The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2018

Kenneth and Adeline Thong: They share their home with young people in need

Kenneth and Adeline Thong have opened their home in the last decade to more than 35 young people, most of whom come from abusive and dysfunctional families and have nowhere to go.
Mr Kenneth Thong and his wife Adeline have housed over 35 young people in all, with stays ranging from a day to three years. Most are from dysfunctional families and have nowhere else to go.
Mr Kenneth Thong and his wife Adeline have housed over 35 young people in all, with stays ranging from a day to three years. Most are from dysfunctional families and have nowhere else to go.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year seeks to honour Singaporeans whose extraordinary acts of goodwill have improved their community and the lives of others. Today, ST announces the latest batch of finalists for the fourth edition of the award - an urban farmer, a founder of a charity and a couple who opened the doors of their house and hearts to young people.

Not only do the Thongs open up their house for young people without a roof over their heads to stay in for free, but they also recreate a home within a house for them.

Mr Kenneth Thong, 47, and his wife Adeline, 39, both left their jobs to be present in the lives of these young people.

These young adults could be unwed mothers, teenagers who lived on the streets or those with mental problems. Most are from dysfunctional families and have nowhere else to go. Many are too old for institutional care or fostering.

There has hardly been a time in the past decade when the Thongs, who do not have children, have not had a young adult staying with them. They have housed more than 35 young people in all, with stays ranging from a day to three years.

There are five bedrooms in their rented Seletar four-storey terraced house called The Last Resort. Those staying there usually get their own room or share it with one other person. There are no rules and they can stay for as long as they have to.

"We want them to experience what a normal, safe, functional family looks like. And that means they are free to have whatever we have here," said Mr Thong, formerly a director at a non-profit organisation. His wife is a former external school counsellor.

Rent, utilities and other expenses at The Last Resort come up to $7,000 a month. Mr Thong said they have no savings but rely on donations from friends and their faith in God to sustain their work.

One teenager the Thongs are helping is Danial, 17, who needed a place to stay as his mother suffers from drug and alcohol addiction. He had been under institutional care, stayed at friends' houses and slept on the streets before moving in with the Thongs in August.

After Mr Thong learnt that Danial enjoyed boxing, he started to encourage him in the sport.

 
 

Earlier this month, he took Danial and another boy to watch the One Championship boxing competition after asking friends if they had tickets to spare for the boys.

Mr Thong took the chance to impart some life lessons to Danial. "The fighters have only 15 minutes in the ring and we discussed how success is dependent not on the glitz and glamour of the moment, but the hours and years of hard work, of preparation and discipline behind the scenes," he said.

After that, Danial became more committed to waking up on time to go to work and establishing a routine for himself.

Since the Thongs were featured in The Sunday Times in August, about 400 people have joined the "family" for dinner to find out how to help. Three other families are considering opening up their homes to house young people.

Said Mr Thong: "What keeps us going is the need for the community to love and raise our young people together."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2018, with the headline 'Couple share their home with young people in need'. Print Edition | Subscribe