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Too poor to afford daughter's wake

"No money, no money," was all Madam Yap would say when asked about her finances.

Her husband died 25 years ago and both Mr and Miss Cheng were unemployed. Mr Cheng said he would do odd jobs, but earned a paltry salary.

Said Madam Nekmah: "She has an eldest son too, who lives elsewhere, but he's not close to the family."

However, he visited Madam Yap last Thursday to help them with the funeral arrangements.

He told Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao that a decade ago, he would give his mother $200 each month.

He is unable to do so now as he earns a monthly income of $1,000 and has to support his sickly wife.

Madam Yap had to survive on a $450 grant money that his sister received, he added.

As the family couldn't afford it, there was no wake held for Miss Cheng.

Madam Yap also told TNP that she used to work in a hotel two years ago, earning around $500 a month.

She retired because her legs were too weak for the job.

She does not have much savings as most of her earnings were spent on family expenses, she said.

She has repeatedly refused help from social welfare groups because she is "paiseh" (Hokkien for embarrassed), she said.

Mostly, help comes from Madam Nekmah, whom Mr Cheng described as a "good person".

Said Madam Nekmah, who also volunteers at the nearby residents' committee (RC): "I would bring up the topic of Madam Yap during RC gatherings. (RC members) have tried to visit her several times in the past, but she has always turned them away.

"She only lets me into the home."

She is now helping Madam Yap apply for aid from the South East Community Development Council.

She said: "That was why I was waiting for Madam Yap at the void deck on Tuesday. I had wanted to get a copy of their NRICs (for the application).

"If I hadn't gone into her flat to check, I don't know how long it would have taken until somebody found out about (Miss Cheng's death)."