"I like to be around crowds. Being too silent is not good, we need some noise in our life. I am glad I have a place I can go to and be happy."
- Mr Hong Zi Kai, regular visitor to Sunlove Marsiling SAC
For over 30 years, Mr Hong Zi Kai, 61, drove lorries for a living. But what was once his source of income and sustenance led to his greatest nightmare.
Mr Hong recalled the moment when his life changed forever: “It was on my last day at work when I got into the road accident. I was driving my company’s lorry when I crashed into the streetlight.”
Mr Hong was already facing various health issues before the accident. The accident further weakened the use of his legs and cost him his livelihood.
“I was depressed for a long time after my accident, as I am someone who does not like to stay still at home and do nothing,” revealed the independent and strong-willed senior. Even now, in his own words, he still “dreams of
driving a lorry again.”
A PLACE TO CALL (A SECOND) HOME
Today, Mr Hong is a different person. Although his legs are still weak and he needs the help of a motorised wheelchair to get around, he has formed a more positive perspective on life.
The turning point for him came when he was hospitalised after a fall in his flat in 2015. Volunteers from Sunlove Marsiling Senior Activity Centre were alerted by the hospital to Mr Hong’s case and befriended him,
bringing him newspapers and meals after his discharge.
With more than 45 such centres in Singapore, Senior Activity Centres (SACs) are drop-in centres for vulnerable seniors staying in one and two-room HDB rental flats where they can take part in programmes and activities such
as arts and crafts, singing, keep-fit exercise sessions, and outings.
Run by voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) and overseen by the Ministry of Social & Family Development (MSF) in partnership with the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), the SACs also provide support services such as monitoring of frail and homebound elderly, befriending, emergency alert response calls, guidance, advice, and information and referral.
The SACs are funded by the MSF and the Tote Board Social Service Fund.
Mr Hong has become a regular visitor to Sunlove Marsiling SAC, which is now like a second home to him. In the mornings, he will have his bread and ‘kopi’ (coffee in Malay) at the centre, then read the newspapers.
He especially enjoys taking part in the karaoke sessions at the centre. “I even won a consolation prize at a Chinese singing competition organised by the centre,” he declared proudly.
A COMMUNITY TO DEPEND ON
Sunlove Marsiling SAC is not only a place where Mr Hong can spend his days; it is also a place that provides a community he can depend on for support and friendship. Mr Hong is particularly fond of Mr Vijayan Pathamanathan, who is a staff at the centre. Mr Vijay had been the one who led the team of volunteers to visit Mr Hong after his discharge. Describing Mr Vijay as someone “very cute and loveable,” he said, “He has a warm and considerate personality, and will often look out for me.”
To Mr Hong, Sunlove Marsiling SAC is a place where he can pass his time more meaningfully. As he reflects back on his time at the centre, he explained, “I like to be around crowds. Being too silent is not good, we need some noise in our life.”
“I am glad I have a place I can go to and be happy,” he said.
About The Tote Board Social Service Fund
The Tote Board Social Service Fund (TBSSF) is a strategic grant programme of Tote Board and is aligned to our strategic outcome of providing equitable opportunities for vulnerable groups in Singapore. Set up in 2006, it is administered by NCSS.
TBSSF provides grants for critical and strategic social service programmes, innovation and capital funding for the social service sector. It also provides funding support to organisations such as VWOS, so that they can better focus on service delivery, service standards, and achieving impactful outcomes for their beneficiaries.
In 2016, Tote Board injected a new tranche of $350 million into the TBSSF for the next three years, which will enable the implementation of more programmes that benefit families, children, seniors and persons with disabilities.