Lunch delivery to the needy

Between noon and 1pm daily, Mr Tan Choon Kiang, 62, rides his bicycle around Chai Chee, delivering food to 11 needy residents.

It all started in December 2011, when the vice-chairman of the Lengkong Tiga Residents' Committee found out from the Kembangan Chai Chee Citizens' Consultative Committee that it needed someone to take lunch to residents who have difficulty walking. The delivery is part of a food programme run by soup kitchen Willing Hearts. Mr Tan volunteered and has been doing this for the past two years.

The higher engineering officer at the Land Transport Authority says: "As a grassroots leader, we are encouraged to reach out to the needy, especially senior citizens and the less fortunate. These people really needed help. I knew it would be a daily commitment but I was prepared to do it."

The 11 needy residents, who are in their 60s and 70s, have difficulty walking far or are immobile.

Mr Tan usually drops off the food - a packet of rice or noodles and two dishes - at their doorstep. All of them live in one-room flats in Chai Chee.

One of them is Madam Lau Mei Lian, 71, a retired cleaner who suffered a stroke five years ago and has trouble moving around. She is divorced and has no children.

She said in Hokkien: "If not for Mr Tan, I would just eat instant noodles at home. No one visits me except for him and social workers once in a blue moon."

Mr Tan is married to a 58-year-old housewife. He has a 35-year-old son and 32-year-old daughter, and lives with his son and wife in Kembangan.

The dedicated volunteer does shift work and often misses out on lunch and sleep to make sure that Madam Lau and the other needy people get their lunch. When he is on the day shift, he uses his one-hour lunch break to carry out the deliveries.

He takes a 15-minute train ride from his office in Little India to Kembangan, hops on his bicycle and heads to the activity centre to collect the food. To make up for skipping lunch, he has a heavy breakfast and a tea break later.

After working the night shift, he takes a nap at home before heading out on his daily rounds and returning home to rest.

In rainy weather, he wraps the packets of food tightly in plastic bags and rides his bicycle while carrying an umbrella in one hand. Weekends and even public holidays such as Chinese New Year are no exception.

He says: "People have to eat every day. It takes just one hour of my time. I send them the food and then I go home to carry on with Chinese New Year celebrations. My family waits for me to get back. My wife does not have a problem with this."

On the rare occasion he is out of the country or is stuck in a meeting that has cut into his lunch break, he rings up a friend, a 58-year-old Chai Chee resident, to help him with the deliveries. This happens about twice a year.

Besides sending food to their homes, he also carries out additional tasks for the elderly. For instance, Madam Tan Yok Koy, 67, who has weak legs and is unable to walk, sometimes needs help closing the windows in her flat when it rains.

The retired machine operator says in Mandarin: "He makes it a point to ask if I need anything. Sometimes he pours me a glass of water."

She lives in a one-room flat with her two children.

Mr Tan often gets anxious when he is waiting for the food from Willing Hearts to arrive at the centre. He worries that the 11 people who depend on him will get hungry waiting for him.

He says: "It has been two years since I started doing this and I will continue to do so until I cannot take it physically. It does not take a lot of effort, I look at it as a hobby."