Big-hearted TNP newsmaker wins The Straits Times' Singaporean of the Year award
TNP newsmaker wins The Straits Times' Singaporean of the Year award for helping elderly man who soiled himself in public
It has been almost a year and a half since Madam Noriza A. Mansor made The New Paper cover for cleaning up an elderly man who had soiled himself.
She has become a minor celebrity.
"I feel like Fann Wong, people recognise me even when I am eating lunch," said the 50-year-old bedsheet promoter with a laugh.
"Everywhere I go to work, whether it is NTUC (FairPrice), Robinsons or Metro, random people come up to me and hug me, saying 'Thank you'," said Madam Noriza.
Some people even ask for photos with her. "One customer told me that she was proud of what I did and bought 10 sets of bedsheets from me."
That day in October 2014, while others recoiled, Madam Noriza had distinguished herself by stepping forward to help the man who had soiled himself in public.
In an extraordinary act of kindness, she knelt to wipe the dried faeces off his legs. (See report on facing page.)
Yesterday, Madam Noriza beat nine other finalists to be named The Straits Times' Singaporean of the Year 2015.
The award, which was organised by The Straits Times and sponsored by global bank UBS, honours extraordinary acts of goodwill, ingenuity or perseverance by Singaporeans that have made a positive impact on the lives of others. (Read report, above.)
Said Madam Noriza: "I didn't expect to win an award for what I did, but I do hope that by sharing this, other Singaporeans will help when they see someone in need."
Her moving and inspiring story was first reported in The New Paper after a reader's tip-off.
We tracked her to an NTUC FairPrice outlet but it took the reporter's tenacity to get her and the couple to share their story.
Madam Noriza's act of kindness that day was not a one-off event.
She has been visiting Mr Tan Soy Yong, 77, and his wife, Madam Lee Bee Yian, 77, at least once a week on her day off.
Said Madam Noriza, a single mother of five: "Till today, I can't believe that I did what people would call a 'dirty job' and which they would not even do for their parents.
"When I was doing it, I was also surprised that I didn't feel disgusted or anything."
TNP caught up with Madam Noriza yesterday after the event during her visit to see Mr Tan, who had been admitted to hospital with a fever.
"The couple call me their god-daughter. They have no children, and I have no parents, so I treat them like my parents.
"I didn't get the chance to do the job of a daughter, so I am doing it now," said Madam Noriza, who was orphaned when she was 18.
She had visited Mr Tan and his wife last Tuesday at the Serangoon nursing home they have been staying at since last year.
She only discovered he had been hospitalised when she wanted to share the good news with them yesterday.
She said that doctors suspected Mr Tan had a brain infection.
As she leaned over Mr Tan's bed, Madam Noriza tried to joke with him but Mr Tan stayed unresponsive throughout the hour-long visit.
She said: "It is the first time I've seen him so sick. Normally he will talk and joke with me. Seeing him like that, my heart breaks."
While most people have commended her for sacrificing her time to take care of the old couple, Madam Noriza said: "It is a two-way thing. Visiting them makes me happy. I am fortunate to have met Uncle and Auntie."
I feel like Fann Wong, people recognise me even when I am eating lunch. Everywhere I go to work, whether it is NTUC (FairPrice), Robinsons or Metro, random people come up to me and hug me, saying 'Thank you'.
- Madam Noriza
Her kindness to elderly man moved passer-by to tears
CONCERNED: Madam Noriza found out Mr Tan had been hospitalised yesterday and was upset to see him so sick. PHOTO COURTESY OF MADAM NORIZA A. MANSOR
People quickly walked past Mr Tan Soy Yong, then 76, who had soiled his trousers.
The elderly man had dried faeces smeared all over his lower body at a Toa Payoh FairPrice supermarket in the October 2014 incident.
But unlike others who ignored the elderly man, bedsheet promoter Noriza A. Mansor, then 49, helped Mr Tan and his wheelchair-bound wife, Madam Lee Bee Yian, then also 76.
Madam Noriza bought Mr Tan a new pair of shorts, grabbed a box of tissue paper and a pail of water, then patiently cleaned him up.
She even accompanied the couple in a taxi all the way to their home in Potong Pasir to make sure they were okay.
Her act of selflessness moved passer-by Goh Rong Ren to tears.
Mr Goh, then 32, gave Madam Noriza $50 for the cab fare.
Her act would have gone unnoticed if not for Mr Goh, a currency trader, who later contacted The New Paper because he wanted others to know what Madam Noriza had done.
It was an act of kindness that resonated with TNP readers, many of whom wrote in to offer Mr Tan help.
The article won the reporter a Singapore Press Holdings' Story of the Month Award for October that year.
"It was so riveting, it was picked up by the other newspapers," read the citation.
THE NEW PAPER, OCT 13, 2014
She is the award's first winner
Madam Noriza A. Mansor is the proud first winner of The Straits Times' Singaporean of the Year award.
She was presented with $20,000 in cash and a trophy by the guest of honour, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a ceremony yesterday at UBS Business University, near Adam Road.
The humble bedsheet promoter beat nine worthy finalists, from philanthropists and sportsmen to environmentalists and entrepreneurs.
Mr Warren Fernandez, editor of The Straits Times and a judge for the award, said: "(Madam Noriza) crossed age, sex, language and racial boundaries to lend a helping hand when called upon to do so, and in a way that not many would have done...
"Her selfless act is truly a lesson for us all. It shows that any one of us can be extraordinary if we step up to help, in whatever way we can."