Befriending Guest Workers

Samuel Lim is a pastor at Church of Joy Singapore, and was a volunteer at Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach (AGWO), an initiative of Hope Initiative Alliance (HIA). He shares the heartwarming experiences he’s had with some of the guest workers he now calls friends.

Q: What made you decide to work with guest workers through HIA?

I started this year with just a deep hunger to serve society in any way possible. I volunteered for various organisations and charities out there when I stumbled across HIA.

When the lockdown hit, there just seemed to be this massive hole and this great need to serve migrant workers, so I decided to invest my time there.

Q: How are you able to contribute as a volunteer with HIA AGWO?

When I first started, I didn’t know how to talk to a guest worker since I’ve never really interacted with one before. I didn’t speak the language, so there was a massive barrier. 

It required the courage to make mistakes and I think that’s something that a lot of us fear. 

But I made a decision in my heart that it’s okay to make a fool of myself, and just try anyway. And that’s what I did. I rented a car and I hit the road, and before long I was assisting Pastor Samuel Gift on the road with the everyday needs of our guest workers, talking to the guys and just befriending them. 

We went to the dorms, talked to the guys and got to know their everyday needs. A lot of relationships and friendships were forged, and we were able to help them in basic things — how to send money back to their family, if they needed food, fruits or a pillow.

We went the extra mile for them. If the food wasn’t for their palate, we were looking for the right food for them. We wanted to know about their families and their children, and for me that was just the most sincere way that I could contribute as a volunteer.

Q: What’s the most heartwarming experience you’ve had with our guest workers?

There was one guy named Rubel. I had spent a few weeks just giving him fruits, talking to him, or asking him about his family. All this time, I didn’t really know whether I was having any impact on his life. One day, when we were chatting, there was a small pause and Rubel looks up to me and says: “Hey Sam, can you not forget about me after the circuit breaker?” At that point, I realised how important the friendship was, and that for me was the most touching moment.

Q: How have donors and partners come alongside HIA to help the workers in need?

We’re so grateful to everyone who has come on board to help in various ways with their different skill sets and resources.

This was a massive mission. We didn’t know how we could do it or even see how far it’s gonna go. But because of the response of people coming in, we were able to do so many more things than we could ever imagine. So, we are deeply and sincerely thankful for all the help.

Q: Can anyone interested just volunteer with HIA AGWO?

HIA’s goal is to enable our guest workers to dream dreams again. Many of them come to Singapore with a dream in their heart, only to realise they’ll never come true. Moving forward, we’re going to have that opportunity to be able to serve them in a strategic way, through building sustainability into their lives. So if this is something that convicts you and is something that tugs at your heartstrings, we are more than happy to have you join us and build a better future for these guest workers and for Singapore. 

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