Phone helps foreign worker connect with son he's never met

Mr Asit Kumar, 35, left Barisal, Bangladesh, in 2009.
Mr Asit Kumar, 35, left Barisal, Bangladesh, in 2009. PHOTO: TNP

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - When Mr Asit Kumar's wife gave birth to their first child in Bangladesh last year, he was not there to witness it.

Instead, he was in Singapore working at a construction site.

Tomorrow, he will spend his first Father's Day with his son through a smartphone screen.

Mr Asit, 35, left Barisal, Bangladesh, in 2009. He has worked for three construction firms here, returning home twice in seven years. His son, Abrito, is eight months old, and they have yet to meet in person.

His friend, Mr Shepon Wahid, 40, joined a construction firm in 2005.

After five years of marriage, Mr Wahid and his wife, Monica, welcomed their son, Abid Ali, two years ago. Mr Wahid has not seen Abid for a year.

He said: "When he started speaking, he addressed my brother as his dad. That was a heartbreaking moment for me."

Both men are committee members in Dibashram, a local organisation that provides a space for migrant workers to gather in Singapore.

While it is difficult to live away from his family, Mr Wahid does not regret coming here.

"Singapore has strong laws and regular pay for foreign workers, and I provide enough for my family back home. I will work as hard as I need to, so my son does not have to work as hard as I do," he said.

Mr Mizan Shaikh, 42, has two sons, aged 13 and six. He came to Singapore in 2010, and has lived away from his younger boy for most of his life.

The father of two has not seen them for two years. But every day is Father's Day when he goes back to Dhaka, with visits to the museum and beach.

Mr Shaikh has worked for four construction companies here and has ambitions for his older son, Talha Jubair.

He said: "I will sell all my land and assets to educate both of them. Talha may make a good doctor in the future."

The founder of Dibashram, Mr Abdul Khaeer Mohammed Mohsin, 53, has seen many migrant workers in the centre separated from their families.

"It is hard for them to live like this for so long. Centres like Dibashram are a home away from home," he said.

When asked about his next visit home, Mr Asit held back tears and said: "For now, I can only see my son on the phone every day. But in a few months, I will get to hold him for the first time."