Istana visit is dream come true for nursing home residents

President Halimah Yacob chats with Mr Lee Kim Cheng, 91, a resident of the Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens, at the spice garden of the Istana on May 24, 2019.
President Halimah Yacob chats with Mr Lee Kim Cheng, 91, a resident of the Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens, at the spice garden of the Istana on May 24, 2019.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
President Halimah Yacob participates in a wheelchair yoga session with residents of the Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens, at the Istana on May 24, 2019.
President Halimah Yacob participates in a wheelchair yoga session with residents of the Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens, at the Istana on May 24, 2019.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
President Halimah Yacob chats with Madam Partha Sarathe Valliammal (left), 88, a resident of the Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens, as fellow resident Madam Nallamah Murugasu (right), 95, looks on, at the spice garden of the Istana on May 24, 2019.
President Halimah Yacob chats with Madam Partha Sarathe Valliammal (left), 88, a resident of the Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens, as fellow resident Madam Nallamah Murugasu (right), 95, looks on, at the spice garden of the Istana on May 24, 2019.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Mr Lee Kim Cheng, 91, has always dreamt of visiting the Istana.

And on Friday morning (May 24), his lifelong dream came true when he visited the President's official residence with 19 other residents from the Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens.

"Not just any Tom, Dick or Harry can enter the Istana, and I'm very excited to be here," said Mr Lee, who has been rehearsing a message he hopes to give to President Halimah Yacob.

"I want to tell her that I'm very happy to meet her and wish her happiness and good health."

During the tour, the nursing home residents - who were all in wheelchairs - were chaperoned by volunteers from Youth Corps Singapore (YCS), as well as staff from the home.

This was the second such tour organised by YCS volunteers. It was part of the Garden Tours @  Istana programme, which was set up by Madam Halimah to make the Istana more accessible to Singaporeans.

The guests were first shown around the Spice Garden by National Parks Board volunteer guides, where they tasted some of the herbs and learnt about where common spices are derived from.

 
 

Madam Halimah, who is also the patron of YCS, then joined the tour and greeted each guest.

After relaying his message to Madam Halimah, Mr Lee said: "It's my dream come true to get to meet the President. I'm just an ordinary person and I feel so lucky to have been able to meet her."

They then went on to do wheelchair yoga, led by a nursing home staff member, with Madam Halimah joining in the activity seated on a chair.

This was followed by a tour of the first storey of the Istana, where Istana Heritage Gallery guides explained the building's history and the stories behind the decor and murals.

Nursing home resident Nani Ahmad, 78, who last visited the Istana when he was seven, said the Istana has become more beautiful since.

Speaking in Malay, Mr Nani said he was "elated" to see the Istana again and to meet Madam Halimah in person.

YCS leader Owen Tan, 29, said the visit brought a lot of smiles to the nursing home residents, and added: "I asked them if they were happy about their visit and their reactions were just priceless."