“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
Galatians 6:9 was lived out the last two years for the staff and patrons of House of Joy Tampines Greenweave Eldercare Centre. The drop-in centre for senior citizens is the second House of Joy set up by City Harvest Community Services Association, its first being at Pine Close in Mountbatten.
CHCSA was awarded the space in 2019 by the Ministry of Health, following a tender process. In this housing project, Blocks 609C and 609D at Tampines Greenweave contain purpose-built studio apartments for senior citizens, which are equipped with an Alert Alarm System. HOJ Tampines Greenweave undertakes first respondent duties whenever an elderly resident uses the AAS to call for help. On top of that, HOJ also organises active aging programmes and events for the seniors in the estate.
The centre opened in November 2019 and quickly became popular with the elderly residents of the estate. However, wave after new wave of COVID variants caused the centre’s physical activities to be temporarily discontinued, with HOJ offering just Chair Yoga via Zoom. The official launch of HOJ Tampines Greenweave was first scheduled for May 2021, then rescheduled to October last year, and then postponed again as Singapore continued her battle against the virus.
On 26 April 2022, Singapore’s government finally declared the relaxing of safe management measures, and that eldercare centres could resume most, if not all, of its on-site activities. This news was met with great joy by both the staff and the clients of HOJ Tampines Greenweave.
HELPING SENIORS RECLAIM JOY AFTER COVID
21 May 2022 was a special occasion for executive director Kenny Low and the staff of CHCSA: after two postponements, the dedication and the official opening ceremony took place at last.
“When COVID hit, we had to dial down on our programmes,” explained Kenny, adding that the team had to pivot on the way they conducted outreach. “So we did calls to check on the elderly, and we ran digital programmes, such as teaching them how to use the TraceTogether app.”
Kenny shared that the two years of COVID has taken its toll on the seniors. “You can feel that the elderly, particularly the ones at Mountbatten, who are older, are more frail. In Tampines Greenweave, 50 percent of the elderly stay alone. Isolation is the worst problem they face.” He told of an Uncle George who would go to HOJ Tampines every day, and when the centre closed, he would sit outside for a long time before heading to an empty home.
Lilian Lim, 69, is a grandmother of three and a resident of Tampines Greenweave. She said, “I join all the exercise classes: Zumba, yoga, Crossfit. Since coming here I have many activities to do, and I have made new friends. We meet here every day, it’s very convenient. I would exercise every day, then I go upstairs and shower, and come back down here to read the papers.” HOJ Tampines is practically a second home. “Talking to the staff here is like talking to family,” she adds.
Mdm Alimah Isa, 63, is a resident of Tampines Greenweave and an active volunteer with House of Joy. She runs a catering and wedding cake business, and generously invests her time in teaching the clients of HOJ baking and cooking. “I have taught them how to bake buttercream cupcakes and pudding marble rainbow cakes, and also how to cook lodeh,” she explained, adding that she is at the centre two or three times a week for exercise and to teach. “I like the people here. They are very nice, they like to help. If you need help, you can call them and they will go up to help.”
Hence, standing today in the Tampines centre which was buzzing with excitement and activity, Kenny is glad that life at HOJ has begun to resume and pick up. “In the video we made for the opening, you see the smiling faces of the seniors, and it’s so encouraging. There was one Bingo session we filmed where the forfeit was a chicken dance, but in the end, everybody danced the chicken dance! There was a lack of self-consciousness—it was nice to see the removal of inhibitions.”
House of Joy is purpose-built for its senior clients to genuinely experience joy. “If we are able to provide that spark in the last 20 years of their lives, they can really enjoy the fruits of their sacrifice,” Kenny pointed out. “The quality of life that this generation of youths get, that is built on the sacrifices of our seniors. So it’s very important for them to enjoy those fruits, to have a place of their own, to do baking and other activities.”
It is not just the clients that find satisfaction at HOJ Tampines Greenweave. Programme executive Sharon Lee, 53, teaches some of the fitness classes at HOJ, including Chair Yoga and Silver Fit. The CHC member was Pastor Kong’s first personal assistant when the church office was at Mackenzie, before she embarked on a career in human resources. A volunteer with HOJ Mountbatten since 2017, she took up the challenge to join HOJ Tampines Greenweave when she stopped full-time work in the marketplace, a move she believes is a calling.
“Apart from fitness—we also have games like Bingo, Rummikub, Double Impact which is a matching game, and learning: culinary skills, Chinese calligraphy, Nagomi Art, and a digital clinic to help the seniors learn to use technology.” The centre also conducts a gardening programme with the occasional gardening workshop, and excursions are also planned for the seniors to attractions like River Wonders.
