SR's Story - Father's Day June Feature

SR, is a father of 3 who left Bangladesh for the 1st time last year and through a series of unfortunate circumstances found himself seeking help from HealthServe.

This is longer than our usual stories but we hope that it will bring awareness to the reasons behind the risks our migrant brothers take to come to Singapore to work, the issues they may encounter in Singapore and the importance of a supportive community.

Let's not forget fathers like SR who have sacrificed comforts and faced their fears to work in unfamiliar surroundings facing a different culture, language barrier and long hours in order to provide the best they can for their family.

Please share this out to help raise awareness for injured migrant brothers like SR. 

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SR came to Singapore from Bangladesh in 2018, but was only able to work seven months before he got injured. Above the age of 40, he is older and more experienced than many of the other Bangladeshi workers and has a larger family back home depending on him.

SR attended school until he was 20 and then started working to help support his family. He started as a goldsmith and eventually transitioned to casting metal for construction work. In recent years, his family began to need more money than he could make in Bangladesh. He wanted to be able to pay for his son to get his engineering degree and to save for his daughters' futures.

He is the sole male breadwinner in his household of six. He supports his eighteen year old son, two younger daughters, his wife, and his ninety year old father. Back in Bangladesh, his wife works in a garment factory, but the pay is very low and she has leg problems that make work difficult. Although his older daughter left school to work in a factory, she was prevented from working after a machine fell and crushed her hand. Several years ago, the family sold their house and land to pay for surgery for his wife to remove a tumor in her stomach. After hearing from friends that more money could be made in Singapore, SR made the decision to leave Bangladesh for the first time in his life and come here to work.

He took loans to pay more than SGD10,000 in agent fees and arrived in Singapore, February 2018. In August 2018, he was cutting grass on a slope, when he slipped and fell injuring his back and arm. Despite his injuries, SR tried to continue working, but drew attention from his boss because he was no longer able to work as quickly as before. He claims that his boss called him over and started kicking him until he fell on the ground senseless. The police were called and recommended that he go to a hospital, but he declined fearing that he was not able to pay for it.

He claims that his boss was unwilling to file the incident as WICA and pay his MC wages, and then hired men that threatened him and dragged him to the airport to forcefully send him home. Fortunately, he told his story to the immigration officers at the airport who referred him to MOM. He has been waiting for six months for his case to be resolved.

He came to HealthServe for MRT top ups and the food project after hearing about our organization through a friend. When we first met him, SR was very anxious, reserved and depressed, he rarely smiled and was not able to speak much English beyond a few words - 'Okay' and 'Good'.

Over the last few months, he has found friendship with many of the other migrant brothers, HealthServe volunteers and staff. The younger migrant brothers show evident respect and care towards the older man. He worked hard to improve his English and has seen significant improvement in his time with us. He enjoys our outings and activity nights, including volunteering as a group leader to help plan our Labour Day Singapore Zoo outing (though in the end he was not able to go due to last minute administrative issues with his case) and is a regular at our monthly pottery classes. Although he still feels the stress from his situation, he attends counselling sessions at HealthServe that have helped him look for joy in his life and helped to bring out his outgoing and cheerful personality.

In the meantime, he continues to experience difficulty with his employer, even as recently as this past weekend when they removed his name from his dorm roster and he was left homeless for three nights. HealthServe provided him temporary shelter and through working together with MOM has since resolved the issue of accommodation.

This week, despite his troubles over the weekend, he helped us feel more at home in our new Jalan Besar office by he bringing out his guitar to sing Bengali songs. Our casework interns share that he has become an encouraging presence in the JB office and never fails to warmly welcome and befriend any newcomers.

He shares that though he continues to worry about his family and debts back home, his newfound faith in God has helped to bring him peace. After his case closes, he hopes to be able to pay off his loans and open a small business in Bangladesh selling snacks and other foods.

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The journey for SR resolving his case in Singapore is not over yet, like other injured migrant brothers in our community they face daily uncertainty. Sometimes when a case is resolved the compensation may not be enough to cover the loans they have took to come to Singapore to work and any future fees for their full recovery back home.

