educator. She is currently based between Rome and Beijing and possesses a misguided love of China’s lower tier cities. She lectures on multimedia journalism for a Beijing-based, U.K.-accreditedMaster’s program and is co-hosts a podcast on multimedia journalism.

Lovell’s work has been published in National Geographic books, PBS, Aeon, Foreign PolicyNewsweekThe Guardian, Buzzfeed, PolitikenThe Wall Street JournalThe EconomistThe Irish TimesForbesThe IndependentGraziaMs.AdbustersLe Monde, and The Financial Times.

Tom Wang hails from central China, where he studied multimedia journalism. He has always been a music and film lover and while studying in University discovered documentary film. His interests include urbanization, rural development, water resources, and other environmental issues. Wang currently lives in Beijing, where he works on documentary projects.


Photohoku: Bringing disaster-stricken families together with photographs

Frederick Jon Chen
Frederick Jon Chen

Imagine this: you’re a bright-eyed youth with a passion for helping out communities in need, disillusioned by seemingly trivial “let’s repaint an old school building for the poor”-type projects. At the same time you have an interest in photography, which you really want to put to good use, but haven’t had the opportunity to.

That was the scenario Frederick Jon Chen found himself in a few years ago, until he came across Photohoku, an unconventional project that allowed him to use his photography skills to do good for disaster-stricken communities.

It turned out to be more meaningful, says Frederick, than many of the community involvement projects he’s been involved in. 

Frederick Jon Chen 

After years of volunteer work, “I had become disenchanted, as it were, with my role, fundamentally,” he shares. “By coating a wall of a school atop a mountain in Sa Pa with fresh paint, were we creating and imposing new expectations on our recipients which – crucially – were previously non-existent?”

In 2013, he came across Photohoku, a photo-giving movement formed in response to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. “Unlike photojournalists who travel to Tohoku mining relentlessly and insensitively for photo opportunities in the dismantled region, we (Photohomies) travel up to northeast Japan to make and give photos to those affected by the events of March 2011,” he shares. (by Natalie Koh)

Read the whole article and see more pictures on contended.cc:


The Children of China’s Cancer Slum

Drug Costs Putting Young Lives at Risk

Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Li Defang remembers the day she considered giving up on her granddaughter — a four-year-old battling leukemia. 

Money had dried up, and little Zhao Jing was in a hospital in Hefei city in eastern China. She was struggling, feverish and coping with an infection. In those desperate hours back in October 2014, Li recalls whispering sadly to her: “If one day grandma runs out of money for your medicines, maybe I will have to abandon you.”

Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Such life-and-death calculations aren’t that rare in a China that is home to the world’s largest number of cancer cases, and where patients can sometimes pay among the highest prices in the world for drug treatments. For the past year, Li and her granddaughter have lived in a slum near the hospital. Called Wujianong, the tenement is home to about thirty other families who have also journeyed hundreds of miles to seek better care for their sick children. Here they live in damp, moldy rooms just off a narrow street strewn with plastic bags and muddy puddles. They’ve all found that cancer can be a financial catastrophe in a society where private insurance is a rarity and many costs for serious illnesses aren’t covered by government insurance.

Qilai Shen/Bloomberg 

Surging health-care costs are turning into one of the biggest threats to the world’s second largest economy and its consumers. About $115 billion will be spent on pharmaceuticals in China this year. As patients struggle to pay, international drug companies face slower growth in the country and government pressure to curb prices. For families, their biggest adversary isn’t only the disease, but the prohibitive cost of care. 

Read the whole article and see more pictures on Bloomberg News:


Qilai Shen is a Shanghai, China based photographer with over 10 years of experience in editorial, corporate, and portrait photography.