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Dignity for the Poor in Singapore

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By: Gilbert Goh

Saw this elderly cardboard collector yesterday at Chinatown quietly emptying cardboard on to his trolley near the OG hawker centre. We were happy to spot him after walking aimlessly for an hour without any result.

We approached and gave him our angpow. He took it without any expression and continued his work.

He seems agile and healthy but his wriggled look puts him in the age group of between mid to late 70s.

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He obliges us with a photo shoot but remains expressionless throughout the 5-minute interaction hardly uttering a word.

When his trolley is filled, he quietly disappeared into the hawker centre to shore up his load.

He looks like he is from the forgotten generation of yesteryears and his existence is ambiguous and silent.

There are more than 300 elderly cardboard collectors here and 1/5 of them exist in Chinatown – the focal point of many of our pioneer generation.

However, this group seems to have dwindled – at least according to what we have found out yesterday. Many have passed on and their replacement is not too forthcoming due to the harsh menial requirement and low cost to effort ratio.

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