If you'd like to keep updated on SR's case and how you can play a part in helping migrant workers like SR please email us at info@healthserve.org.sg

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SL - Stroke survivor

SL came to Singapore in 2013 from Hebei to better support his family. As the sole breadwinner he was responsible for earning enough to fund his two sons' education and future. One of his son's also has respiratory issues whilst his wife is the main caregiver of his ill mother.

Unfortunately, last July, the family lost its sole breadwinner overnight in a turn of events. SL was subsequently diagnosed with stroke after fainting suddenly at work resulting in partial paralysis where he could no longer move the right side of the body. Initially, SL was unable to speak and had difficulty in movements. Along with the deep pain and suffering he felt he was constantly troubled about the finances of the family.

YB, a friend of SL who was also under the same employer, was at that time a beneficiary of HealthServe. Upon knowing what had happened to SL, YB informed HealthServe which enabled HealthServe to help him raise funds for SL's family’s living expenses through the Rays of Hope Initiative (ROHI). YB along with other migrant brothers, staff and interns was consistently on the lookout for SL, and visited him often both in hospital and later, the nursing home.

Gradually, SL made tremendous improvements with his motor skills. HealthServe also arranged TCM and Occupational Therapy sessions to prepare him to be able to become more independent with his movements when he goes back to China as even simple things like putting on a shirt was difficult for him.

SL is grateful for the financial assistance that he has received and has went back to China last month, he still maintains contact with the migrant brothers from HealthServe he has made friends with.

We are thankful that he is now able to recuperate at home with his family, especially during this festive season and we are encouraged by the kindness of our migrant brothers towards each other even when they face their own difficult circumstances.

HealthServe staff and intern visiting SL at the nursing home

HealthServe staff and intern visiting SL at the nursing home

YG - Finding Joy in the simplest things

Having a curious liking for wearing his glasses upside down - behind the nape of his neck - is just one of YG's many quirks that make him such an endearing personality. Hailing from Taishan, Henan China, YG was previously employed in a wine-processing factory, located just 600m from his house, before coming to Singapore to work as a construction worker. Since coming to Singapore, he has developed a number of unusual passions - like walking.

While YG frequents climbing a mountain in his native village of Taishan, there are unfortunately no "real" mountains here in Singapore. Still, YG is happy to make do with the many parks and community gardens in Singapore. On one occasion, he walked the full length from HealthServe's Geylang Clinic to Bishan, for a simple reason - he was "bored". As he walks, YG does not simply zone out, but is an avid observer who pays close attention to his surroundings. He recounts to us the sight of Hindu devotees circumambulating around an iron cauldron full of incense sticks at midnight, which proves to be such a novel sight that he cannot "un-forget" it. After all, there are no Hindu temples in China, so the plethora of "curious-looking" temples in Singapore must be intriguing.

While YG is currently seeking shelter with HealthServe for a workplace injury, he plans to return to Singapore again - this time to learn English. "Singapore is such a conducive environment for learning English", he claims, and he wants to maximize his next stint in Singapore by picking up a new language.

YG, we thank you for showing us what it is like to find joy in everything and to never stop learning!

- written by Yong Han Poh.

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SC's Story

Leaving behind his family, SC came over to Singapore hoping for a better lifestyle for his family. He heard of this prospect through employment agencies. He had hopes of opening a business in the future and lead a simple, happy life.

Unfortunately, in September 2018, SC injured the nerve of his index finger while using a cylindrical grinder.

One of our HealthServe staff met SC in church and brought him over to HealthServe. HealthServe assisted him to get the relevant documents for submission to get his compensation and accompanied him to some of his medical appointments. Just this month, his case was resolved, and he flew back to China. On top of that, SC is happy to be a benefactor of our social assistance which provided him with MRT top up and meals. He enjoyed the sense of community he found in HealthServe and often participate in our outings such as boardwalks and karaoke sessions.

Without HealthServe , SC felt that he would be helpless.

