Vulnerable or Vulnerable Not / 残而不废 自食其力

Baey Yam Keng  Baey Yam Keng

English translation MyPaper 8 May 2012

Vulnerable or Vulnerable Not

During “Kopi Talk” last month, a kind lady highlighted a wheel-chair bound middle-age man who wheels himself daily to his makeshift news-stand every morning and home every night.  She observed that sometimes, he has to stop along the way to catch a breather.  Like most passers-by, this lady would always offer a helping hand whenever she catches sight of him.

To make his daily travel more convenient, this kind lady suggested that we help him get a motorised wheelchair.  I am touched by her thoughtfulness and supported the suggestion.  We could apply for a grant from CDC or other welfare organizations. However, as a motorised wheelchair is not cheap, the usual grants may only be sufficient to cover the cost of a regular wheelchair.  However, we can always mobilise the grassroots and the community to raise funds to purchase a motorised wheelchair.

As I was walking towards the carpark after “Kopi Talk”, I chanced upon the wheelchair-bound uncle at the news-stand. I related the suggestion to him and sought his opinion on the proposal. He was most grateful for the kind gesture but mentioned that he already has a motorised wheelchair.  He was using it in the past, but his health deteriorated as he was not exercising his arms.  Eventually he chose to give it up.

The wheelchair-bound uncle is a polio patient from young.  He was abandoned as a child, and has learnt to be independent.  His wife is also wheelchair-bound.  She too does not use a motorised one because she is not confident enough to control it.  Due to their circumstances, they decided not to start a family as they are not confident of providing a good life for their children.

At the moment, they live in an HDB rental flat, and have no problems with their daily needs.  However, when the couple eventually succumbs to old age and illness, with no children to look after their needs, community and governmental aid will have to come in to take care of them.

When I was serving at Queenstown, we gave out ration packs to more than 200 low-income residents every month. Amongst them was a mute couple, with the husband suffering from renal dysfunction. I often spot them cheerfully pedalling their bicycles around the neighbourhood to collect paper cardboard for a living.

Even though the couple leads an impoverished life in a rental flat, subsists on the monthly ration packs and probably also receives Public Assistance, I have not received any appeal from them for additional assistance during my 5 years as their MP.

When Samaritans see some unfortunate or elderly people selling newspapers or tissue paper packets, collects cardboard, clears dishes and cleans the streets in Singapore, some may be surprised at the sight and question why the government seems to turn a blind eye to these fellow Singaporeans.

The wheelchair-bound uncle, as well as the mute couple, for instance, receive assistance from the government or community in one way or another, but have not failed to continue with their abilities to earn their keep. They have made the decision and chosen their way of life.  They do this to kill time, to keep themselves physically active, or perhaps to preserve their dignity.

The good intention of providing a motorised wheelchair was to effectively reduce the physical demand on the user.  However, when we understand the situation better, we may discover that the wheelchair-bound actually prefers to take charge their own destiny.

Taking care of residents is my responsibility as an MP.  I have to assure residents that they are welcomed to approach me with their concerns and to know how to contact me. More importantly, they should have confidence in me that I am able to help them with their problems. I also require the assistance of my grassroots leaders and the community to help me reach out to residents and encourage them to accept help if they are in genuine need. There will always be opportunities later on to return the favour back to the community.

I will also continue to interact actively with residents so that they are comfortable with me and willing to share their concerns with me.  It is only through effective communication and interaction that problems could be understood and resolved.

I respect the decision of the wheelchair-bound uncle.  I have asked the town council to study the route he takes between his flat and the news-stand for any obstruction in his way.  We can do a part to enhance the barrier-free accessibility so that he can continue with his path of life in a smoother manner.

《我报》8-5-2012  炎下之意(专栏)文/马炎庆  

残而不废 自食其力
















Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: