Migrant Volunteer: I want to give back as I have received

Access to healthcare remains an unfulfilled need for many low-wage migrant workers in Singapore. 

This World Health Day, we feature our migrant friend Imon, a former client who has stepped up as HealthServe’s volunteer. Today, Imon is a peer leader who takes pride and joy in engaging and educating his migrant brothers about good health. 

“I have many pain, but I no see doctor because I scared my boss cancel my work permit. I try to tahan (tolerate) the pain,” a migrant worker shared with one of our caseworkers.

It is not uncommon to hear such comments from migrant workers. Many delay or even forgo medical treatment over fears of high costs or repatriation. This may cause their health to deteriorate, taking a toll on their finances. 

HealthServe’s latest HealthStars programme was founded on the belief that preventive care empowers our migrant friends to take charge of their own health, minimising the risks of serious illnesses that may jeopardise not just their jobs, but their lives. Our inaugural batch of HealthStars – migrant brothers who have volunteered to be peer leaders in chronic disease care and mental health – graduated in December 2022. 

Meet Imon, one of our HealthStars. 

Imon speaking to a migrant brother at an outreach event.

A familiar face to the HealthServe family, Imon is a regular volunteer at our health screening events, assisting with translation and ushering duties. A responsible and diligent employee who seldom takes breaks from work, he shared that he had actually been taking leave to volunteer to help other migrant brothers!

Since the completion of his HealthStars training, Imon has been translating the knowledge he has learned into action. He has been educating his colleagues and dormitory mates about the symptoms of chronic diseases, healthy eating tips and basic dental care. Using a blood pressure machine and weighing scale from the HealthStars starter kit, Imon has even been helping workers measure their blood pressure and Body Mass Index!

In addition to caring for his peers’ physical health, Imon shares that he also lends a listening ear to workers who are struggling with mental health issues. As a fellow migrant worker, Imon feels that he can better understand the challenges other workers encounter, which comes in handy in providing both practical and emotional support. “I know what their problems are, so I try to ask about the same problems I face.”

Imon’s desire to give back stems from the help he received from HealthServe previously. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Imon was one of many who caught the virus. Overwhelmed by hunger, loneliness and anxiety, Imon was in a dark place. 

“And then, the help came.”

Imon visibly brightened as he described how he received a care pack with food, clothes and notes of encouragement from HealthServe. This instilled in him a newfound purpose to give back once he emerged from quarantine. He decided to sign up as an outreach ambassador, kickstarting his volunteering journey with HealthServe.

When asked about his volunteering experience, Imon cannot hide his smile. “When the brothers I help share their stories with me, I am happy.” He believes that volunteering has been a journey of personal growth for him as it provides him with the opportunity to learn from HealthServe staff. “I have become better with HealthServe. Every time I come, I learn so much from everyone.”

As a HealthStar, Imon hopes to encourage his peers to be unafraid to seek help, especially when it comes to health issues. He observes that some workers may be hesitant to ask for help and try to shoulder all their problems on their own. While he believes in the power of individual strength and perseverance, he trusts equally in the value of community support.

“You don’t need to be alone when others like HealthServe can help.”  

We are touched by the humility and compassion behind Imon’s eagerness to give back. It is our honour to have passionate individuals like Imon join us on our journey to ensure that no migrant worker in need is denied access to healthcare. 

We hope that Imon’s story motivates more migrant brothers to take the courageous step forward to take charge of their own health, and that of their community. For as Maya Angelou often says,

“If it is true that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, isn’t it also true a society is only as healthy as its sickest citizen and only as wealthy as its most deprived?”

World Health Day is observed on 7th April annually. This year’s theme – Health for All – calls on communities worldwide to strive towards equitable healthcare access, especially for the vulnerable and marginalised.

Through initiatives like the HealthStars programme, HealthServe remains committed to empowering, uplifting and advocating for the marginalised migrant community in Singapore. 

Migrant brothers interested in volunteering as HealthStars can email [email protected] or WhatsApp the Volunteer Management team at +65 69836109.

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