To Jurong With Love
To Jurong With Love is the story of several generations of hopeful young people who searched for justice, truth, and equality through the Young Christian Workers Movement in Singapore. It is about little people who are often forgotten in the grand history of institutions and nations. Girls becoming women and boys becoming men, trying to make sense of their lives in Singapore at every turn on the road to the promised future.
Instead of gold and glory, they found what it meant to be human, what it meant to be friends, and what it meant to be family, in the industrial wilderness of Jurong. They chose dignity and rights, to stand with one another and to side with workers, toiling at the heart of Singapore’s economic miracle. Those were the days before we became familiar with the terms, ‘advocacy’ and ‘civil society’.
The young people and their chaplains challenged themselves to change, to find alternatives to the given situations, beginning again and again.
About the Author
Tang Lay Lee was a member of the Asian Team of the International Movement of Catholic Students followed by full-time work for the Catholic Students Society of Singapore Polytechnic.
From the 1980s, Tang was an active volunteer at the YCW Centre. A law graduate, she used her skills to serve the workers especially when they were unfairly treated by their companies. In December 1986, she informally became a full-time staff member of YCW, then officially from the beginning of 1987.
In the mid-1980s, YCW’s call for better protection of workers and job security was not well received by the authorities. The legitimate activities of the YCW were interpreted as agitating workers against employers.
Lay Lee was imprisoned without trial in the infamous episode of the alleged Marxist conspiracy (Operation Spectrum) in 1987. Following her release, she worked with refugees in Hong Kong and on refugee and migrant worker issues.
“Truly a gem for those interested in the growth of the Church’s worker movement since 1954. In the early seventies, the Movement courageously took an option to reach out to the most exploited young workers. Jurong Industrial Estate was naturally the starting point for action—it had the highest concentration of factory workers—and the accompaniment of exploited workers in their daily life and struggles on the factory floor. For those with a heart for the well-being of workers, it’s a book not to be missed.”
- Fr Patrick Goh, YCW National Chaplain 1974-1987