Since late last year, my old JC classmate Gwen and I have been documenting some truly heartbreaking stories with migrant worker’s welfare group, HOME Singapore.
Meet Fu Jian Sheng from Pengzhou, Sichuan.
When he first stepped into HOME Geylang office in May last year, the Chinese construction worker had a rotting apple in his bag of few possessions. His case manager, Luke (on the left), found out that Fu hadn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Since he got injured at work, he was left in his dormitory without proper food and medical care. His employer had accused him of ‘faking injuries” and did not want to take responsibility. Fu was also owed two months’ wages. Totally broke, he resorted to picking up fruits and sweets left at prayer altars along shophouse corridors to feed himself.
But things weren’t always this bad for Jian Sheng. He was a chef in his hometown and ran his own small eatery for nine years. Sadly, the deadly Sichuan earthquake in 2008 wiped out his business, his home, everything. He struggled to rebuild his life, and had to support his 90-year-old mother and wife, who’s stricken with a slew of health problems. His wife, despite her ill health, continued to farm and harvest onions to support the family but the combined income wasn’t enough to pay for her hefty medical bills.
It was around this time a job recruiter recommended him a construction worker job in Singapore. He was told he could earn about S$2,000 a month, but he had to pay S$8,000 upfront in agent fees first. Fu came to Singapore in November 2014 and started work almost immediately. He worked from 7am to about 10pm daily. There was no overtime pay and no day off. Living conditions in the workers’ dormitory was crammed and filthy.
It’s been a year since he sought help with his case at HOME. “I was very depressed when I first came to HOME,” says the soft-spoken Fu. “I even got used to eating leftover fruits. It took me a few months to get back on my feet, but Mr Chen (Luke) was always there to encourage me. He found out I love cooking and enrolled me in HOME Academy’s cooking and baking classes.”
Spending time experimenting with recipes is now one of his favourite past times. Fu has dished out everything from cakes to cookies and fried meat patties for staff and volunteers. “I wish to open a small bakery when I go home,” smiles Fu. “I’ve picked up many useful baking techniques from the many Sundays spent at HOME Academy. I now hope my case will be resolved soon so that I can be reunited with my family and start a new business, a new life.”
What struck me most when speaking with Jian Sheng was how grateful he was for every little bit of help or kindness that was shown to him. Despite his circumstances, he never once felt sorry for himself, nor was he resentful about the way his Singaporean employer treated him.
True resilience comes from finding hope despite the world closing in on you. And it’s beautiful how much someone with so little left can show us what strength truly is.
Learn more about how you can support others like Jian Sheng at HOME Singapore.