Singapore

'Sister Hua' delivers free food, Covid-19 advice to seniors

54-year-old and band of volunteers also help persuade, accompany elderly Bedok residents to vaccinations

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 Covid-19 in Singapore.

"We will brief the residents on what the Government has announced recently," said Madam Sandy Goh Siew Hua, who is fluent in English, Mandarin and several Chinese dialects.

"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 such as Willing Hearts and Food from the Heart.

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 added: "When I come across any seniors now, the first thing I ask them is whether they are fully vaccinated.

"For those who have not taken the jab or are hesitant, I encourage them to go for it as it is safer for them and it will improve their immune system."

About one in four residents in Bedok is 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.

To keep herself updated with the latest local news and virus information, Madam Goh and the volunteers set up a WhatsApp chat group. Young volunteers will notify her about the latest news through it.

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 helping, including organisations such as NTUC Health and the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities (THKMC), both of which run senior activity centres in housing estates.

These organisations are actively reaching out to seniors to persuade them to get vaccinated.

THKMC, which has 17 senior activity centres including one at Block 12 Bedok South Avenue 2, also takes the vaccination services nearer to their homes.

SUCCESS

"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 THKMC's services for the elderly.

Over at Xi Jing TCM Clinic at Block 416 Bedok North Avenue 2, Chinese physician and acupuncturist Ren Xiao Ling, 53, has been spending more time speaking to her patients who are seniors.

"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.

"But if you are not vaccinated, the chances of contracting the virus and getting a serious infection are high. Then they will understand," she said.

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