Reader cooks 'lonely man' hot meal after TNP report
Beaming, the retiree opened his front door and ushered his guest into his spartan flat.
Mr Ng Kim Hai, 70, appeared at a loss for words yesterday afternoon when The New Paper reader Allan Lai cheerfully wished him a happy Chinese New Year before handing him two oranges and a bag of goodies.
They contained items including a red packet and a three-tier tiffin carrier filled with home-cooked food.
Speaking to TNP yesterday, Mr Lai, a self-employed electrician, said he had felt very sad when he read the report about Mr Ng's plight on TNP's Facebook page on Tuesday.
The report described how the retiree was spending the New Year alone in his three-room Potong Pasir flat for the first time and how he was saddled with unpaid arrears and bills after his son died from heart disease late last year. Mr Ng's wife died of leukaemia in 1992. (See other report.)
Mr Ng has another son, but they have been estranged for more than 10 years.
"Senior citizens should enjoy their golden years and not be burdened by monetary problems," said Mr Lai, 45.
"I'm helping Mr Ng as he needs to know that he's not alone. He also needs to know that there are people who still care about him."
THE NEW PAPER, FEB 9
Mr Ng, a former bus driver, said Mr Lai was the first TNP reader to visit his flat on the sixth storey of Block 117, Potong Pasir Avenue 1. Many others have promised to visit the retiree.
Laughing, Mr Ng added: "I'm very happy Mr Lai came and I'm looking forward to more visitors. I now know that I won't feel so lonely this Chinese New Year."
Mr Lai said Mr Ng was not the only person whom he had offered to help. Declining to go into details, he said that over the years, he has reached out to several others - all needy individuals who needed assistance with their daily lives.
So what compels him to be so ready to lend a hand?
The father of a 13-year-old boy said that the turning point in his life was when his younger son died shortly after birth in 2006because his organs were not fully developed.
He said: "I then realised that we need to cherish our children as they are pure and innocent. At the same time, I also realised that we should do more to help our elderly as they've been through so much in life."
He said his wife, a 37-year-old nurse, supported him when he told her he wanted to help Mr Ng.
Pointing to the tiffin-carrier, which contained rice as well as meat and vegetable dishes, he added that she was the one who had prepared the dishes for the retiree.
"I will talk to Mr Ng to find out what kind of help he needs and we can take it from there," said Mr Lai.
"I also told my friends about him and hopefully, they too will come together to help him."
As of last night, more than 800 people had "liked" TNP's report on Mr Ng on Facebook.
The article was also shared over 420 times. To date, at least 20 netizens and readers have contacted TNP for Mr Ng's address as they intend to offer him their assistance.
Netizens also posted many heartfelt messages for Mr Ng on TNP's Facebook page.
"Let's chip in a little each if possible and I'm sure it (is going to be) a great help for him from all of us," said a netizen, Mr Andy Tan.
Another, Ms Anne MM Seow, said: "My heart goes out to Mr Ng... Hope the other relevant authorities can help him clear the debts his late son incurred."
I'm very happy Mr Lai came and I'm looking forward to more visitors. I now know that I won't feel so lonely this Chinese New Year.
- Mr Ng Kim Hai
Mr Ng's plight
Being alone is not Mr Ng Kim Hai's only concern this year.
Last month, the retiree learnt that his son, Mr Ng Han Chong, who died in December last year, had not paid the mortgage on their three-room flat in Potong Pasir for more than three years, leaving some $20,000 in arrears.
Mr Ng also found out his son had left him with unpaid bills, including for utilities and conservancy charges, totalling about $5,000.
Mr Ng is now withdrawing about $300 every month from his Central Provident Fund retirement account for his living expenses and receiving $400 every month, from February to June, from the Ray of Hope Initiative.
A Ministry of Social and Family Development spokesman told TNP that its Social Service Office officers are extending advice and referrals that can "help him further improve his financial situation".