The Long Walk to Recovery

Friendship across borders: Mr Tang and his friends with Jeffrey, HealthServe’s Head of Casework & Social Services

“That was the toughest moment of my life,” shared Mr Tang Zeng Shun, 58, as he recounted a time eight years ago when he had to walk over eight hours from his dormitory in Tuas to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Services Centre at Bendemeer Road, to request an extension of his Special Pass [1].  

“I had nothing left on me, no other choice at that time.”

Mr Tang first came to Singapore to work back in 2013, as a construction worker. After suffering an unfortunate workplace injury which led him to be blind in one eye, Mr Tang was no longer able to continue working. He filed a Work Injury Compensation claim and became a Special Pass holder, which meant he could no longer be employed. Then, the Special Pass was a physical slip of paper that required workers to get it stamped every month (sometimes even every week!) by the MOM, in order to authorise their extended stay in Singapore.

Two months after being discharged from hospital, the deadline for Mr Tang to renew his Special Pass drew close again. However, with no income and allowance from his employer, Mr Tang’s already meagre savings had been depleted. Mr Tang shared with us that when he was first discharged from hospital, he only had $30 in his pocket. Consequently, he could not even afford to take public transport to MOM.

Mr Tang had no choice but to walk. 

Leaving his dormitory at Tuas at 11pm, Mr Tang started what would become an eight-hour journey on foot to reach the MOM Services Centre in Bendemeer. Unsure of the route and feeling all alone, he followed the MRT tracks as a guide and persisted on walking even after it started raining.

He eventually reached MOM, exhausted and hungry, around 7am the next morning. After waiting for an hour, Mr Tang finally met with an MOM officer who bought him breakfast and granted him his Special Pass extension. But he was at a loss of what to do next.

Fortunately, that same day, Mr Tang met up with a friend who told him about HealthServe. He continued his journey on foot to HealthServe’s Geylang office, where he recalled he was welcomed warmly.

“The people at HealthServe treated me like I was their own brother. I am so grateful to them and will never forget them.”

At HealthServe, Mr Tang’s daily necessities were taken care of – He received food, transport allowance, and a roof over his head. Over the next five years, HealthServe also assisted him with his Work Injury Compensation claims, and provided him support whenever needed.

Mr Tang (front, with sunglasses) with his friends at a HealthServe outing to Gardens by the Bay in 2018, before he returned home

“My friends at HealthServe took care of me warmly,” Mr Tang shared with a grateful smile, as he looked back on his time at HealthServe fondly.

“If not for the help I received at that time, I might not have been able to live.”

Mr Tang returned to China in 2018. Back in Nanjing, Mr Tang reports to us that he is well and that he is finally able “to support himself and earn money for himself to eat”.

Mr Tang sends his regards from hometown (in Nanjing, China) over a recent WeChat video call with his old friends from HealthServe

[1] A Special Pass card allows a foreigner to stay in Singapore while they are assisting in investigation, work injury claims or salary claims. Foreigners who are issued Special Passes are not allowed to work in Singapore. 

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