Can you tell us about how you volunteer to support the elderly?
In Singapore, you have very specific areas for low-income households where there are mostly Chinese or Malay residents. Typically these are people with no children or spouse so they can become very lonely. The residents we visit live in single room rental flats in Whampoa and Ang Mo Kio. At TNCM they call the program ‘Bringing Joy to the Aged’.
How does it all work and what do you do?
I join the group every Wednesday evening to take part in the be-friending sessions. We organize ourselves through a WhatsApp group where we can confirm our availability and attendance with the team leads. We tend to go in small groups of up to three people, plus a team lead, where we go into these blocks to visit the residents. We typically spend about 2-2.5 hours in an evening and in that time can cover about 8-10 households.
What happens during the visit?
We talk to them mostly, ask them how they’re feeling. Even though I don’t speak much of their language it doesn’t matter, they don’t need a lot of words, just a smile and some support. We help in other ways too. It might be having dinner together, checking their blood pressure, or just be there for company and someone to talk to and listen to them. We’ll often pass on information to them, such as discounts for using public transport, generally helping to make them aware of what’s available. We do sometimes fix things for them too. One time there was a broken bed that we mended. These apartments tend to be very small and so the residents have accumulated many things that creates clutter that gathers dust. So the charity has set up a cleaning business and we will offer them the service and ask for their consent. Many times our support is pushed back because they say we should be helping younger people and they don’t want to waste our time. They feel they don’t need it as much as others. TNCM also offers the residents free monthly haircuts which helps to make them feel good about themselves.
What do you feel makes this organization different to others?
This organization is different in many ways. One key difference is that all the team leads are ex-offenders. They have all spent time in jail. When they were released they decided they wanted to give back to the community. They set up this organization to establish their place in society as good citizens. They are always of the mindset of giving back, to make up for a mistake in their past. TNCM was set up in 2006 and has been growing ever since.