Volunteer work brings true love for some

Mr Tommy Yu and Madam Sandy Leong, together with at least 40 other people, found their partners while volunteering with the club more than 20 years ago.
Mr Tommy Yu and Madam Sandy Leong, together with at least 40 other people, found their partners while volunteering with the club more than 20 years ago.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Recollections galore as former members of old folk's club meet at reunion 2 decades later

When Mr Tommy Yu met Madam Sandy Leong for the first time in 1990, he was covered in dirt from collecting old newspapers to raise money for the elderly.

Madam Leong, 47, an accounts executive, poked fun at his dishevelled appearance.

However, that did not deter Mr Yu. "I made a comment about her being so beautiful that she could not possibly be here to help with the old newspaper collection. She made a witty comeback," said Mr Yu, now 50, who runs a funeral services company.

The two, who were active volunteers at the Bukit Merah Old Folk's Club, hit it off after a dance performance as part of their volunteer work.

They married in 1993.

CUPID STRIKES

"I made a comment about her being so beautiful that she could not possibly be here to help with the old newspaper collection. She made a witty comeback."

MR TOMMY YU, on meeting his wife

Like Mr Yu and Madam Leong, at least 40 others from the club, which is now defunct but was active from the late 1970s to early 1990s, found love while volunteering.

Last month, the couple, along with about 100 other former club members, met for a reunion after more than two decades.

Mr Chee Tuck Hong, 55, a manager in a data protection office, also met his wife, Madam Lindy Chin, a 57-year-old housewife, through volunteering with the club.

He said: "I got to know her better through being involved with the club. We spent a lot of time helping out after work and even on weekends."

The club disbanded in the early 1990s after about 20 years of visiting elderly in their homes in Bukit Merah and Redhill, and organising social gatherings for them.

While decades have passed, some of the club's former volunteers have not lost their fervour for community work.

Mr Yu and Madam Leong still visit the elderly who live in one-room flats in Redhill, Bukit Ho Swee and Bukit Merah at least twice a week.

In 1986, Mr Yu set up a group called Love & Unity Volunteers Establishment to help the elderly in these areas. It also provides funeral rites to help the needy.

Many of the group members still remember what it was like volunteering between the 1970s and 1990s.

Mr Chee recalled one of his first few interactions with the elderly in Bukit Merah: "I remember two old folks sitting in a corridor eating. They were very poor and could not afford to have dishes with their meal. They had only a piece of salted fish and a bowl of porridge... they were living in really miserable conditions."

The spirit of volunteerism has recently been ignited in some former volunteers.

One former member of the Bukit Merah Old Folk's Club, Mr Jeffrey Ng, 59, a senior technician, said he plans to join a group to help the underprivileged soon.

He said: "I have some free time now, so I thought why not just interact with people and make my life more meaningful instead of wasting time, sleeping at home."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'Volunteer work brings true love for some'. Print Edition | Subscribe