Moved up in life? Give a hand to those left behind: Koh

That's why he has stepped forward; he will seek more help for poor, elderly

SINGAPOREANS who have overcome the odds and moved up in life should reach out to give a hand to those left behind, said Dr Koh Poh Koon last night.

This explained why he was stepping forward to serve the residents of Punggol East, said the People's Action Party (PAP) candidate in his first rally.

The 40-year-old surgeon recounted his growing-up years in a poor family and declared that his life story embodied the three values he stood for: hope, family and action.

He said families can get stuck in a rut, unless systems are put in place to help them break the poverty cycle.

"Even during our leanest years, my parents always reminded me that honest, hard work will get us out of it one day.

"And because society provided the means, we are able to do so."

In a speech delivered in Malay, Mandarin and English, Dr Koh vowed that if elected to Parliament, he would push for more help for the poor, the vulnerable and the elderly.

He would also raise in Parliament practical issues that families face in education, childcare and the cost of living, as well as policies that will help more individuals and families to "stand on their own two feet".

Turning to improvements for the ward, he outlined plans for a new community centre.

He also promised to look into having integrated health facilities and comprehensive health screening for the elderly, as well as more childcare and after-school care services.

Other promises he made include continuing the ward's monthly food distribution programme for the poor, setting up a job placement centre and engaging youth to reach out to the underprivileged and the elderly.

Dr Koh also assured residents the delayed upgrading of Rivervale Plaza will be finished in July.

Also on his list are the residents' transport concerns, such as the need for more feeder bus services for more peripheral areas.

As the crowd cheered in the rain, Dr Koh painted a vivid picture of growing up in a family of seven who at times could afford only a single fish mixed in porridge and soya sauce.

Other times, they had just a tin of biscuits given by an uncle, which they would ration over a couple of weeks.

"I say this not to raise your eyebrows, nor to make the headlines, but to make the point that families can get stuck in a rut even today... And unless systems are put in place to help them, to give them a leg up, this cycle can never be easily broken."

For this reason, he said he is deeply keen on helping people.

When residents tell him their setbacks and challenges, he feels he can see it from a "deeply personal angle" and provide solutions to help them overcome them.

"I want to believe that when we put our hard work together and give it our best shot, we will leave behind a legacy for our children that is far better than the one our forefathers left for us.

"I want to believe that those of us who have pulled through and moved forward will look back and stretch our hands to reach out for those who are left behind."