|PHOTO COURTESY OF KRYSTINE TAN|
This volunteer dedicates her precious time to helping the elderly find purpose and companionship.
Contributed By Nicolette Ng
At 41, Krystine Tan is not only an accomplished sales manager overseeing the sales team and operations team in her company, she is also a mother of two beautiful girls, aged 1 ½ and three.
Balancing her role as a working mother (who is very hands on with her children), Tan makes time to serve as an active volunteer among dialect-speaking elderly. It is something she has been doing for the past 13 years.
“I did not start out having any particular passion or inclination toward the elderly. Back then in church, there was a program that was initiated to reach out to the destitute elderly living in one-room rented flats in Holland Close. I was asked to participate in this program, which I did, and since then, I’ve never looked back,” beams the youthful multi-tasker.
Her efforts and sacrifices may have gone a long way to touch the lives of many elderly folk in City Harvest Dialect ministry, but Tan insists that it is the elderly who have touched her life.
Tan relates the story of 70-year-old Phua Cheok, who struggled with his health, and had difficulty moving around. Yet he showed up for nearly every event, activity and outing held by the volunteers. One day, Phua suddenly collapsed and was pronounced brain dead. When the volunteers went to visit him in hospital, and sang him familiar songs he usually sang at church, Phua was miraculously able to respond with soft mutterings. Says Tan, “I will never forget him and his enthusiasm for life.”
Among the challenges Tan faced when she first interacted with the elderly was the language barrier. Speaking little Hokkien and Cantonese, Tan put in extra effort to practice these dialects. It helped that she had the boldness to plunge into conversation with the senior citizens. “There were times I didn’t understand what they were saying,” laughs Tan,“but aside from the language, spending time with the elderly becomes very meaningful when you know they are enjoying the company of people around them; for them, life often gets too quiet or lonely.”
Thanks to her willing heart,Tan is now able to converse fluently with the elderly in different dialects, even to the point of being able to preach or interpret a sermon in Cantonese. So dedicated to the cause is she that right till the very last week before she was due to give birth to her first child, Tan was still actively involved in volunteer work. Today, her elder daughter, Joia, goes with her to the elderly outreach activities even attends dialect church services and prayer meetings with her. “In a way, my children serve the call together with me,” Tan says proudly.
Amidst a busy weekly schedule, Tan takes time out to visit the elderly charges that are under her care. She counsels them when they go through depression, loneliness and feelings of abandonment. Sometimes she brings them for their hospital checkups. For those who share her faith, Tan gives them Bible study.
“You’d be surprised to know that hanging out with the elderly folk can be fun. We have volunteers in the Dialect outreach as young as 14, and there are even some Indian volunteers who serve together with us! We’re one big happy family! Here, you can definitely find fulfilment and take home more than you give,” asserts Tan.
This explains why Tan has stayed true to her call for 13 years, and she is not the only one. “There are more than 10 of us who have been volunteering since day one. I am just one of them.”