Causes Week

Causes Week 2017: Befriending former Dakota Crescent residents

The Cassia Resettlement Team are a group of volunteers who help the elderly residents of Cassia Crescent with their daily needs.
Madam Yee Dew Eng at her new Cassia Crescent home last month with Cassia Resettlement Team members (from left) Lee Wei Ting, 20, Lim Jingzhou, 20, and Ng Xiang Yun, 17. CRT volunteers visit her on Saturdays and help her pack her medication.
Madam Yee Dew Eng at her new Cassia Crescent home last month with Cassia Resettlement Team members (from left) Lee Wei Ting, 20, Lim Jingzhou, 20, and Ng Xiang Yun, 17. CRT volunteers visit her on Saturdays and help her pack her medication.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Every Saturday morning, former Dakota Crescent resident Yee Dew Eng welcomes volunteers who come knocking on her door in Cassia Crescent, which is about 400m from her previous residence of more than 30 years.

The former part-time cleaner, who lives alone, cannot read the instructions on her medication, so the befrienders explain them to her in Mandarin and pack the medicine to make it easier for her to track what she has to take. Madam Yee, 78, has several health conditions such as arthritis, shortness of breath and high blood pressure.

Although she has six children, she said they visit only once in two months. To ensure the welfare of these elderly residents who recently moved from their old flats, a team of about 20 volunteers has been visiting them weekly since February.

Members of the Cassia Resettlement Team (CRT) organise potluck parties, take residents out for lunch, buy groceries and help to pack their medicine, among other services.

Like many others, Madam Yee misses the familiarity of her former flat. The area has been slated for redevelopment, and about 70 per cent of Dakota Crescent residents have relocated to Cassia Crescent.

"My former neighbours used to look out for me a lot and treated me like family. The (Old Airport Road) market was also just across the road," she said.

Co-founder of CRT Lim Jingzhou, 20, said the weekly visits focus on the more vulnerable group of residents, such as those who have trouble walking or live alone.

"One significant problem we've observed is the difficulties residents face in identifying help they can receive from various agencies, especially when they are required to navigate through layers of bureaucracy.

"This is especially for the elderly residents who may be illiterate or unable to access information as easily as we do," he said.

So CRT helps to coordinate support from various agencies, such as the senior activities and family services centres.

 
 
 
 

Mr Lim, who completed full-time national service recently, said CRT also hopes to spread what it has learnt through workshops and talks.

It is putting together a book that will touch on a host of issues, from volunteerism to public housing policy to architectural conservation, and marrying human stories of the relocation with academic discussions of the wider social issues, said Assistant Professor Ng Kok Hoe from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, one of the book's contributors.

Social work undergraduate Lee Wei Ting, 20, said of his experience volunteering with CRT: "I realised that a lot of the time, all they want is for someone to be by their side to share what they thought of the drama they watched last night."

Resident Lim Juan Ling, 86, a retired taxi driver, praised the team: "Even though they are just volunteers, they are still very responsible and sincere."

• To find out more about the Cassia Resettlement Team, go to https://www.facebook.com/CassiaResettlementTeam

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2017, with the headline 'Befriending former Dakota Crescent residents'. Print Edition | Subscribe