Ex-residents of Red Cross home seek out, thank teacher 50 years later
Ex-residents of Red Cross Home seek out and thank teacher, now 92, for his care
He was five when he went to the Red Cross Home for Crippled Children in 1958 after contracting poliomyelitis, or polio, a disease that attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis.
There, he was taught by Mr Nelson Koh, a teacher he still remembers fondly.
The home was opened in Nicoll Drive along the coastline of Changi Beach in 1952. There had been a polio epidemic after World War II, with more than 15,000 children in Singapore affected. The facility is now called the Red Cross Home for the Disabled.
Last month, about 50 years after he left the home, Mr Joseph Chia Teck Seng visited Mr Koh, who had turned 92, in his Bedok South flat to thank him for caring for him.
Mr Chia was with another former resident of the home, Mr James Joseph Michael, 52. He was a toddler when he entered the home with cerebral palsy, a condition that affects the body's motor skills and hinders mobility. It was the first time Mr Joseph and Mr Chia were seeing Mr Koh in many years.
Mr Chia, 66, who used to work in a production line before he retired, said: "Mr Koh was strict, and I was his naughtiest student. But no matter how much I rebelled, he never gave up on me. He also often brought us out and would treat us to nasi lemak and wonton mee from Tanjong Katong Road.
"It was the best home of all. I would hide whenever my father visited me because I did not want to go back with him."
Mr Joseph, who now does part-time food delivery for Grab, described Mr Koh as strict but kind. He found out the elderly man was still around at a Red Cross exhibition at The Star Vista in Buona Vista last month.
Mr Joseph, who was there taking orders, asked the staff if they knew Mr Koh and was surprised that they did. He then arranged to visit the elderly man with Mr Chia.
Mr Joseph said: "Mr Koh was a strict teacher, but he was also very kind. He taught me to be independent and responsible."
Mr Koh told The New Paper he was surprised the two men remembered him and was touched by their visit.
He had taught lower primary pupils subjects including English, Malay and geography at the home for about 50 years.
Now a grandfather of six, he said: "It was a very tough job at the home, especially when there were children as young as 12 who died with no one wanting to claim their bodies.
"Back in the 1960s, society treated the disabled very poorly.
"At 92, I feel at peace knowing I have made a difference in their lives. As a teacher, my job is complete."
Though he left the home half a century ago, Mr Chia still keeps in touch with some of the friends he made during his time there.
Said Mr Joseph: "Mr Chia and I lost contact for a while after we left the home. But we reconnected again a few years ago. We now see each other every other day, we even often play lawn bowling together now."