Lonely elderly residents of Henderson-Dawson enjoy New Year's Eve reunion lunch

MP Joan Pereira (right) with 94-year-old Ms Goh Oh Keing (centre), and donor Raymond Goh during a Lunar New Year's Eve reunion lunch organised by the Henderson-Dawson Citizens' Consultative Committee.
MP Joan Pereira (right) with 94-year-old Ms Goh Oh Keing (centre), and donor Raymond Goh during a Lunar New Year's Eve reunion lunch organised by the Henderson-Dawson Citizens' Consultative Committee.ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG
Volunteers from the American Women's Association tossing yu sheng with the elderly during a Lunar New Year's Eve reunion lunch organised by the Henderson-Dawson Citizens' Consultative Committee.
Volunteers from the American Women's Association tossing yu sheng with the elderly during a Lunar New Year's Eve reunion lunch organised by the Henderson-Dawson Citizens' Consultative Committee.ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

SINGAPORE - Goh Oh Keing, a 94-year-old resident of Henderson-Dawson ward in Tanjong Pagar GRC, attended a Lunar New Year's Eve reunion lunch on Monday (Feb 4) organised by the Henderson-Dawson Citizens' Consultative Committee.

She was in a wheelchair and accompanied by her neighbour.

Mdm Goh is just one of the 130 elderly residents of Henderson-Dawson who come from a low income background and live alone.

She has no living relatives and therefore no one to celebrate the Lunar New Year with.

The reunion lunch - coordinated by a group of 30 volunteers consisting of students from Eunoia Junior College and St Andrew's Junior College as well as members of the American Women's Association (AWA) - has been bringing festive cheer to the lonely elderly of Henderson-Dawson district since 2008.

Speaking in Mandarin, Mdm Goh, who was attending the lunch for the first time on Monday, said that she was "happy to be able to make it this year," adding that it was "good to see everyone coming together" to celebrate the New Year.

The lunch began in earnest after a speech by the guest of honour, Ms Joan Pereira, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC, and the celebratory tossing of the yusheng. While lunch was served by volunteers, who were of different races and nationalities, pre-school children from Sam's Learning Centre staged a number of musical performances.

The Chairman of the Organising Committee, Mr William Tan, called the lunch a "multi-cultural integration event" where people of different backgrounds celebrated together in the spirit of Chinese New Year.

The volunteers wanted nothing more than to "help them (the elderly) have a joyous reunion", said Claire Fournier, 60, the Director of External Affairs in the AWA.

Ms Fournier said all 14 volunteers of the AWA wanted to help even though they "did not speak the language" of the elderly, who only knew Mandarin and Chinese dialects.

Ms Pereira noted that the volunteers and the elderly "required no particular language to interact because they spoke the language of love".

She spoke about the importance of encouraging volunteerism among Singapore's youth, saying that it was something that "cannot be picked up from a textbook."

She also spoke about the importance of bringing the elderly together and for the community to act as a family for those who needed support.

"Chinese New Year is about family togetherness" the MP said, emphasising that it was vital to provide this familial feeling for the lonely elderly.