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.


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!

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

Home Away from Home

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If I had to nominate somebody as testament to how many Bangladeshis live more exciting lives than Singaporeans, that somebody would be M. His stories -that are best left undisclosed- are sometimes so absurd that the only way I know to react is to laugh, and then feel bad for laughing. He tells me about his second-hand BMW he had to sell, and the apparel business that he had to shut down because his brother got into serious debt. He then claims that he will go back to set it up again. He also tells me about how his chicken farm at home has no more chickens because of the weather, and then tells me that they will be rearing other animals instead. He may have lost it all, but in his recounts, I also see how he still has enough hope, ambition and desire to build things up once more.

Beyond his tendency to make light of his situations, I could tell he has been and is going through a lot. M fell from a ladder at work in 2017 and hurt his back; he was then rushed into a 12-hour operation within 2 days. I can still conjure up the image of the X-ray scan of his back with a few screws in place. Besides his work injury, he also has salary owed to him by a runaway boss. M’s case has been particularly difficult, and he has spent the last six months just waiting to begin his case proceedings. “Waiting” is a word that characterises many of the injured workers’ experiences. In that word lies uncertainty, frustration, and agony- emotional stressors that we hope to relieve when they come to Healthserve. For personal reasons, M is unable to return to Bangladesh and he barely contacts his family back home now. It angers him that his family takes for granted his hard work to earn the money he sends back and that they do not consider his wishes when decisions back home are made for him. Yet even for things like these, there is a happy-go-lucky quality to his tone that makes these slightly easier to take in.

At Healthserve, M is more like staff than beneficiary. He cooks for the Desker Food Project on Wednesdays (his chicken curry is heavenly), offers to call up a migrant brother when we need help and even directs them to the office or explains in Bengali to a brother whatever it is that they do not understand in English. The first few times I was tasked to facilitate the Food Project alone at Desker, M would be the one who followed me down to the food vendors. It relieves me because he is like a pillar of support. Whenever I am with the migrant brothers, I expect myself to be of help (in what little or indirect ways I can) for them. Yet I often find myself being caught in the irony of being helped instead. Likewise, this is how M makes me feel; odd that how it is the foreigner who makes me feel at home.

Home away from home – I would like to think that this is what HealthServe is to M. Staying at the shelter lifts much of the weight off M’s shoulders as he does not have to worry about rent, especially since he is unable to draw a salary in this period of time. I believe that relieves a lot of his emotional distress. M receives some social assistance for his parents, wife and daughter he has to provide for.

More than that, I’ve witnessed how the shelter is more than a place of mere residence for M. His cheeky disposition has become part of the dynamic at the Little India office, so much so that sometimes my day just doesn’t feel as right when I don’t see him peer into the office area. M has great rapport with the staff, interns and volunteers and I believe we all find him endearing. The relationships he has in Healthserve have built him up, bringing joy and hope to his discouraging situation. Being able to contribute and help out at the shelter and office gives M a role and a sense of belonging. He is valued as a part of Healthserve. I hope this is enough to make him feel his waiting time is not wasted time.

By: Kaitlyn Tay, HealthServe Volunteer Development Intern