This #InternationalWomensDay, let’s show appreciation to the women who leave their homes to work for their families. In this feature, written by HealthServe Communications and Engagement Intern, Lavelle, we follow the story of YE, a migrant sister with HealthServe who has both moved and inspired her since the day she started her internship in HealthServe.
February 9th 2020, while most of us were fast asleep in the comfort of our homes, sheltered from the pouring rain outside, YE had only a piece of cardboard and her two suitcases with her as she took refuge outside an MRT station.
“我睡在街上的那五天有多绝望、多无奈，我永远都忘不了。(I will never forget how much despair and helplessness I felt sleeping on the streets for those five days.)”
I have only known YE for a month, but I have every reason to believe she is a living embodiment of resilience.
YE’s story is eerily similar to many others’ who seek help from HealthServe. She left her home country and her children behind, paid an agent exorbitant fees to come over to Singapore, faced unfair treatment from her employer, and then became a hapless victim to a series of misfortunes and proof of the exploitation of vulnerable migrants that happens right under our noses. As a server at a restaurant for only a month, YE was dismissed after raising concerns that she wasn’t given her rightful salary. The police were called on her and she was subsequently thrown out of her accommodation by her “uncouth and black-hearted” employer. That’s when she was relegated to sleeping on the streets, surviving mostly on bread and water for five days.
When she was first referred to us, she was grateful to have the two meals we provided on weekdays. I asked if she needed anything else we could help with. She thought for a moment and said, “I want to find another job. Do you think I can find a job here?” While finding employment in Singapore proved to be difficult, she quietly made her own arrangements to secure a job back in China. From then on, the only other thing she has ever asked from us was a HealthServe t-shirt.
Evidently, YE is more than the unfortunate circumstances that led her to us. She seems to have lived many lives. She was an office worker, then a production line worker for Nike. There’s a short stint of work in Japan sometime ago, and then there’s also the time she made carpets by hand for a living.
Amidst a life of hustle, she settled down and had two kids she talks about with a smile on her face. “This is my daughter,” she beamed with pride, showing us a photo on her phone during her last ever Geylang Food Project. She turned to the ‘cai png auntie’ and showed it to her as well.
YE has since left for Qingdao, where she will be working in an electronics factory. She will still be a four hour long car ride away from her children whom she misses so much. “It doesn’t matter if I miss them, I still have to provide for them,” she told me. Her life as a migrant hasn’t ended, and this will likely be the case until better opportunities arise where her children go to school.
Regardless of whatever tough times lie ahead of her, I have no doubt she will pull through them. After all, to me, she is a living embodiment of resilience.