Knowing our Neighbours – Mr Tan Chuan Jin

One of the things that we have been emphasizing to our grassroots and volunteers in our outreach efforts is to really talk to our residents. An effort to give out masks or our ‘We Care’ packs isn’t just a logistic distribution effort but an opportunity to know our people better.

Asking to be allowed to come in and chat helps because it allows us to also better sense their living conditions. We don’t always see them because they may not be in when we come by on other occasions.

On Sunday, we distributed the first batch of the ‘We Care’ packs. We gave out to public assistance recipients. In the coming week, we will be receiving the rest and handing it out to ComCare and CHAS residents.

We asked if it was ok to take some photos. These pictures here show the living conditions of one lady whom I visited. She cooks with charcoal all these years. We have been trying to convince her to let us clean and clear her flat. She doesn’t really hoard but the conditions, as you can see, reveal years of grime and layers of soot from the charcoal fires. It is a health and safety hazard. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a major concern. And she almost started a fire once.

She doesn’t want to use gas. And she is reluctant for us to help. She is independent and manages on her own with public assistance help. We will have to follow up and try again and I’d try and convince her to let us assist her.

Not always easy.

Also met a lady who had just lost her husband. She didn’t have the most positive of relationships but she depended on him to sort most things out. She is quite distraught and at a loss at what to do with even basic administration at home.

Another lady is wheel-chair bound. She has a friend who pushes her downstairs. But will depend on neighbours to push her back up in the evening. There was a day where no one helped her and she was stuck below for the evening.

But there are also bright spots when you meet residents whose flats we cleaned up and they have kept it that way…it is very encouraging to see them beaming at their new living conditions. Or when you meet some who are managing well, staying healthy and active.

There are more flats like this near where you stay. There are neighbours like these with seemingly ‘small’ problems. While not always easy to solve, often, with some help, we can make things a little better for them. Some will be by linking up to Government assistance. Some will be by the local community. Or both.

Reach out. Talk to them. Know them. A difference can be made.

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