Nam Hong Welfare Service Society takes free portraits for seniors to spur discussions on death and dying

A senior being dolled up by Republic Polytechnic students at the Nam Hong Welfare Service Centre before she has her portrait taken.
A senior being dolled up by Republic Polytechnic students at the Nam Hong Welfare Service Centre before she has her portrait taken.ST PHOTO: AUDREY TAN
ST VIDEO: AUDREY TAN
Madam Ang Cheng Boey, 72, with pink lipstick on and a pretty scarf around her neck.
Madam Ang Cheng Boey, 72, with pink lipstick on and a pretty scarf around her neck.ST PHOTO: AUDREY TAN
Republic Polytechnic students applying makeup on seniors before they have their portraits taken.
Republic Polytechnic students applying makeup on seniors before they have their portraits taken.ST PHOTO: AUDREY TAN

SINGAPORE - It is New Year's Eve, and Madam Ang Cheng Boey, 72, is all dolled up, with pink lipstick on and a pretty scarf around her neck.

She is not preparing to attend new year festivities though.

Madam Ang was one of some 200 seniors who turned up at the Nam Hong Welfare Service Society in Yishun on Sunday afternoon (Dec 31) to have her portrait taken.

The photos will be printed and given to the seniors, said the society, and they may choose to use them in any way they like, including at their funeral services.

The photo-taking project is an initiative of Nam Hong Welfare Service Society, which reaches out to disadvantaged seniors in Yishun, in hopes of encouraging discussions about the taboo topic of death and dying.

Madam Ang thinks it is a good idea and said she is not superstitious.

She told The Straits Times in Mandarin: "Death is something that everyone has to go through anyway. So I decided to come for this event. I always take part in such events. It is a good way to be active and make friends."

The society had collaborated with Republic Polytechnic on the initiative, with the school's final-year students taking the portraits and providing make-up services for the seniors.

Mr Stanley Lim, acting chairman of Nam Hong Welfare Service Society, said the society hopes that through the campaign, more seniors will get to know about its free funeral service and join its Caring Heart Programme.

He said: "The programme not only offers free funeral services, but also home visits to provide support in resolving problems, distribution of rations, as well as the delivery of festive goodies and red packets during festive seasons."

Nam Hong started offering free funeral services under its Caring Heart programme three years ago, and has since held about 10 funerals. The number of seniors taking part in the programme has grown from 19 to the current 127.

Nam Hong general manager Aaron Ng said the programme was welcomed by the community as it provides peace of mind to seniors who are from lower-income groups or have no relatives to help them arrange their funeral services.

Some believe the lack of a funeral service would prevent them from progressing into the afterlife.

"Singapore has an ageing population and we foresee that seniors living in other areas of Singapore would also have the need for such a programme. We hope to do more fundraising so we can expand the programme," Mr Ng said.

Nam Hong Welfare Service Society, which opened about 16 years ago, also provides free traditional Chinese therapy for seniors.

Madam Chen Soo Ngo, 65, has for about 10 years been going to the centre once a week for aches in her arms and legs.

She said: "It is good because problems like mine are long-term. And the doctor makes me feel comfortable."

Those interested to help can contact Nam Hong Welfare Service Society at namhongcares@gmail.com