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Staff-Outreach Programme for the Underprivileged Elderly on 8 Aug 2016

For the past 4 years, staff of Zhonghua Secondary School has taken part in an outreach programme for the under-privileged elderly in collaboration with Lions Befrienders. Here are some reflections by participants of the event.

ZHSS Staff VIA 2016 Composite.jpg
Even though the residents are in their eighties and are wheel-chair bound, they are cheerful and self-reliant. They are grateful for having a roof over their heads and for having volunteers who selflessly provide them support in various aspects of their lives. For instance, the volunteers render services such as fixing anti-fall grab bars in their bathrooms and transporting the elderly for medical consultation.

My key take-away from working the elderly is that we should always be thankful and grateful of what we have. Staff-volunteers have definitely learnt to be more empathetic towards the under-privileged who are within our community. It is crucial for everyone to prepare for their golden years in order to be able to age gracefully. We would like to thank Lions Befrienders for giving our staff the opportunity for such meaningful outreach. We hope to continue this partnership for many more of such rich and gainful occasions.

All in all, this whole-school staff outreach (together with the Secondary 3 Stamp-out Dengue Programme) has helped build greater staff (both EO & EAS) collegiality and Zhonghua family spirit. 

Student-centric & Staff-valued Zhonghua Community!

By Mr Loh LB, Principal 

One of the elderly we visited was Mdm Tan. When we arrived, she was watching a television programme in her flat in darkness. Although she was not keen on allowing us to enter her flat, we chatted briefly with her at the gate. She shared that her meals were delivered by Sunlove. 

We did not ask more as we felt that it would be awkward for us to ask personal details of the elderly whom we did not know personally. It was especially difficult asking them about their relationships with their family members given that we were not privy to their personal lives. 

It made me think deeply about how important it is to develop friendships with others, other than our spouses and children. At the very least when our spouses and children leave us, we would still have other family members and friends to fall back on. 

It is also heartening to find out that Lions Befrienders is working with Sunlove to meet the different needs of these old folks.
By Mr Lawrence Tang

We had a rocky start during our first home visit to Mr Lee. Initially, Mr Lee was a little tense but he eventually warmed up and shared more of his tragic past.

Mr Yeo, on the other hand, was the polar opposite. Mr Yeo warmly welcomed us into his home and even brought out extra seats for the team. As we had previously visited Mr Yeo, the team was able to reconnect with him very quickly. 

We felt very satisfied after successfully visiting both of our allocated homes.

“With nothing else to look forward to in life, it helps when volunteers bearing gifts visit, even when this only occurs once a year.” Mr Lee, our assigned elderly commented. His words were deeply etched in my mind and I hope that we will be able to continue this partnership with Lions Befrienders yearly.
By Mr Richmond Su

The annual staff VIA has always acted as a good bonding session amongst staff and an excellent opportunity to serve the community. 

This year, our visit to Mdm Indur has given us great insights into the secret of living a healthy life even at the age of 82. She told us the importance of keeping herself active even at her age. She was not at home when we originally visited her. Subsequently, when we were told that she had returned home, we went back to visit her. She was a chirpy old lady and she told us she was out visiting her friend earlier after her morning walk. She looked strong and energetic despite having visible cataract problems. She was extremely grateful for the gifts that we brought her that day. 

For my own part, I have definitely learnt the value of staying positive. Despite having certain health problems, Mdm Indur lives her life to the fullest and does not sulk at the problems and pains that she has to deal with. She reminded me that in any unfortunate situation, instead of despairing over the issue, one should always focus on the positives and not the negatives. 
By Mr Terence Tan

It was a truly meaningful event in which we had the opportunity to distribute grocery and food items to the needy in our community. Our group was tasked to visit two elderly. However, one of them was not around. We delivered the items to another resident who helped keep the items on her behalf instead. 
We then visited Mdm Teo, 83, who spoke Teochew. Thanks to Ms Angeline Neo and Mr Lionel Ang for their translation, we managed to engage meaningfully with her and found out more about her daily life. 
Mdm Teo is living together with her two sisters with no family and children to depend on. Their elder sister is currently hospitalized and they are unable to provide further care because of their declining physical agility and strength. 
Mdm Teo and her sister shared that they deeply appreciate the generosity and honest dealing from the nearby provision shop owner. At times, their neighbours would also help them with daily groceries. These simple acts of kindness and assistance provided certainly reduce the inconveniences faced by the elderly. 
I am greatly inspired by Mdm Teo’s positivity, great sense of gratitude and motivation to live independently despite her old age. Whenever Mdm Teo’s younger sister commented on how some of their relatives would deliberately keep a distance from them, Mdm Teo would reply that they should not hold any grudges and should be contented with life. 
Both Mdm Teo and her sister were very hospitable to us. They even showed us their plants such as mint and oregano along their balcony which they use for cooking and health purposes. We hope we have made their day a little brighter by listening to their stories. I am thankful for having this opportunity to help them in some way. 
By Ms Gwen Ng

