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He had to leave Singapore after getting tuberculosis. But a local charity rallied to help with his debts

ItsRainingRaincoats raised more than S$6,000 within a few hours to help Mr Mia Md Aha, who had been in Singapore for less than two weeks when he found out he had tuberculosis.

He had to leave Singapore after getting tuberculosis. But a local charity rallied to help with his debts

Mr Ahad flew home to Bangladesh on Jan 4, 2023, a day after finding out that he failed the medical tests and could not be issued a work permit in Singapore. (Photo: Mia Md Ahad)

SINGAPORE: Bangladeshi worker Mia Md Ahad’s one-year-old dream of earning a living in Singapore and supporting his family came crashing down less than two weeks after he arrived in the country.

He tested positive for tuberculosis during routine medical checks, and he was sent home the very next day.

“I felt like committing suicide as I had no clue at all … how I was going to repay whatever money I borrowed from my uncle, the bank and other people,” he told CNA through a translator.

Mr Ahad, 20, paid an agency 1 million Bangladeshi taka (S$12,400) in order to come to Singapore – a third of this amount was from his and his family’s savings, and the remaining borrowed from relatives and banks.

Like many other migrant workers, he intended to pay off those loans by working in Singapore's construction industry, but that was no longer possible. Workers who fail the medical examination cannot be issued work permits and must be sent home, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s website.

“I didn’t want to face my family back home,” he said. His family was shaken by the news and the knowledge that massive loans were hanging over their heads.


By the time Mr Ahad reached home, however, he was not empty-handed.

A fellow Bangladeshi worker who befriended him after they met in the same dormitory in Singapore recommended that he seek help from local charity organisation ItsRainingRaincoats (IRR).

His friend got in touch with Ms Tricia Hannah Teo, a banker who volunteers with IRR, who paid for Mr Ahad to see a doctor and informed other people in the organisation about his plight.

“I was so sad that night,” Ms Teo said of how she felt when she heard about Mr Ahad, adding that she hoped a second opinion might produce a different result that would allow him to stay in Singapore. 

IRR founder Dipa Swaminathan said Mr Ahad’s young age made her think about her son, who turns 18 this year.

“If my son had gone to another country and this fate had befallen him, and he was somewhere all by himself, I would want some force of God, some agent of God on Earth, to do something to help him,” she told CNA. 

“There is no way in good conscience, we will sit idly, we will do whatever we can to help this boy.”

Within around three hours, IRR volunteers and donors came together to raise funds, managing to pass S$2,000 to him before he boarded the plane home on Jan 4. They later transferred him another S$4,200. 


Ms Dipa said IRR decided not to give him the full amount in cash because the conversion rate was better via bank transfer, and they did not want to risk the money being confiscated or lost during the journey.

The logical thing to do would have been to transfer all the money, but IRR wanted to give Mr Ahad some assurance that they were willing to help him with his debts. 

“We didn’t want him going, and you know, commit suicide or something when he goes there.

“We thought S$2,000 is a good amount for him to feel there is hope, that he’s not going to just go back and be swallowed by loan sharks,” she said.

Mr Ahad estimates he still owes the bank about S$2,400, but said the bulk of it being paid off gave him a morale boost.

“Although I couldn't pay back 100 per cent of my loans … whatever I could, it's because of IRR, which gives me the strength now to pay back the remaining amount,” he said. “I feel forever indebted, I will always be grateful for what they have done.” 

Ms Dipa said raising money for Mr Ahad was different from what IRR does year-round, such as organising events for migrant workers during festive seasons such as Christmas, Deepavali and Chinese New Year.

“All these things are great, but they're not life-altering. This is life-altering.

“Tricia, by bringing this case to us, has changed the course of a life. I mean, how powerful is that?”

Since returning to the Bangladeshi city of Mymensingh, Mr Ahad began to experience tuberculosis symptoms. He is receiving treatment, and doctors said he cannot work for around six months while he recovers. 

That leaves only his older brother supporting the family for now. His parents and sister do not work, while his second brother is unemployed. 

Before attempting to find work in Singapore, Mr Ahad, who has high school education, worked as a driver. His older brother works in a brickfield.


Mr Ahad still wants to return to Singapore after he recovers. He said he always dreamt of working in a developed country and decided to pursue it in January last year after hearing about Singapore from a distant family member.

The agency that made arrangements for him to work here claims he will not have to make any further payment when he can return to Singapore, but he is sceptical.

Before he flew to Singapore on Dec 23, he underwent medical tests in Bangladesh that he now suspects may have already detected health issues. 

“The agency, at that point in time, didn’t disclose my medical report, (they) assured me that all tests were okay,” he said. 

The medical examination in Singapore revealed otherwise. 

“I wouldn’t want anybody else to face what I have faced,” Mr Ahad said.

His parents have some confidence in the agency’s assurances, but “part of me believes, part of me doesn’t believe,” he said, adding that he is likely to find work in a garment factory or as a driver in Bangladesh if he cannot return to Singapore.

“If I come back to Singapore, that would be like winning the lottery for me,” he said. 

Source: CNA/an(cy)


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