Our migrant brother, K (name changed), is a regular face at HealthServe. One can often catch him bustling around purposefully at our Desker centre – from manning the coupon collection at our Desker Food Project, to joining our migrant brothers in cooking lunch on Wednesdays for everyone else, and even tidying up and cleaning the centre. Although he appears rather gruff and stern, K’s hearty laughter always brightens up his entire demeanor, naturally eliciting smiles from others.
Behind this sturdy dependability and warm laughter, however, hide a quiet pain. For many years, K has worked in the Singaporean construction industry for twelve years without incident, supporting his family back in Tamil Nadu, India. Unfortunately, the year in which he was ready to retire home for good was the very same year a piece of metal from above slipped while he was working, and injured his right arm.
“My arm was bleeding very much,” K recounts gravely. His emotions show through his usually stoic exterior, and his eyes mist over briefly when he remembers what happened. “But my boss no helping me.” His employer was not interested in helping him through his claims process nor paying for his hospital appointments as was expected of him.
Without a steady income, even paying for simple meals became a huge problem for K – let alone larger, more long-term concerns like paying for his two sons’ education. When he called back to tell his family the news, his wife wept bitterly. “Me too,” he confesses, pointing to his eyes. “My eyes, very wet, although I didn’t cry.”
Struggling with these fears, K chanced upon on HealthServe upon a recommendation by a fellow migrant brother. Since then, he has been leaning on the practical help that HealthServe offers, from lunches at our Desker Food Project, to MRT transportation money, and even free haircuts by our volunteer hairdressers. HealthServe also helped him to arrange his hospital appointments, and advised him on what he should do in his claims process. “HealthServe not just help me, but help my family also,” K shares with us. When his income completely dried up and his family was desperately in need of financial support, HealthServe was able to tap into our emergency fund and give him $300 to send home for his family.
More than that, however, HealthServe has become like a second home for him. He enjoys the conversations he has with the HealthServe staff and volunteers, and the different outings and activities. His face brightens up when recalling a recent outing to Gardens by the Bay. He remembers ambling along the beds of delicate flowers in the Flower Dome, snapping pictures and appreciating the view of the bay outside. “I look at the flowers, and I feel changed, I become happier,” he says. “Without HealthServe, I wouldn’t have been able to go to these places.”
Without K, HealthServe would be all the poorer, too. Despite the flexible and malleable structure of HealthServe, one familiar sight that approaches regularity is K appearing at the Desker centre office, cheerfully waving and greeting everyone in the morning before he heads off to the Food Project. After lunch, he would look around to see if there are any needs that the HealthServe office has, and quietly goes over to fill the gap. It is not uncommon to see him voluntarily washing off the bits of leftover rice stuck at the bottom of the gigantic Food Project rice pot, or sweeping the floor and clearing the bin out of his own initiative.
“I’m very happy to meet HealthServe brothers and sisters,” K says, gesturing to the HealthServe staff and interns, as well as the other migrant brothers. “And I want to bring other injured brothers to HealthServe, so that they can get help.” Truly, K embodies the spirit of HealthServe – the spirit of receiving and giving in turn.