Charities spread Christmas cheer at Singapore's nursing and children's homes
"Love is inexhaustible," said Madam June Cheong, a volunteer of more than 40 years, as she served up mee siam at a pasar malam-themed event at a nursing home.
SINGAPORE: After organising virtual parties for two years, charities are going all out to swap computers and handphone screens for in-person interactions and social mingling this festive period.
At MWS Bethany Nursing Home, organisers set up a pasar malam (night market) themed event with a nostalgic vibe for its residents and their families on Friday (Dec 23).
“(This) flea market pasar malam … helps them to remember the good old days when they were much younger,” said Mr Richard Quah, head of the nursing home in Choa Chu Kang.
The bazaar is the care facility’s biggest event since the COVID-19 pandemic, during which activities were held inside wards, often with controlled group sizes and social distancing.
“Now that COVID is more or less under control in Singapore, we hope that we can bring (our residents) out to physically engage them and bring joy to them,” said Mr Quah.
About 100 seniors celebrated the festive season during the event, alongside next-of-kin, staff and volunteers.
The nursing home said the festivities were not just for the residents, but also for their foreign staff nurses.
“A lot of them left behind their families and their loved ones to come here to work. So we need to motivate our foreign nurses as well,” said Mr Quah.
About 60 volunteers manned 15 booths, where residents, staff and visitors took part in exercises and games to earn points to exchange for food and drinks.
The oldest volunteer at the event was 93-year-old June Cheong, affectionately known as "Auntie June" to everyone at the nursing home.
She has been volunteering for over 40 years and still helps out at the nursing home despite suffering from a bad knee.
When asked why she continues to volunteer, Mdm Cheong replied: “Love is inexhaustible.”
She added that the friendships she has made keep her going back for more.
“You can give a lot of love – it's up to you whether you want to give. You can give to 10 people, and still there's love to give. I found that the old folks whom I made friends with remembered me. And I felt the friendships should be sustained,” she said.
For the party, Mdm Cheong woke up at 5am and with her helper, prepared steaming hot mee siam, which she later dished out to beaming seniors.
SPREADING THE CHEER
At charity organisation Boys' Town, which helps children and youth in need, residents put up a live show for an end-of-year bash on Wednesday.
The non-profit organisation said the event was “very special” as it allowed its residents, some of whom did not have the opportunity to celebrate with their families, to revel in the festivities with each other.
The charity had not been able to put on a large-scale event like this for the past two years due to the pandemic.
For many of the residents, the party was the first time they had experienced celebrating the Christmas holiday with Boys' Town.
“Not every one of us could celebrate Christmas at home or to spend time with our family members or loved ones,” said Dr Roland Yeow, executive director of the organisation in Upper Bukit Timah.
“Unfortunately, we have circumstances of our youth who require a lot more care, or they are not ready to be integrated with their families. So having someone to provide such a festive celebration, indeed creates a memorable experience for them,” he added.
Sponsors also sweetened the festivities with gifts carefully curated from a wishlist each boy came up with.
As a former resident of Boys' Town, Dr Yeow said he wants to dispel misconceptions about the home.
“Many of us think that we only take naughty boys or trouble kids, but we are also taking kids and youth who are vulnerable,” he said.
“I find that during this season of the year, many people might be lonely. Many people might be on their own, and it's good to extend this love and care towards them.”