Giving hope to the old, sick and lonely
The Singapore Red Cross (SRC) has launched a campaign to raise awareness of its community programmes. KINTAN ANDANARI (firstname.lastname@example.org) speaks to one of the beneficiaries about how one programme has helped change his life for the better
Mr De Silva Bernard, 77, lives alone and his solace comes in the form of weekly visits from his son, and fortnightly visits from a Singapore Red Cross (SRC) volunteer under the Community-Led Action for REsilience (C.L.A.R.E.) community programme.
C.L.A.R.E. trains and mobilises volunteers to provide first aid, eldercare and befriending services in their neighbourhood.
It is one of the community programmes promoted under SRC's latest campaign.
The former security guard suffers from a heart condition, knee problems and arthritis, which limits his movement to his flat alone.
He also experiences occasional blackouts, which puts him in danger of collapsing while unattended, but he insists on living independently.
"I wake up at 5am every day, look at the sky and thank God for another day," said Mr De Silva.
He fills his days with simple chores like folding clothes, while television programmes keep him occupied in between meals.
He said: "I watch TV all day. What to do? That's the only thing I can do."
He sustains himself mainly through grants from various organisations and daily food delivery from a church.
Eastern Health Alliance, which also works with the Tampines West grassroots, referred him to SRC two years ago.
ASSIGNED TO VISIT
SRC volunteer Agnes Hlaing, 61, has been assigned to visit him every fortnight.
She joined the SRC in 2008 as part of the International Services team and was invited to join the C.L.A.R.E. programme when it started in 2014.
Madam Hlaing said: "We usually just watch the news and debate about it.
"He even knows Aung San Suu Kyi and supports Hillary Clinton. We also like the same musicians from the 1970s."
Madam Hlaing stressed the importance of the elderly having company.
"Company is one of the fundamental things in life. If being around him helps him release his stress and make him happier, then I'll be happy as well," she said.
Secretary-general and chief executive officer of SRC, Mr Benjamin William, said that loneliness among elderly should not be dismissed.
He said: "Data shows there are currently about 41,000 people over the age of 65 living alone.
"This phenomenon is set to grow with our ageing population as the number of Singapore citizens aged 65 and above is expected to double between 2015 to 2030."
Mr William added that about 70 per cent of out-of-hospital collapses occur at home.
"As the elderly are more prone to health conditions that cause collapses, it is important to have someone check in on them regularly," he said.
"This is also why the Singapore Red Cross is working on launching a home eldercare monitoring service next year."
After two years of having Madam Hlaing visit him twice a month, Mr de Silva considers her his closest companion.
He said: "She's more like family now. She's the closest I've got apart from my son."
Data shows there are currently about 41,000 people over the age of 65 living alone. This phenomenon is set to grow with our ageing population as the number of Singapore citizens aged 65 and above is expected to double between 2015 to 2030.
- Mr Benjamin William, secretary-general and chief executive officer of SRC
OTHER SRC BENEFICIARIES
1 Home for Hope, Ms Sor Bee's story
Madam Koh has been taking care of her disabled daughter Sor Bee, but worries about maintaining her child's expenses even as she ages. Now, Madam Koh can be assured of Sor Bee's well-being as she resides at the Red Cross Home for the Disabled.
2 Food for the Soul, Ms Suria's story
Ms Suria and her three young children could not afford fresh food from time to time, but she now enjoys nutritious food from FoodAid every day.
3 Hope on Wheels, Mr Noor's story
A high fever left Mr Noor immobile when he was six. He slowly regained the use of his upper body and now moves around his home on a wooden board with wheels. Wheelchair-bound, Mr Noor relies on TransportAid to go for his medical appointments.
About the campaign
On Oct 3, the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) launched a campaign to highlight its local community programmes and how these help its beneficiaries.
The community programmes promoted in the campaign include Community-Led Action for REsilience (C.L.A.R.E.), FoodAid, TransportAid, and Red Cross Home for the Disabled.
Secretary-general and chief executive officer of SRC, Mr Benjamin William, said: "The Singapore Red Cross is synonymous with disaster management, blood donor recruitment and first aid.
"However, our local community services receive far less attention. As a result, fund raising for these services has been challenging.
"We decided to make a small investment in this marketing campaign to generate much-needed support and donations to enable us to sustain our outreach and support to the needy, disabled and vulnerable in Singapore."
Publicised through videos on its YouTube channel and several cable channels, some of the issues highlighted include an ageing population, widening income inequality, and disability in Singapore.
Each video shows the plight of its beneficiaries and starts with contrasting the country's general affluence and the grim reality faced by some.
Mr William said: "The campaign juxtaposes statistics on Singapore's affluence against the struggles of the needy, disabled, and elderly.
"It highlights the stories of those who have fallen through the cracks.
"We want people to remember that in spite of Singapore's rising affluence, there are still people and families who find it challenging to meet their daily essential needs.
"Although they are a minority, they still need our help."
To sign up as a volunteer in any of the programmes, call 6664-0500 and ask for the Community Service Department or send an e-mail to email@example.com.