SINGAPORE – Residents living in Bedok Reservoir know her as “Hua Jie”, a cheery 54-year-old who turns up every Tuesday and Saturday afternoon to distribute free food and groceries.
With the help of six to 10 volunteers, the co-owner of a tentage company has been providing free advice about the pandemic measures and vaccination programme since the onset of the pandemic in Singapore.
“We will brief the residents on what the Government had announced recently,” said Madam Sandy Goh Siew Hua, who is fluent in English and Mandarin.
When needed, she speaks to the seniors in Cantonese, Teochew and Hokkien as well.
“We will also tell them to go for the booster shot, and tell them where they can get it, such as at the nearby clinics. We will also help them make an appointment,” added Madam Goh, whose nickname means Sister Hua.
She and the volunteers have even accompanied the seniors to get their jab. She took the booster shot this month.
Madam Goh and her group are currently assisting about 350 families living across 55 blocks in Bedok with food and groceries from private donors and welfare organisations like Willing Hearts and Food From The Heart.
She stations herself at Block 702 before contacting the volunteers from each block via WhatsApp chat groups to collect the items for distribution to the residents. The volunteers are residents helping out their neighbours.
Technical support engineer Rajan Mohan, who is a volunteer, said Madam Goh and the volunteers helped him and his family when he was diagnosed with Covid-19 on Oct 5 and was in home recovery for 10 days.
The 66-year-old, who has been fully vaccinated since April, said: “She and the volunteers delivered bread and groceries to my doorstep during the period, because my wife and two sons were also under quarantine.”
He said: “When I come across any seniors now, the first thing I will ask them is whether they are fully vaccinated. For those who have not taken the jab or are hesitant, I will encourage them to go for it as it is safer for them and it will improve their immunity system.”
About one in four residents in Bedok are above 60 years old, government data showed.
The estate has had a number of cases.
In May this year, the McDonald’s outlet in Bedok Reservoir had to be closed for deep cleaning when a food delivery worker there tested positive for Covid-19.
Last month, the Ministry of Health reported a total of 11 Covid-19 cases at Man Fatt Lam Elderly Joy Day Centre, which is off Bedok Road near Bedok hawker centre.
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Madam Goh, a resident of the estate, has been providing aid in the neighbourhood since 2011.
“When I first moved here, I found that a lot of senior residents who are living here are illiterate. They do not know how to apply for assistance schemes and don’t understand the announcements that the Government had made.
“I am familiar with some of the seniors here and they would request my help to read and explain the Government letters that they received.”
To keep herself updated with the latest local news and Covid-19 information, Madam Goh and the volunteers set up a WhatsApp chat group. Young volunteers will notify her about the latest news through the chat group.
She said: “Every night, I will check the local news or government websites to make sure they are not scams or fake news.”
Retiree Goh Cheng Hong, who lives with her two sons, said in Mandarin: “I think what she did is very good, because a lot of seniors here, like myself, don’t read the newspaper or watch the news on television.”
The 83-year-old is fully vaccinated and awaiting her third jab.
There are many on the ground, including organisations like NTUC Health and the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society (THK), both of which run senior activity centres in housing estates.
They are actively reaching out to seniors to persuade them to get vaccinated.
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THK, which has a centre at Block 12 Bedok South Avenue 2, also brings the vaccination services nearer to their homes.
“For seniors who are home-bound, we work with AIC (Agency for Integrated Care) to provide home vaccination. To date, we have successfully conducted around 100 vaccinations in our senior activity centres around the island,” said Mr Andy Lee, divisional director of THK’s elderly services division.
Over at the Xi Jing TCM Clinic at Block 416 Bedok North Avenue 2, Chinese physician and acupuncturist Ren Xiao Ling has been spending more time speaking to her patients who are seniors.
“For some of the seniors, they may not understand if I explain to them using technical terms and may feel that we are just explaining for the sake of getting them vaccinated,” said the 53-year-old in Mandarin.
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For seniors who are concerned about the side effects, Miss Ren would explain to them that the risk of serious side effects are low.
She said: “Most of my senior patients here know one another and would sometimes come to the clinic together. So I will tell them so and so has already been vaccinated and they are fine.
“Even if they have side effects, it is mild, so the level of risk is really low.
“But if you are not vaccinated, the chances of contracting the virus and getting a serious infection is high. Then they will understand.”
There are others working to keep neighbours safe from Covid-19. Tell ST about the experience in your estate.