FIRST Hand celebrates Chinese New Year with the terminally-ill through KTV and lo hei.
Contributed By Foo Cechao
|CN PHOTO: Gay Sen Min
On Feb. 20, which happens to be ren ri (or “Human Day”), a group of FIRST Hand volunteers brought the festive cheer of Chinese New Year to the terminally-ill through a lo hei and KTV gathering at Home TeamNS-JOM @ Balestier Clubhouse. FIRST Hand—Friends in Reaching and Serving the Terminally-ill—is a department of City Harvest Community Service Association that provides befriending and support services every week to HIV/Aids patients from Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Apart from their weekly home as well as ward visitations, FIRST Hand volunteers occasionally organize meaningful, fun-filled activities for these patients.
Against the backdrop of a cozy karaoke room, the 11 volunteers distributed mandarin oranges and Chinese New Year goodies to the patients. Everyone gathered around to lo hei, a tradition during ren ri. The diners tossed the salad high and heartily, signifying the tossing up of good fortune for the New Year. Next came the karaoke session with popular Chinese pop songs and ballads. The patients were shy initially but with the encouragement from the friendly volunteers, some mustered the courage and picked up the microphone to belt out a tune or two.
One patient took centerstage and sang the evergreen Thai number, “Loy Krathong” with such gusto, he won loud applause from the audience. As the saying goes, music is food to the soul; the patients were all smiles as the karaoke session went on, their troubles seemingly forgotten.
“We believe that laughter is the best medicine, so when we organize activities for the patients, we put in our best effort so that they will be able to enjoy themselves and feel happy during these events,” said Herman Lim, program organizer for FIRST Hand.
According to Lim, most of the patients do not celebrate festive holidays like Chinese New Year or Christmas mainly because of reasons like discrimination, social stigma and financial challenges due to the medical costs incurred by prolonged illness.
“Some of the patients that join these activities don’t even step out of their homes. By bringing them out, we hope to provide them the opportunity to interact with other patients and volunteers, and through that, find a support group,” said Eileen Huang, a volunteer in FIRST Hand who also works as a full-time radiotherapist.
Festive seasons are joyful times to be celebrated with loved ones and friends. However, for the terminally-ill, these might be the loneliest times without emotional and financial support. FIRST Hand might very well be the bridge between these patients and society.