Learning > Inspiration

ST Causes Week 2019: Befrienders lend an ear to lonely seniors

Goh Yan Han on 22 Dec 2019

The Straits Times


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Recognising that the ageing population presented new issues, a group of six church friends decided to start Living Way Social Services in 2015 to help.


Led by The Living Way Church's pastor Joseph Tan, they found that although many elderly people received help in the form of donated items or goodie bags, they felt lonely.


"They want a listening ear and someone who cares for them," said Mr Tan, 53, who is also the charity's chairman.


The group began holding weekly befriending sessions and now regularly visits about 200 senior citizens who live in one-room flats in Teck Ghee in Ang Mo Kio.


There are about 10 regular volunteers, and around 30 to 40 more who help out less frequently due to their schedules, said Mr Tan.


The volunteers are not just from the church, and Living Way Social Services is not a faith-based organisation, he added.


Apart from befriending seniors, they also do free house refurbishment for the elderly and their families, such as painting the walls or cleaning.


The group has also been tutoring around five children from low-income families for free at a void deck every Saturday. "We are looking to beef up this aspect of our services in 2020. Partly because of the limits of the void deck, we couldn't take on many kids. Next year, we are planning to rent a bigger space," said Mr Tan.


The group is also exploring the idea of a pocket money fund for poorer students.


Funding has come mostly from donations from church friends and the volunteers' friends.


Living Way raised about $10,000 this year through word of mouth.


To expand its reach, it hopes to raise $60,000 next year.


On March 11, Living Way will have a charity dinner to increase awareness of its cause and raise funds.


"We also hope more will volunteer with us," said Mr Tan.


Madam Teo Ming Hui, who has been volunteering at the group's monthly Agape Lunches that cater to about 70 senior citizens at a void deck in Ang Mo Kio, joined the group regularly in June this year after helping out occasionally last year.


"We have lunch with the elderly people and play games with them like bingo. We also have healthcare talks, such as by a traditional Chinese medicine physician," said the 38-year-old housewife with two young children.


"I find what the group does to be very meaningful and holistic."


Mr Tan said he knows one lunch cannot solve all the elderly residents' problems. "But we hope to foster the community spirit and give them a chance to socialise with each other."


• To volunteer or donate, call Joseph Tan at 9755-5749 or e-mail help@livingway.sg


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.



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