Warm hugs and warm blankets: 5 heart-warming stories of 2018

PHOTOS: LEE JIA WEN, ST VIDEO, COURTESY OF VEERA SEKARAN, LIM MIN ZHANG

A love story that transcended boundaries of race and religion, a teacher who looked out for her students and a man who went around distributing blankets on a cold night are among the heart-warming stories that were shared widely on social media.

Here is a look at five such "aww-inspiring" that are sure to give you a case of the warm fuzzies.

From foreign domestic helper to family


(From left) Mr Alvin Ng, 38, Ms Alicia Ng, 27, Ms Sabado, 65, Ms Agnes Ng, 34, and her four-year-old son Aiden, and Madam Yeong, 60. Ms Sabado helped raise the children and accompanies the family on yearly vacations. ST PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN

Ms Remidios Sabado, or Aunty Remi as she is affectionately known, had helped raise her employers' three children, now aged 27 to 38, as well as a four-year-old grandchild, and kept the house in running order.

But the 65-year-old went back to the Philippines for good this year, after working for the Ng family for 33 years. "I am getting older. I can't carry as many heavy things any more. It's time to take a rest," she said.

In a bid to extend Ms Sabado's stay in Singapore, the family even tried to help her apply for permanent residency in 2010. However, her application was rejected, as she does not contribute directly to the Singapore economy.

When Ms Helen Agpato, 61, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011, her employers, the Lees, not only paid the $30,000 medical bill, but also waited on her for almost a year until she recovered.

"Out of about 100 domestic helpers I know here, I can say only about 10 or 20 have employers as good as mine," said Ms Agpato, who is from Mindanao in the Philippines.

For Sri Lankan Rankoth Gedara Rupawathie, 67, the reason she has stayed here since 1988 is her bond with the Singh family, her employers for 28 of her 30 years here.

"If I could stay forever, I would, but rules are rules. Anyway, if I wait till the last possible moment to leave, it'll be even harder," she said.

Their stories were shared by their employers for International Domestic Workers' Day, on June 16.

A little hug goes a long way


Madam Azlina Hassan's actions on Nov 22 went viral after a parent filmed her hugging a pupil who was close to tears, and uploaded the video on Facebook. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM ST VIDEO

Receiving one's Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results can be a stressful experience for a 12-year-old.

Fortunately for some Teck Whye Primary School pupils, their teacher is there to give them a little something extra - a tight hug and words of encouragement.

 

Madam Azlina Hassan, a veteran teacher of more than 29 years, has provided at least 15 batches of Primary 6 pupils with hugs and comfort. Her actions on Nov 22 went viral after a parent filmed her hugging a pupil who was close to tears, and uploaded the video on Facebook.

Madam Azlina explained that the pupils she teaches tend to be weaker in their studies and are always worried about failing.

She puts an emphasis on her pupils' character development and not just their academic achievements.

"Sometimes, people forget that a simple hug can make a world of difference to a child," she said, adding that she was sure her colleagues would have done the same.

Remembering kindness, even 46 years on


On Aug 11, 2018, Mr Veera met his teacher, Mrs Chee Siew Chuan, whom he has not seen since he left Canberra Primary, at her home in Yio Chu Kang. PHOTO: COURTESY OF VEERA SEKARAN

Mr Veera Sekaran's story was not just in the newspapers, it was broadcast on national television as well.

That is because he was the "poor boy" in this year's National Day Parade short film, which told the stories of five Singaporeans who had overcome adversity.

In Mr Veera's case, he often had to go to school carrying his textbooks in a paper bag, as his family was not well-off. On rainy days, he would hold the bag close to his chest so it would not tear. Sometimes, when the bag got torn, he had to scavenge in rubbish bins for another.

Noticing this, his teacher, Mrs Chee Siew Chuan, rallied Mr Veera's classmates to donate a school bag and stationery to him 46 years ago.

Almost five decades later, on Aug 11 this year, the pair were reunited at Mrs Chee's home in Yio Chu Kang, when the latter's daughter contacted Mr Veera after reading a Straits Times article about him on the film.

Mr Veera, who took on part-time jobs to support his family during his school days, said he hopes his reunion with Mrs Chee can inspire others to remember who had been there for them and helped them.

The story touched many people, with many netizens sharing their own encounters with kind teachers.

Warming hearts with warm blankets


Mr Francis Ng (left) delivering a blanket to carpenter Chua Yong Sia, 61, who has been sleeping homeless in Chinatown for the last few years. ST PHOTO: LIM MIN ZHANG

In January, Singapore experienced a period of cool weather, with temperatures even dipping below 22 deg C at one point.

While many enjoyed sleeping comfortably in the warmth of their homes, others who were less fortunate suffered out in the streets without a blanket.

It was the sight of an old man on the streets of Chinatown shivering as he tried to sleep which moved restaurant owner Francis Ng to action.

On Jan 4, Mr Ng began giving out blankets to those sleeping on the streets, some of whom had only a piece of cardboard for their beds.

He spent over $1,000 on the blankets, which he personally delivered to the needy.

When contacted by ST, Mr Ng simply said: "I just hope that by doing this I can make a difference in my own small way."

Love, actually: Regardless of race or language


In the 1960s, Mr Koh Leng Kiat met Madam Meena Jaganathan, a widow with eight children. Their love blossomed and they wed, and went on to have four biological children. PHOTO: ST VIDEO

It was a true Singaporean love story. She was an Indian woman working in a construction company. He, a Chinese man, was her supervisor.

But that did not stop Mr Koh Leng Kiat and Madam Meena Jaganathan from falling in love and getting married.

The pair were brought together under unlikely circumstances, after Madam Meena developed appendicitis. Mr Koh, who was her supervisor, took her to hospital, where she was warded. As Madam Meena had recently been widowed, she turned to Mr Koh for help to look after her children - and he did.

When he saw that her eight children were living in a small house without a father, he was determined to do something.

So he provided financial assistance and bought goods for the family. To repay him, Madam Meena would cook for him when he came over.

Despite the cultural and language barriers between them, as well as disapproval from Mr Koh's parents, the pair fell in love and got married in 1970.

Mr Koh and Madam Meena had four children of their own. Mr Koh died on March 5 this year.

The story was first published in Tabla! and was shared even by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

PM Lee wrote: "It is a wonderful tale of love transcending racial and religious boundaries. I did not know him, but this uniquely Singaporean romance, and Mr Koh's exemplary love for his family, moved me."