Y is a migrant worker in Singapore and also a university graduate who tried to start his own enterprise in the last year of his university back home. He came to Singapore at the age of 21 and in fact, he is more alike than different from us. It heightened my awareness that migrant workers really come from all walks of life, and he knows that too. He told us about the different people who have resided in the shelter and their different traits. It stressed how migrants are humans and humans are different. There isn’t a protocol as to how we can help them, but only by knowing them on a relational and personal level, meeting their needs there.
Y injured his back at work 2 years ago. He has been through different doctors, check-ups, MRI scans, X-Rays, physiotherapy sessions and an operation. An injury is never just an injury. Y recounted his feelings of distress, anxiety, and depression. Simple tasks, like a bus ride, would shroud him with anxiety as each jerk of the transport can send radiating waves of pain up his injured spine. The injury immobilised him with fear. When he lived in his shared apartment, seeing his flatmates go to work made him feel dejected. Y came to Singapore with the intention of working, and his injury obstructed him from fulfilling such a purpose in Singapore. Purpose gives life and the lack of it retracts life from us. “When I saw others go to work, it felt as if they were normal and I wasn’t”.
To think that when we go through something like this, the first thing we want to do is run to someone for support, but Y had none of that. Whilst he was in Singapore, Y found out that his mother was ill, with kidney and heart failures. Even until today, he has kept his injury from his mother at home. Being at HeathServe alleviates much of that loneliness as he finds a common language with the brothers there: injury. Sometimes empathy simply demands experience. “It is way different from when I used to live in my apartment where they may not understand your situation and give insensitive remarks. The shelter is an encouraging place; we understand and help each other because we are going through the same thing”. The brothers there offer him little acts of service with huge impact, they helped him buy food and pour him a glass of water when his back hurt too much to do so. Hearing all these, I realised that “shelter” isn’t just a synonym for “residence” but it has truly lived up to its definition for Y. It is his Safehouse.
When Y was feeling tangled and in a rut, coming to HealthServe not only offered him emotional relief but practical help too. “I don’t know where I would be without HealthServe”. Y was not able to pay for his operation so he decided to go back to work despite his excruciating back pain. He even considered not going for the operation at all. Offering Y a place to stay was to give him a peace of mind in an area of uncertainty. Y stated how trapped he felt as he would have had to return to China if it wasn’t for the shelter, yet he could not return home because he could not afford to be an additional burden with his mother ill at home. HealthServe also provided him with connections that allowed him to have his operation for free and an additional $22 000 funding from church members. It showed me how HealthServe has done what it set out to do- meeting the needs down to the individual level.
Y’s story is not just one of struggle but one of uplift. The calm after the storm. “How do you feel now?” “At peace, everything happens for a reason.” To be able to let go is a victory in itself. He gleefully added, “If I can, I would even like to be a volunteer here”. I saw how he emerged through his experience not defeated, but empowered enough to want to help others.
By: Kaitlyn Tay, HealthServe Volunteer Development Intern