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.
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.
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 [email protected]