In our masks, gloves, shields, and full personal protective equipment (PPE), we look a little intimidating… but we’re volunteers from Keeping Hope Alive (KHA), which I founded over 20 years ago. Every Sunday, we go door-to-door at the one-room rental flats around Singapore to identify the residents’ needs and seek their permission to allow us to help them.
When Covid-19 hit, I was worried for this group of elderly and those living alone. They were stuck at home with no one visiting them. I thought, we can practise social distancing, but not social isolation. As we’re an essential service, I decided to continue our volunteer activities but on a fortnightly basis instead of weekly. We came up with new ways to help the old folks: handing out donated (used) smartphones and teaching them how to use them, as this has become the only way to stay connected to the outside world.
We also helped them to apply for Singpass so they can access grants and upskilling courses. Many lost their jobs as cleaners, shop assistants and road sweepers. There was a 60-something granny who lost her dishwashing job at a coffee shop when dining out wasn’t allowed during Circuit Breaker. She thought she had no other option until we introduced her to government portals like www.wsg.gov.sg . Through it, she found a new job packing fish balls! When we visited her again, she was so happy that she was working shorter hours but earning more.
During our visits, we also helped the elderly to change light bulbs, cut their nails and hair, and clear the rubbish, while giving out donated food, masks and sanitisers. Some accidentally soiled their bed sheets so we washed and replaced them. A few volunteers who were nurses also checked their blood pressure.
With 10 volunteers, we split into groups of three to five people. Each group would visit different HDB blocks at the estate. Only one person from each group would enter each home to offer help. We set off at 7.30am in a van with boxes of donated food and household items. By 2.30pm, we would’ve covered 600 to 800 units.
We’d knock on one unit on each floor to ask if they needed anything, and they would shout along the corridor to ask the neighbours too. When we returned to the floor later, everyone would be waiting for us.
By the time we were done, our bodies would be aching all over… sweating buckets. The visits are exhausting, but the reactions we get make it all worthwhile. Some seniors are very cute, they call us “Robin Hood”!
We’re now back to our weekly visits on Sunday, but we still put on our PPE and practise safe distancing.
We have the old folks to thank, as they trust us wholeheartedly – that keeps us going even through tough times.
This article was first published in Her World’s August issue. Grab a copy today!