Spreading festive cheer to the less fortunate through activities

VWOs, private organisations and individuals host reunion dinners and even a cookie-baking session

(From left) Trainee Chua Yi Ting, 29, assistant life skills coach Sua Heng Yeow, 50, trainee Lim Huey Ting, 27, and life skills coach Setoh Kelly, 33, during a baking session at Touch Centre for Independent Living's Bukit Merah branch last Thursday. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

Single mother Lilian Yap, 55, had a special treat over the Chinese New Year holidays when her daughter baked and brought home kueh bangkit.

Her daughter, Ms Lim Huey Ting, 27, who has intellectual disabilities, had learnt how to bake the cookies at the Touch Centre for Independent Living's Bukit Merah branch.

Several voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), including Touch, have been spreading the festive spirit to their beneficiaries and families through activities such as reunion dinners. In Ms Lim's case, Touch helped her learn how to bake cookies for her mother.

Trainees at Touch are taught functional skills, such as cooking simple dishes, doing household chores and taking public transport.

Ms Lim, who has been receiving support at the Bukit Merah branch since 2018, is also a Type 1 diabetes patient. She needs insulin injections four times a day, and is often hospitalised a few times a year.

The mother and daughter pair live in a two-room Housing Board flat in Jurong. Ms Yap packs fruit at a factory from 8am to 6pm five days a week, while her daughter helps out with chores at home and sometimes prepares dinner.

"Huey Ting loves to bake. I treat her just like everyone else. If she does not know something, she has to learn," Ms Yap told The Straits Times last Thursday, when her daughter returned with the cookies.

"Baking these kueh bangkit cookies is an act of love," she added.

Besides such activity sessions, VWOs also hosted reunion dinners for beneficiaries.

Last Friday, Kheng Chiu Loke Tin Kee Home in Tampines held its first reunion dinner for its residents.

Around 180 people - comprising 100 seniors who are residents of the home, as well as family members of staff and volunteers - attended the event.

Life skills coach Setoh Kelly and trainee Lim Huey Ting during a baking session at Touch Centre for Independent Living's Bukit Merah branch. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

The charity's chairman Foo Jong Peng, who donated $3,000 for the dinner and attended the event with his family, said: "Everyone deserves a good start to the new year, especially the elderly who have worked hard their whole lives. We want to make them feel that they are not alone and set an example for other organisations to follow. The turnout exceeded expectations."

Private organisations and individuals also got into the act of hosting the less fortunate.

The Garden Kitchen, a restaurant in Tanjong Pagar, invited 128 elderly residents of rental flats in Chin Swee Road to enjoy an eight-course dinner last Saturday.

Meanwhile, 75 seniors were hosted to a reunion dinner last Friday by Mr Michael Sim, 63. The seniors are beneficiaries of the Thye Hua Kwan (THK) charity group.

Mr Sim, lead centre manager of THK Indus Moral Care, has been organising the reunion dinner for the past eight years. He said the group started with 30 seniors in 2013.

"What struck me was that these seniors have to spend Chinese New Year Eve alone, as they are without kin. My family decided to have our reunion dinner together with them as it is more meaningful," Mr Sim told The Straits Times, adding that his wife and three children have been involved since 2013.

He paid for the dinner with help from sponsors.

This year, his 25-year-old son, Mr Deon Sim, dressed up as the God of Wealth - or Cai Shen Ye - to give out goodie bags to the seniors.

Mr Michael Sim said: "Seeing the seniors smile warms my heart and keeps me going."

Ms Yap said that festive activities can help the participants long after the Chinese New Year celebrations end as well. For example, activities such as baking can help her daughter gain confidence, find a job and live independently.

"I am very thankful to Touch for being so patient with my daughter and for teaching her so many skills. I hope to see her learn more and improve over time."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2020, with the headline Spreading festive cheer to the less fortunate through activities. Subscribe