Former tutor on public assistance after diabetes diagnosis
A recent study by the National University of Singapore explored the life experiences of the poor here. Researchers learnt that many do not seek help. JUDITH TAN (firstname.lastname@example.org) reports
Nicholas wants to shield his extended family from the shame of him being poor in Singapore.
He wants a fictitious name used and pictures that do not show his face.
The former freelance tutor, 51, tells The New Paper on Sunday: "I have siblings, nephews and nieces here, and I don't want to shame them."
Nicholas did not start out poor.
He had a job that paid $2,500 a month and was a strapping man until he took ill suddenly in 2008.
"My potassium level had fallen really low a couple of times that year, and I had to be warded and given potassium chloride from a drip.
"The pain was excruciating," he recalls.
It was then that Nicholas was diagnosed with diabetes, a condition that had gone undetected for two years.
By the time it was discovered, he had already suffered nerve damage.
The chronic disease that cost him his sense of touch also took away his confidence to teach and face the world.
"No one would give me, a sick man, a job. My self-confidence and emotions took a tumble," he says.
"The condition got worse and I lost the use of my left hand. I've no feeling in my hands - I can't retrieve coins from my trouser pockets because I can't feel them."
Getting up from a chair or the toilet seat is a long-drawn-out process.
"It takes me 10 to 20 minutes every morning when I go to the toilet because I struggle to get up. The pain I encounter every day cripples me, both physically and mentally," Nicholas says.
He could not work because of his condition, and it took a toll on his mental well-being. He is also now no longer on speaking terms with his family. Without support, Nicholas became depressed.
"I tried applying for a rental flat, and the Housing Board officer advised me to approach the CDC (Community Development Council).
"I guess I ticked all the boxes because I got on Public Assistance without any hitches," he says.
Nicholas says that out of the $450 he receives a month, he has a little more than $200 left after paying all his bills.
"It is still a struggle. I've to make sure I spend only between $7 and $8 a day to survive," he says.
"Every morning, Willing Hearts delivers food packs. I usually have that for lunch - sometimes for both lunch and dinner. I add water to make the food into porridge for dinner," he adds.
Willing Hearts operates a soup kitchen that cooks and distributes about 4,500 meals to the needy every day.
Fully run by volunteers, its beneficiaries include the elderly, people with disabilities, low-income families, children from single-parent families as well as migrant workers here.
Nicholas says his Medisave ran out in 2013 and he now depends on help from both Changi General Hospital and the CDC for his medical expenses.
Every day is a struggle for Nicholas.
When asked what he fears most, he says: "Tomorrow."