Dignified Debt


Don’t think you need medical insurance? Think again.

Asif Raza, a young man with no health issues, ended up with a hefty medical bill due to a work-related injury. Asif worked at a warehouse in Surrey. His duties included lifting boxes and placing stock in shelves.

One afternoon, he received a call from his manager to let him know there is a shift available for him to pick up. Asif never said no to extra shifts, he worked overtime almost every week. Why would he? He came all the way to Canada from his native Tunisia just so he could work and save money to send to his family back home.

Asif put on his uniform and got on the bus to his workplace. As soon as he swiped his card and entered the warehouse, he slipped on the wet floor and landed on his back. The pain was severe but Asif was yet to realize that the medical bill for this injury would set him back his entire savings.

Asif like many individuals with low income had opted out of BC’s medical services plan (MSP) out of necessity. With insurance rates being as high as $75 a month, the choice was between putting food on the table for his family and paying for a medical insurance he thought he will not need. The injury had now put Asif out of work which is why he was behind on his rent.

Asif was worried he will be given a notice to evacuate his apartment for not being able to pay his rent on time so he reached out to the Muslim Food Bank & Community Services for assistance. Hiba Ali, a senior caseworker, was assigned the task of helping Asif overcome his challenges. Upon speaking to Asif, Hiba knew that the biggest regret he had was that he did not purchase insurance.

Hiba spoke to Asif about asking his landlady for an extension for the rent that was due. Asif said he was not comfortable doing so because it wouldn’t be his first time asking her for more time. Another option was receiving help from a charity organization known as the National Zakat Foundation that is based out of Ontario. Asif wouldn’t accept that either.  To Asif, it wasn’t just about money, it was about his self-respect. Though Asif would not be able to work in a labour position, he knew he could still work in a role that involved no heavy lifting. He just needed a respite in the form of a loan for the time being so he could pay his rent. He planned to start working soon and pay the loan back.

Hiba was able to find Asif a loan that could be paid back in installments. She also connected Asif with employers who were looking to fill some vacancies. After going for several interviews, Asif secured a job at a company in Surrey doing inventory count and was able to pay the loan in installments.

Asif is among many foreign workers in Canada who contribute not only to the Canadian workplace but also strive hard to make the lives of those they live behind better by sending a chunk of their salary home.

Oftentimes, there are stereotypes associated with poor people, not the least of which is that such people are lazy and that they would rather receive financial assistance than work hard to pay for their living expenses. The reality is that these are people who can’t make their ends meet due to unforeseen circumstances plus they don’t have any close relatives or friends to fall back on. In a lot of ways, the Muslim Food Bank & Community Services tries to fill that gap by being a safety net for the needy and the disadvantaged.