The Cleaners Project – A Call for Stories & Contributors!

by Li Shan Chan

It started with a book project on the cleaners of Singapore. I had written roughly 10K words on cleaners in relation to the notions of respectability and “menial vs manual”. My next step was to either become a cleaner myself, in order to properly understand and experience the life of a cleaner, or do interviews with cleaners. I spent a long time deliberating the pros and cons of each approach, while the manuscript sat in my desk drawer.

In August 2014, my friend Tarn How was asking around for proposals for community projects. Rather than letting my manuscript go to waste, I thought it might be a good idea to turn the initial book project into a community outreach project. One of the outputs would be a website with interviews, stories, and photos.

The project seemed a good idea, but I wondered how to include this project in my busy schedule. I have since found out that help from others is very important. So far, I had two wonderful research assistants Ashley (an intern from Institute of High Performance Computing) and Nikolas (a student from Raffles Institution), who, with minimal guidance, completed 10 interviews with cleaners who work in offices, hospitals, homes, restaurants, hawkers. They even managed to interview a supervisor of cleaners.

Yesterday night, I also started to collect stories of cleaners for the website. Because I’m a relatively introverted person, I worried that I might not get any stories. But my friend Hang Chong shared my post and so we got twice as many facebook ‘likes’, and his action resulted in 4 people sharing their own stories and thoughts about cleaners, through facebook and email!

Do you have a story or something to say about cleaners? Can you help with designing a website? Do you feel that you could contribute in some way to this project? If so please email

If you don’t have a story, do share this post so it can reach someone who does! Thank you.

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