A BLESSING UPON THIS HOUSE OF JOY
The day began with a house blessing by Kong Hee, the senior pastor of CHC. CHCSA has its roots in Church Without Walls, a 1996 movement started by CHC to go beyond the walls of the church to bring the love of Christ to the community.
Arriving at 10am, Pastor Kong took a tour of the premises and spoke with the staff about the kinds of activities and events that take place at HOJ. For a taste of what the seniors enjoy at the centre, he and a group of the board members and staff took part in a short—but challenging—Chair Yoga session led by programme executive Sharon.
After the exercise session, Pastor Kong prayed for and blessed HOJ. “Thank you for the ministry of House of Joy. In the presence of the Holy Spirit there is fullness of joy—we pray that every elderly person will feel the joy, and your joy will be the strength of the staff. We want to make a difference, to share the love of God with all here,” he prayed, blessing the staff and asking God for them to have the wisdom and resources to run the centre well.
“I’m just totally overwhelmed and amazed at what God has done through CHCSA, and at the number of people they have blessed,” said Pastor Kong. “What a great job Kenny and his team have done, especially here at the House of Joy in this neighbourhood. I pray that God will give them even greater favour and all the resources they need to do even greater things. I want to thank the board members of CHCSA also, for the hard work. What they’re doing is a resounding success.”
THE OFFICIAL OPENING
That same afternoon, HOJ Tampines Greenweave welcomed Minister Masagos Zulkifli Bin Masagos Mohamad, Minister for Social and Family Development and Member of Parliament for Tampines, and Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Member of State, Ministry of Health, who officiated the opening of the centre. They were joined by special guests May Lim from the Tampines cluster AIC (Agency for Integrated Care), Jason Chen and Michelle Ong from Vanguard Healthcare, Dr Lim Jiaqing from the neighbourhood clinic ProHealth Medical Group, CHCSA donor Alex Hau and Sandy Wong, a senior manager at the National Youth Council and former CHCSA staffer. Executive pastor of CHC, Pastor Bobby Chaw was also present.
The staff, volunteers and clients prepared a full House of Joy experience for their guests. The senior clients, regulars at the centre, were excited to show off the activities they helmed or participated in.
Madam Alimah led her team to demonstrate cake decoration to the guests of honour, who were then invited to decorate their own cupcakes with buttercream. They had worked all day the day before to prepare all the cupcakes, as well as make floral jelly art as special gifts for the guests.
Maggie Tan, 73, is in charge of the indoor plants at HOJ. She lives in a studio at Tampines Greenweave with her husband, and comes to the centre almost every day for exercise and to look after the hydroponic plants, which range from leafy vegetables to strawberries. “I don’t have much to do because my husband is still working,” she explained, adding that she oversees the plants with a team, whose members take turns to come in to the centre to check on the hydroponic system to ensure that the plants get sufficient water and nutrients. She proudly displayed racks of tang-oh to the Minister and Dr Koh, announcing, “These will be ready to harvest in five days.”
The Minister and guests were also invited to participate in a Nagomi Art session, which is a regular event at House of Joy. The calming practice of finger-blending pastel colours using stencils was a hit with the guests, who tried out the activity together with some regular Nagomi Art clients from the estate.
The guests were also treated to a Chair Yoga session conducted via video conferencing, with the instructor teaching two groups of participants across two different venues: HOJ Tampines Greenweave and HOJ Mountbatten. This demonstrated how CHCSA found creative ways to keep the seniors engaged during the COVID years.
After all the excitement and exercise, the Minister and guests sat down with the staff and volunteers to chat, enjoy snacks and drink fresh-brewed coffee by the Good Baristas, a volunteer group that operates at the centre.
Mr Masagos shared his thoughts about what he had seen this day at the centre: “I see seniors who are happy—they are participating in something, occupying their time, and more importantly, they are making friends. I see joyful volunteers. The government can give money but they cannot give love. That’s why MSF believes in volunteering; we want people to come with passion and love—it’s what makes Singapore special. Those who have done well, they pay it forward by volunteering. This way, we are a better society.”
For Alex Hau, a donor who has generously supported CHCSA, seeing how the centre reaches out to and supports the elderly community was gratifying. “It’s good to be here for the first time—I’ve never come in person. It’s good to see what they are doing—they are very organised. So I know the funds that I give in support are in the good hands of the organisation,” he said. “I hope to come back another time and see the elders here, and see how they have been getting help and how they enjoy the activities.”
The highlight of the day was the installation of the plaque by Minister Masagos and Dr Koh, declaring HOJ Tampines Greenweave officially open. Attendees enthusiastically took photos with the Minister and Dr Koh, to remember this special day by.