“It is really torturous to be in this situation. Without the church or Jesus, there is really no hope.”
EIGHT MONTHS AFTER coming to Singapore to work, Mr Li* found himself caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. e 40-year-old native of Hei Long Jiang, China, had his left thumb and index finger sawn oﬀ in an accident one month into his new job as a construction worker.
While doctors were able to sew the former farmer’s digits back, he has been unable to work since then. As a result, the sole breadwinner for his family of six in China has had no income for his daily life here, much less any possibility of sending money home.
His work permit was also replaced by a special pass that allows him to stay in Singapore while the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) assesses the compensation claims for his permanent disability. But it also prohibits him from seeking other employment. He had nowhere to go to for his daily meals and necessities, until a friend brought him to Fairfield Methodist Church (FMC).
Providing help to injured workers
FMC has been ministering to construction workers from China since 2007. About 440 of them attend the Sunday evening service now. ere are more than a million migrant workers in Singapore, many of them earning low wages.
After noticing that many of them come for church services on crutches and in hand-slings, ministry staﬀ started a community project to reach out to those who are in the same boat as Mr Li.
Every Tuesday, lunch and a $20 cash allowance are provided for more than 60 injured migrant workers from China, to help them through the week. Help in the form of provisions like rice and bread is also provided. Worship services are held for them in the mornings and ministry staﬀ will share a message. Those in need are also prayed for and the workers would sometimes share testimonies.
The cash allowance for the injured migrant workers – amounting to more than $1,200 a week – is funded by donors through Methodist Welfare Services (MWS), the social service arm of e Methodist Church in Singapore.
A donor who is “particularly concerned” for migrant construction workers contributed $12,000 because she works in the property industry.
Another $10,000 was contributed by a donor who wants to remain anonymous. He said: “MWS has been doing much good work, and I would like to support its objectives through this gift.”
In cases like this, when donors passionate for a cause donate to MWS and specify how they would want the cash gift to be used, MWS ensures that the money given is used accordingly. All monetary donations to MWS are eligible for 2.5 times tax deductions.
A torturous wait
The period when the injured migrant workers have to wait for the MOM to assess their injury compensation claims is “torturous”, the workers said.
A report posted on the website of Transit Workers Count Too, a local non-profit organisation that advocates for low-wage migrant workers, said that 88 per cent of migrant workers caught in this situation show signs of depression.
Their injuries and the special pass prevent them from working while the debts that they took to come to Singapore to work weigh down on them. Compensation for their injuries is their only hope, say the injured migrant workers. Their lack of education means they can only take on work that requires manual labour. But with their permanent disabilities, that is now unlikely.
Mr Chen*, a 40-year-old Hebei (China) native whose ankle was crushed in an accident two years ago, said: “How can I work when I’m injured? Who will employ someone who cannot work?”
Mr Li, rubbing the fingers that were sawed oﬀ and sewn back, said: “In China, if you cannot work, you’re the lowest form of being, especially for a man.”
“I think about dying. But I can’t, because of my family,” he continued, breaking down. “But what’s the point of going home when I can’t work?”
Making it more bearable
The ministry does not merely cater for the injured workers’ day-to-day sustenance. e help provided oﬀers emotional and psychological stability, said Mr Chan Siew Leong, who is in charge of the ministry at FMC. They also organise activities such as trips to Haw Par Villa.
He said: “ The prayer, worship and company help with the pressure of emotions and the emotional stress of not working. These help to make the process a bit more bearable.”
Mr Li said: “It is really torturous to be in this situation. Without the church or Jesus, there is really no hope.”
Donors keen to bless the injured migrant workers or support any other social concerns ministry of Methodist churches can write in to MWS, which will ensure that the funds are used for the specific causes. For more information about the social concerns work carried out by our churches, please visit the “Community” section of the MWS portal at www.mws.org.sg.
*Not their real names. The injured migrant workers requested anonymity as their compensation cases are still being assessed.
Chuang Bing Han is the Web Editor of Methodist Welfare Services.