We are thankful that HealthServe was able to provide the necessary social assistance and companionship for SC and we wish him the best back in China!

https://www.facebook.com/healthservesg/photos/a.916677965046814/1998685040179429/?type=3&eid=ARCV6exwp6BtDB9g7qIQnm0F_5o0cmMLzZWqW9lTqE2gNWReQ4WU6xykRqAuXFgrmovAlzuyXyW4TuQB&__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARAQ1VNkTXa1I5XltS9Iew2qgeM9rx2iMTeYsVK8mgyngrRi-IsNwWR0iPdqxDjBoiENgWM8bv3cvY8t2CnKHp4aEzut3JuvawHry0HEmT-TnzDQjQccJAJEEWajZA3RtHZjkcU6dwxR2YmuiB1Tm9GuinM5Akj36ma-dUWtnm1FDcCNktq0dUIeuVAFOgFcbeu-L8W4w3-ESmoVJoEmxyfU_0mkDDJe1zhRQ00AsfnvLXettRimQ2Mh6sAaaT54fzPzTq_fZ9oPhGijdRLUcfuO8WmcgjDfypdpQCQNIvvllCWhc7ufH9k5RwksTB5lKLE3&__tn__=EEHH-R-R

Migrant Feature

In light of the recent stories Jia Qi and I wrote, we wanted to work on something more light-hearted. These stories/captions focus on our migrant brothers' everyday lives and deviate a little from the heavier topics we usually shed light on.

In line with our objective, we designed pictures of 5 migrant workers that draw some inspiration from pop-art to carry a quirky and light-hearted tone. We hope the short and simple sharings paired with the pictures will bring another dimension - one that is jovial - to our understanding of migrants’ lives, and we see them as more than only dull or sombre people.


Li Yin Bing

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If you could learn something now, what would you like to learn?

I want to learn how to produce blueprints for buildings. I did that from scratch to build my own home back in China, but it was an amateur one. I also want to learn more about healthy living so I can a live long, simple comfortable and happy life with my wife when I go back home.

What sets you apart?

I’m a 15-time DouDiZhu (Chinese card game with some resemblance to “Big 2”) champion! I’ve emerged champion amongst 450 people. (We laughed with him afterwards, realising that he was “champion” inside a DouDiZhu mobile game, not one in real life as we were led to believe.)

 

Zhang Sheng Xian

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What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I used to be active in sports. I like playing basketball and I even ran for many sport events and it made me happy to win with my team. I also love it when the migrant brothers are together in a room, it makes things lively, like a family. I’m happy simply being around people.

If there was one thing you can change about life back home, what would that be?

Poverty is something prevalent where I live, especially when I was young. I wish there was something that can be done to bring these people better lives and not struggle to survive each day.

 

Li Hui Xin

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What were you like as a kid? Did you have any aspirations?

I was the most mischievous kid ever! (We can still see a little bit of that now!) I stopped studying in Primary 3 - it’s something I regret. I wasn’t a very forward-looking boy, so I didn’t really have an aspiration but I remember wanting to be a dad,  to have a happy family.

What were some odd or special encounters you had in Singapore?

Odd encounters? My work injury. (The reason he came to HealthServe.) Isn’t it? How odd that I got injured after 20 years of being absolutely fine working here, haha. Jokes aside, I think it is interesting how there are so many religious institutions in Singapore! So many Churches and temples, and they even be found side by side. It’s amazing to me.

 

Liu Kun

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What were your aspirations as a kid?

When I was a kid, I  wanted to open a departmental stall. You know, those that sell everything? I always imagined being the big boss there.

What are some of your favourite foods?

When I first came to Singapore, I didn’t think much of the food in here. But when I really tried it, wow. It’s really not bad! My favourite would be Wu Ji Popiah. Next up is noodle salad and curry chicken! Wow curry chicken is so good, especially when you dip the soft prata in the tasty curry. I really do enjoy Singaporean delicacies, laksa and all. We don’t really have food like this in China.

 

Zhang Jian Chuan

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Share something special about you with us.

I was an aspiring entrepreneur in primary school. I went out selling red dates on a stick to people at the movies. My mum saw it and said, “You mean you can earn money with this?” Primary school me basically got the whole family on the bandwagon, slotting dates into sticks. Besides dates, I picked leaves (His equivalent of pandan leaves) whenever I saw them, and sold it to people.

What do you do in your free time?

I play cards. (I’ve watched him play. With a mandatory ferocity, Chinese style, slamming the cards onto the table with each poker hand.)

What about the drama series you like to watch on your phone?

Oh yes I do that too, haha. (Once we saw him at episode of his drama and were bewildered to see him at a much later episode on the day right after!)

By: Kaitlyn and Jia Qi, Volunteer Development Interns