Written by Columban Lay Missionary Joan Yap.
On the 8th of April this year, Bailon (拜倫) and his son Natthapong arrived at the shelter. Bailon appeared totally malnourished from an illness, connected to an IV drip, with an appended colostomy bag on his left side. He was assisted by his noticeably shy son. The preceding events were recounted by my supervisor.
Bailon, was a migrant worker from Thailand who arrived in Taiwan about 12 years ago. He was a single-parent with two children and was 43 years old when he started to work in a steel factory. Unfortunately, sometime mid last year, a heavy steel girder accidentally fell and hit his abdominal area. Thereupon, his employer decided not to take him to the hospital, but instead asked him to ‘rest’ in his quarters. Later that evening, he experienced severe pain and found blood in his stool. He tried to inform his broker about his condition, but was ignored. The next day, his employer finally decided to take him to the hospital with the intention of simply abandoning him there.
The diagnosis was internal bleeding and severe abdominal injury, specifically in the intestines and bile duct. So for six long months, nobody was taking care of him, until a concerned social worker in the hospital contacted our office and informed us about an abandoned patient.
The Hope Workers’ Center (HWC) where I work caters, assists and helps all kinds of migrant workers who have been abused by their employers or brokers. This particular story is so heart-breaking – abandoning their worker in the hospital while claiming that it was NOT a work-related/occupational accident. It has always been our hope that all companies will honestly follow all safety measures so that workers will be protected while at work. Sadly, the majority of companies lack even basic safety measures such as providing appropriate work uniforms or safety gear because they’d rather save more money and in the process risk the lives of the migrant workers instead.
His son Natthapong or M, as we fondly call him, remains at his father’s side to assist him. He is 30 years old and married with two children. As a result of his father’s accident, he resigned from his work and left his family in Thailand to take care of his father in Taiwan. He doesn’t speak Mandarin.
Every day, he prepares food for his father. He helps him take a bath and gives him a massage. Twice a week, he will clean the colostomy bag. He sacrifices a lot for his father. He stays by his side to fight for justice. For me, this is an act of selfless love. This unfortunate circumstance somehow became an opportunity to be with each other. Back in their home country, they never had the chance to bond as father and son. This is usually the case – a family member, usually the father, will work abroad to provide food for their family and thus becomes an absentee father.
Other than his son, there are other people who became part of Bailon’s life: the social worker in the hospital who called and informed our office, the nurse who continued to volunteer her service, the good Samaritan who lent us a hospital bed and a wheel chair, the HWC staff who assisted him to attain the justice he deserved, and the residents in the shelter who were always there to extend a helping hand and support them, even in little ways – to cheer them up and provide them a sense of home.
Bailon has touched the hearts of many, especially mine. I supervise the shelter, so everyday my work includes, holding a class with them, accompanying them in their meal, meeting with them during nightly visits, etc.
And then one day, I just received news that somebody from our shelter had jumped out from the window of his room. At first I was in denial thinking that there is no way someone would jump and take his/her life. Then someone mentioned that it was Bailon. All I uttered was… “Why?” We all know that taking one’s own life should never happen but it did. I knew that his life had been really difficult. Considering his condition, he will most-likely never be compensated for the accident and what he got was just his salary. Until now the bill in the hospital has not yet paid. He knew his situation. Bailon, seeing his son sacrificing so much for him and with no job to support his family in Thailand, had shared with his son a couple of times that he doesn’t want to let him and his daughter to suffer any more – and that is, because he is a father. A father will do anything for the love his children.
Bailon’s story brought about reflections and lessons within our community. For me, I can see that his love for his family gave him the reason to, first of all, survive and live, and second, to bear all the physical and emotional pain. But in the end, it was too much for him to bear. Bailon’s life hopefully will enlighten everyone to see that migrant workers are persons with dignity. They work hard so they can provide for their loved ones and are willing to sacrifice everything. I believe that they deserve to be treated right and just.
Lay Missionary Joan Yap works as a shelter supervisor at the Hope Workers’ Center in Taiwan which houses victims of labour trafficking.