Bridget Tan, founder of group that helps foreign workers, seeks help after stroke
For more than 10 years, she has been helping migrant workers both in Singapore and overseas.
But after suffering a stroke, she is the one who needs to be helped.
And a non-profit organisation is helping to raise funds for her medical treatment.
Ms Bridget Tan, 66, founded foreign workers' advocacy group, Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), in September 2004.
For the next eight years, she helped countless people, such as abused maids and construction workers unpaid by their employers, without drawing a salary.
In 2011, she received the year's US Secretary of State's Trafficking in Persons Heroes award from the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, DC.
But Ms Tan now needs a wheelchair to move around after suffering a stroke last year.
A non-profit organisation, the Ray of Hope Initiative, is trying to raise $21,550 to help her with her medical treatment and other expenses.
To date, it has collected $7,330 from members of the public.
Its manager, Ms Sharmin Foo, said it arrived at this amount after discussing with Ms Tan, who said she might need about 11 months to recover.
She added that Ray of Hope calculated Ms Tan needs about $2,000 per month for things like her medical expenses and medication.
It will transfer the money over once a month.
"Bridget has done so much to help others and I think it is time that we help her," said Ms Foo.
Ms Tan is a mother to two adult children - a pair of 39-year-old twins.
She said her son is a medical doctor while her daughter is a psychologist.
However, she told The New Paper on March 5 that she does not want to burden them with her expenses.
Ms Tan, who has five grandsons and a granddaughter, between one and eight years old, added: "My children have their own families and other commitments to take care of. I know it will be tough for them."
She said she was in the living room of her three-room rented HDB Marine Terrace flat at around 9am on Feb 4, last year, when she lost her temper with some volunteers in a group chat.
Ms Tan, who is diabetic and has high blood pressure, suddenly suffered the stroke.
Her Indonesian maid, Ms Nurul Ariyani, 29, was in her bedroom when she heard her employer, calling out to her.
Said Ms Nurul, who calls Ms Tan "Sister": "She called my name three times and when I went to the hall, I saw her slumped on the sofa with her phone in her hand.
"She said 'Can you please stop them from arguing?' I was shocked to see Sister like that. She was very weak. I didn't know what to do."
Ms Nurul decided to call Home to obtain the number for an ambulance.
After receiving it, she immediately dialled 995 and Ms Tan was rushed to Changi General Hospital (CGH).
She had to undergo a surgery to remove a blood clot in her brain that day.
Ms Tan said she does not know how much her bill came up to at this point.
"I know my daughter forked out about $100,000 while my insurance covered another substantial portion," she said.
She was discharged from CGH about two months later and was transferred to Ang Mo Kio Thye Hua Kwan Hospital to undergo physiotherapy and speech therapy.
Ms Foo said that a volunteer from Home told her about the case in June last year and she went to the hospital to visit Ms Tan.
It was the first time they had met.
Ms Foo said: "What really struck me was, when I asked her, 'How are you and what are your plans?', she said, 'When I was in CGH, the only thing I could think about every day was, if this happened to a foreign worker, what's going to happen if the medical bills are rising every day?'
"Bridget can't wait to recover so she can go back to work."
To cut costs, Ms Tan decided to go to Batam in July last year to recuperate in her house, which she bought several years ago.
The two-storey building is located in Sekupang, in the north-western part of the Indonesian island.
It houses a women's shelter run by Yayasan Dunia Viva Wanita (Indonesian for World Foundation For Women), which she formed in 2004.
Ms Tan returns to Singapore every two months and stays for two weeks per visit at a friend's apartment near Tanglin.
Despite her condition, she is mentally alert and runs her organisations from her wheelchair.
She remains upbeat and is confident she will fully recover one day.
Said Ms Tan: "I will continue working for migrant workers, no matter what."
I will continue working for migrant workers, no matter what.
- Ms Bridget Tan on her resolve despite being wheelchair-bound
Poll: 9 in 10 will help
Ms Bridget Tan's two children are professionals and she bought a house in Batam.
Yet, there is now an appeal to raise money for her.
Is this appropriate?
A straw poll of 10 Singaporeans showed that nine respondents said they would contribute to Ms Tan's expenses, while one said her family should foot her bill.
A primary school teacher, who only wanted to be known as Madam Siti, said Ms Tan has made a lot of valuable contributions to society.
Said the mother of two, who is in her 30s: "I'm sure she has her reasons why an organisation like Ray of Hope is helping her.
"She needs our help now. She has helped so many people. I think it is now our turn to help her, regardless of the circumstances."
Mr Kevin Ang, 24, who works in retail, agreed.
He said: "I read a few years ago that she received an award in the US for her work with foreign workers. As a fellow Singaporean, I'm proud she received it. Bridget needs help now, that's the most important thing. She has done so much to help others."
Housewife Serene Yeo, 42, however, felt it is the duty of Ms Tan's children to take care of her.
She said: "They are professionals and I'm sure they are doing pretty well.
"It is their duty, not others', to take care of their own mum."