Mdm Jaya has left us a deep impression. As she struggled to open the door for us, we saw that she was wheelchair bound. She had rushed out of the shower room to receive us. Even though her lower body was covered with a towel, we could still see both her legs, which were partially revealed, and they were extraordinarily thin. Mdm Jaya had specially taken leave off from work to receive us.

She shared with us that she had been fighting with colon cancer for the past 9 years. Despite the limited financial help and care from her family, Mdm Jaya is very independent and strong. She cares for her neighbours’ children when they cannot be around and also gives advices to other patients who are similarly suffering from colon cancer. In spite of her disability and debilitating health, her faith and positivity spurs her on to continue exploring the world and interacting with others.

Mdm Jaya is a strong fighter and she reminded us not to take things from granted. We were deeply inspired by her resolve and determination to make the best she can in life.

By Ms Cher Huey Miin

We visited Mdm Ho, who is in her eighties, and Mr Wong, who is in his seventies. 

Mdm Ho looks healthy even though she is in her golden years. She is currently staying in a 4-room flat by herself. She is very chatty and open about her life as she talks about her husband and two sons, who had unfortunately passed on. She cooks and feeds herself and we really admired her independence. She does not ask for financial assistance as her relatives provide her an allowance for her livelihood. 

Mr Wong was a former chef in a restaurant. He lives in a rented flat with his brother. Even though Mr Wong is facing some health problems, he is cheerful and positive. His wife is ill and is currently living with a relative. His brother has recently suffered from a bad fall and is hospitalised. He was very appreciative of our visit.

During our visits, we felt heartened that we were able to bring joy to the elderly. It is truly meaningful to be able to extend care and service to the elderly and needy. At the same time, we learnt to be more conscious of our own health so that we would not be plagued by health issues in our old age.

By Ms Eleana

My team was tasked to go to two households in the same block. Initially, we were worried that we would not be able to effectively communicate with the elderly due to our language barrier. Most of us speak Hokkien and Teochew and were wondering if we could communicate with one of the elderly who supposedly only spoke Cantonese. 

To our relief, both elderly were able to speak Mandarin. They shared some of their daily routines and medical history with us. They also remembered that our school staff had previously visited them and were happy to see us again.

We felt that the trip was enriching as we saw how the social workers had conscientiously identified these elderly who are living on their own and meticulously helped them with the daily needs. We also felt happy for being able to provide useful gifts to help the elderly. 

One of the elderly shared was us that he was saving up his salonpas plasters as they were running out soon. We were glad that we provided him more salonpas stickers which he could use whenever his knees hurt. 

By Ms Josephine Peh

It was my first time going on a staff VIA programme.  I learnt a lot through my interactions with the elderly. They were very earnest in sharing with us their stories. However, what struck me greatly was the stories of their sufferings which largely stemmed from family estrangement or old age health issues.  

We felt helpless at that time as all we could do was to provide a listening ear. I felt sorry to see how lonely they were.   

It was heart-warming when one of the elderly requested for us to send him a developed photograph that we had taken so that he could keep it as memento.

By Ms Anna Yeo

One of the elderly whom we visited was Mr Heng. He was hearing impaired and I could sense his loneliness as he may have limited opportunities to speak to people due to his medical issue.  
Mr Heng was forthcoming with us on his challenges – his weak heart and degenerating bones, and his strained relationship with his drunk flat-mate. However, I am heartened that aside from his assigned social worker, the Lions Befrienders organisation is also there to render him support.
In spite of his circumstances, he was not bitter about life. In fact, he showed great resilience despite facing many challenges. He even advised us on the benefits of taking muesli and oats. 
Through this meaningful Staff VIA, I definitely gained some insights from my encounter with Mr Heng: Health, Eco-system of support/relationships, Nurture resilience and Gratitude (H.E.N.G).  
I am certain that these “H.E.N.G” ingredients will improve my overall well-being. This experience has also prompted me to think how I could prepare for a healthy and positive ageing. 
George Vaillant, a leading ageing researcher, once said, “to add more life to years, not just years to life” (Vaillant, 2004). I believe it is essential for one to live meaningfully.         
Mr Ivan Lee






By Mdm Koh