SINGAPORE: The story of an 85-year-old man who has been selling ice-cream from a pushcart has attracted an outpouring of community support and generosity, after his story was highlighted on CNA Insider.
Many who watched the video feature on Mr Ng Teak Boon plying his trade outside Sim Lim Tower have posted their heartwarming comments on CNA Insider’s Facebook page offering their help, even from as far as Australia and the United States.
Some wanted to settle his outstanding utility bills, and one even offered to pay a year of Mr Ng’s HDB rental or clear off his existing arrears with the housing board, which had accumulated after his former house-mate disappeared.
The would-be donor, who declined to be identified, directly approached CNA Insider as he reckoned that Mr Ng would likely turn down his request if he paid him a visit. Mr Ng has declined an offer of assistance in the past, saying he was “embarrassed”.
The Facebook user said at Mr Ng’s age, “basic necessities like rental are the last thing he should be worried about. I feel that as a Singaporean, I should do my part to help.”
Noel Rozario from Sydney, Australia, said he was greatly inspired and honored by individuals like Mr Ng. “They should use him for a Singapore tourism advertisement,” he wrote. “Here's to you sir, we should all start a campaign to go to this place and buy an ice-cream from him.”
Indeed, on Monday (May 8), Mr Ng saw a never-ending stream of customers who had watched the video – which as of Tuesday morning had garnered over 1 million views – and went down to buy an ice-cream from him in support.
They included a team from bedding manufacturer King Koil Singapore, which offered him a new bed.
One customer even gave him S$20 for his S$1.50-a-piece ice-cream and told him to keep the change, the vendor said. For all this outpouring of support, Mr Ng had this short and simple message of thanks:
Estranged from his wife and five children for years, Mr Ng has been living alone in a one-room flat and living on roughly S$950 a month from his ice-cream earnings and the Government’s Silver Support payments.
He ran into trouble with arrears after his housemate, who used to help pay the bills, vanished, but the HDB has since helped him renew his tenancy at a subsidised rate of S$26 a month and arranged an instalment plan to pay off his arrears of about S$1,500. The Ministry of Social and Family Development has also said its Social Service Office has reached out to him.
On Facebook, many tagged their friends asking them to buy more ice-cream from Mr Ng. Some suggested inviting him to sell ice-cream at parties and events.
Gia Hai Nguyen, who used to buy from him, said: “He is a very nice uncle… He insisted on not taking the leftover change that I want to give him. I hope I have the spirit to keep working on like him when I am at his age!”
King Koil Singapore posted that it wanted to help after being touched by his story. In the video, chicken rice seller Madam Chia – one of a group of Berseh hawkers praised by Facebook users for their kind-heartedness in helping Mr Ng – said that he had arthritis and had once hit his head on the floor while sleeping because he didn’t own a mattress or pillow.
The company, which will be donating a single-sized spring mattress, pillow and bedsheets, said: “We hope to make a small difference too by helping him sleep better and safer.”
Mr Ng is one of many working low-wage elderly in Singapore (read the story here). There are others who do not work and are dependent on government assistance and social service groups to get by daily.
If you would like to contribute financially or offer your services to the elderly poor in Singapore, here are some organisations you can contact:
Helping Joy conducts monthly home maintenance and cleaning for the physically and mentally challenged elderly residents. (Read our previous story here)
Touch community services serves the needy and disadvantaged, offers medical, nursing, rehabilitation and home help services to the elderly.
Willing Hearts operates a soup kitchen that cooks and distributes about 5,000 daily meals to over 40 locations. Beneficiaries include the elderly, the disabled and low income families.
Fei Yue Community Services runs eldercare centres and special projects for the elderly. They serve needy families who face financial difficulties, as well as the vulnerable elderly who live on their own.
Filos' Elderly Services provides a one-stop, home based care for the elderly living in the Kembangan-Chai Chee community.