SMRT staff member who helps visually impaired man among 446 transport staff given kindness award

Brightly coloured signs mark out priority zones near the boarding berths at the Joo Koon Integrated Transport Hub.Altogether 446 transport staff received awards for displaying "exemplary service and gracious behaviour during their course of work".
Brightly coloured signs mark out priority zones near the boarding berths at the Joo Koon Integrated Transport Hub.Altogether 446 transport staff received awards for displaying "exemplary service and gracious behaviour during their course of work".PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - At Buona Vista MRT station, customer service ambassador Vasaki Perumal can often be seen leading a visually impaired man and his guide dog from the train station to the bus stop. When the bus arrives, the 56-year-old helps him to find a seat before returning to her duties.

She has been guiding this regular commuter for almost three years.

For going the extra mile, Ms Vasaki was recognised at the 18th National Kindness Award - Transport Gold 2017 on Tuesday (Oct 31), along with 445 other transport staff.

This award was given to recipients who had displayed "exemplary service and gracious behaviour during their course of work", said the Singapore Kindness Movement, which jointly organised the ceremony with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the public transport companies and associations.

Speaking at the ceremony held at the Capitol Theatre on Stamford Road, Dr William Wan, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, said: "Beyond strong service values, the efforts of those rewarded embody the values of kindness, compassion and empathy, all of which are vital to developing a gracious, inclusive and caring society."

Such values were also shown by taxi driver Loh Nee Giap, 42, who tried to keep a woman conscious when she seemingly fainted in his cab in May.

He offered her medicated oil and kept her talking as he drove her to the Singapore General Hospital. He also waived her taxi fare.

"I was rather scared as I had never seen something like this before. She was so pale. But I just wanted to help. I like to serve passengers," said Mr Loh, who was also presented with the award.

Dr Lam Pin Min, who is Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health, said at the awards event that the public transport system plays an important role in the everyday lives of Singaporean commuters.

"Being in the service industry requires finesse and tenacity," he added. "These individuals exemplify such values by their willingness to go the extra mile. They serve as inspiration to their colleagues, encouraging them to do more and do better."

Ms Vasaki, who has worked for SMRT for 4½ years, acknowledges that her job has its challenges. But she would keep smiling through it, she said.

"Sometimes when there are breakdowns, the crowd can be angry because they're in a rush. The first time someone shouted at me, I wondered why, because it was not my fault. But I've gotten used to it and I just try my best to help them when rides don't go smoothly."

A few, like the commuter with his guide dog, have even become almost like a friend to her.

"He knows I'm there every time he comes to the station, so he won't get lost or confused. I like talking to people and getting to know them. Sometimes they share their problems with me while waiting for the train and they even ask me why, when I seem down. It's like family in a way."