Volunteers elevated the living conditions of several elderly citizens during a home make-over assignment.
A group of friends in City Harvest Church belonging to a cell group known as N449, (under the pastoral care of executive pastor, Derek Dunn) had their work cut out for them when they reached the house of an elderly gentleman in Toa Payoh on Dec. 4, 2010. They were there on a home make-over assignment, and a make-over was exactly what the man needed.
CLEARING THE CLUTTER
An over-powering stench greeted the volunteers when they stepped in, and there was an unidentifiable heap of black mass on the floor. And then they saw the mountains of clutter, cobwebs glistening over dirty crockery in the kitchen, expired food in the refrigerator, faulty appliances, broken furniture and buckets of laundry that had been soaking for months.
The unmarried man is in his 70s and goes by the name Mr. Ho. He suffers from early stages of dementia and lives alone in his flat. He was referred to the cell group through City Harvest Dialect Church.
Ho worked as a cab driver in his younger days, said his sister, who lives in a nearby block of flats. An old black-and-white portrait hanging on the door of his room showed a scholarly, good-looking young man wearing thick, black-rimmed spectacles.
Daunted at first but determined to get the task done, the team rolled up their sleeves and divided the chores—one team to clear out the clutter and clean the premises and a “back-end” team to wash the dirty pots and pans as well as do the laundry.
Thanks to serendipitous timing and quick thinking, one of the volunteers, Wong Choon Xing, a 26-year-old sales engineer, chanced upon a handyman walking past and got him to fix a leaky faucet in the kitchen. Yet others went the extra mile (literally) and drove to the neighboring departmental store to buy a brand new mattress for Ho to replace his badly stained one.
The next six hours passed by in a flash as the volunteers immersed themselves in their respective tasks; in fact, they did such an impressive job that other residents passing by requested for their “services” as well.
|PHOTOS: William Chooi & Yong Yung Shin|
A TASK BEYOND THEMSELVES
And what a learning experience it was for the volunteers themselves, as they uncovered hidden talents among one another as well. While others were busy getting down to business, Eng Tse Wei, a 26-year-old sales logistics analyst, made it his job to keep the elderly man company at the corridor of the flat for no less than five hours, chatting with him and affectionately “nagging” him on the importance of keeping his medical appointments and taking his medication. At first, Ho seemed completely oblivious to Eng, but as the afternoon wore on, it slowly became a two-way conversation. When another team member, Kelvin Ang, 28, a business analyst, carried his secondhand television set into the man’s living room, he broke into a smile—it was a sight that truly warmed the hearts of those present.
A LISTENING EAR
Two other elderly citizens living in the vicinity, one of whom was visually-impaired, also had their homes made-over by other teams. Many years’ worth of clutter was cleared, grim-coated walls were given fresh new coats of paints, and toilets were scrubbed squeaky clean.
The team assigned to the fourth house did not have to hold brushes and brooms, but they, too, had an interesting experience. As the team arrived at the doorstep, the resident, a headstrong, independent female senior citizen, made an abrupt decision not to have the volunteers clean her house. Her reason: she did not want to “jeopardize” the bright futures of “promising young people” by having them clean her toilets and do other “menial” tasks. For a good two hours, she regaled the volunteers with her own experience of helping out the elderly at the Care Link home, and even went as far as demonstrating her physical strength by gamely lifting up one of the female volunteers. It was obvious that what this lady needed was not so much manual aid, but the warmth of companionship and a listening ear.
It was late in the evening when the tasks were completed, but for every volunteer who gave their all that day, the soreness and lethargy was nothing compared to the knowledge that they had made a difference in the living conditions of the elderly.
Quoting from the Gospel of Matthew 25:40, where Jesus says, “ … truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me,” cell group leader Gerald Wu said, “I found the experience very fulfilling and am very happy that we were able to make a difference in the lives of the needy.”
A total of 50 individuals took part in this project to make-over four homes.