Spreading festive cheer the healthier way

Retiree Tan Lay Swee (left), 79, and housewife Lew Siew Yin, 74, receiving a festive pack and hongbao from volunteers Florence Sing (in black), 20, and Jerrine Or, 26. Volunteers from Keppel Group and Republic Polytechnic distributed the bags which w
Retiree Tan Lay Swee (left), 79, and housewife Lew Siew Yin, 74, receiving a festive pack and hongbao from volunteers Florence Sing (in black), 20, and Jerrine Or, 26. Volunteers from Keppel Group and Republic Polytechnic distributed the bags which were packed with healthier choice food options to about 330 low-income families living in rental units in Gambas.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Mr Lai Beng Huat, 48, has not worked since he fell into depression more than a decade ago.

The former pest control worker receives about $250 in financial assistance from a Catholic church every month, but still finds it difficult to cover his expenses sometimes.

"I usually eat just one meal of instant noodles every day to try to save money," said Mr Lai, who lives in a one-room rental flat in Canberra Street with his 80-year-old mother.

He got some relief yesterday when volunteers presented him with a festive pack filled with food items such as canned tuna, oats, biscuits and noodles.

"Donations like these help a lot," said Mr Lai.

Each pack includes 12 healthier food choice options to help raise awareness of the importance of a healthier diet among lower-income families. The bags are being distributed as part of North West Community Development Council's (CDC) annual WeCare @ North West - Service Weeks event, which is now into its seventh year.

The "healthier" campaign, which started on Jan 5 and will continue until Jan 19, will see 1,600 volunteers distributing festive packs to close to 20,000 residents in rental units across the 13 divisions within North West District ahead of Chinese New Year.

Yesterday, about 40 employees from Keppel Group joined 34 students from Republic Polytechnic (RP) to distribute festive packs and red packets to about 330 low-income families living in rental units in Gambas.

It is Keppel and RP's fourth year participating.

 

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who was guest of honour at the event, said he was heartened to see familiar faces among the volunteers. Mr Ong is also an MP for Sembawang GRC, which includes the Gambas ward.

He said: "We want our young to go beyond volunteering on a one-off basis, and do it regularly. It's that kind of perseverance that will make a difference to the community."

Beneficiary Lew Siew Yin, a 74-year-old housewife, said: "We're very happy to have received some help. This came just in time for Chinese New Year."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2020, with the headline 'Spreading festive cheer the healthier way'. Print Edition | Subscribe