Causes

Staying active, mingling... and being paid too

Trainer Jay Chia showing Madam Jenny Tay (left) and Madam Tjoa Djoe Tjeng on how to make folders. The two women are part of a group of about 20 participants of the Senior Empowerment Programme, which was launched in April by the charity Brighton Conn
Trainer Jay Chia showing Madam Jenny Tay (left) and Madam Tjoa Djoe Tjeng on how to make folders. The two women are part of a group of about 20 participants of the Senior Empowerment Programme, which was launched in April by the charity Brighton Connection in Circuit Road.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

In fast-paced Singapore, there are those in need - and those who go out of their way to meet those needs. This is the latest in a series on noteworthy causes that The Straits Times is spotlighting.

At a charity centre in Circuit Road recently, several senior citizens were busy working and enjoying themselves.

They were seated around tables - with stacks of paper, double-sided tape and pairs of scissors - carefully fashioning paper folders to hold cosmetic sample sachets.

Retired food and beverage trainer Jenny Tay, 65, said in Mandarin: "It's meaningful. You get to meet other aunties and uncles, and you can earn some pocket money too while doing this."

She is one of about 20 elderly participants of the Senior Empowerment Programme, which was launched in April by the charity Brighton Connection.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

The seniors complete simple tasks, such as inserting mailers into envelopes, making paper bags and packing cosmetic samples. They work on terms which give them flexible hours on weekdays, and the chance to earn a token sum.

Set up in 2015, Brighton Connection initially ran only a student-care centre, but learnt that the MacPherson estate had many retired elderly residents, too.

Ms Sharon Chua, who manages the programme, told The Straits Times: "It keeps them active physically and mentally, allows them to mingle with other people, earn some pocket money and contribute to society."

There are other recreational activities that residents can take part in, including those organised by the nearby community club, but these are not held daily, said Ms Chua.

"Some residents had shared with me that, had they not come here to work, they'd just be at home watching TV dramas the whole day."

While the seniors can "come and go as and when they want" for the programme, Ms Chua said some of them are "very hard-working".

"They'd come in around 10am and stay till around lunchtime, but some of them would stay on till 5pm or 6pm," she said.

The amount they earn depends on the work completed, and could come up to $100 per month.

Retired driver Patrick Cheng, 64, said: "It's not a lot, but it can pay for some cups of coffee and some plates of noodles."

Mr Cheng, who has diabetes and heart disease, added: "I enjoy the programme as... the timing is very flexible. If I'm tired, I can go off and it wouldn't be an issue. Such activities are more suitable for seniors like us, who may have to go for medical appointments or cannot do work that's too heavy."

Some companies do not mind outsourcing some tasks to the elderly. Three printing and packaging companies have done so, including 83 Design & Print.

Its founder Nicholas Chen, 34, said: "The jobs we outsource are quite simple as they involve pasting and packing, so the work quality is not a big issue for us.

"As for lead time, whenever we assign jobs to the centre, we will inform our clients to give us ample time. If the items are urgently needed, we will make a partial delivery to our clients. This is part of our corporate social responsibility, so our clients are also more accepting as they understand that the work may take a bit more time."

Last month, the charity got the Institution of Public Character status - which means it can issue tax-deductible receipts for donations. It hopes donations will help it expand the programme to more seniors.

Said Mr Cheng: "The money is a bonus... Doing the work is also good exercise as we get to move our fingers often, and the participants and staff here are friendly, too."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2017, with the headline 'Staying active, mingling... and being paid too'. Print Edition | Subscribe