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Old lady collecting cardboard resorts to asking a stranger to buy her a meal




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When netizen Claris Ortega, 30, was approached by an elderly lady pushing a trolley laden with cardboard boxes, asking if she could buy her a packet of chicken rice, there was no way Claris would decline. In a Facebook post on Thursday, November 22, Ortega shared about the incident that occurred at Clementi Food Centre around dinnertime.

In her post, she wrote, “As we were about to leave we chance upon this really really old lady pushing a trolley of folded up cardboard boxes using rafia string as her belt.

Ms Ortega added, “She was dressed in a purple polo tee and a pair of denim 3/4 pants that looks like they aged along with her”.

According to Ms Ortega’s post, the old lady “went to the next table and looked hungrily at the plates of scraps left behind by previous customers”.

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TISG contacted Ms Ortega, who said that the moment she went up to the elderly lady, the old lady asked her, “Do you want to buy me a meal”. Ms Ortega also said that the lady did not ask for any money, and even declined a second packet of chicken rice.

According to many of those who commented on Ms Ortega’s post, the old lady has apparently been seen to frequent the area, as well as the NTUC Fairprice nearby to collect cardboard.

During TISG’s conversation with Ms Ortega, she said that the old lady was seen to be quite hunched over, and unable to walk straight even with the aid of the cardboard trolley.

In a statement released by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), they wrote, “Ms Claris Ortega had posted about her experience in helping to buy a meal for an elderly lady at Clementi hawker centre. We thank her for her kindness and public spiritedness. We also appreciate the outpouring of offers by members of the public to assist the elderly lady.

Our Social Service Office (SSO) and local community and grassroots groups have been in touch with the elderly lady, Mdm Tan (not her real name), and her family for some time. Mdm Tan is the sole owner of an HDB flat, where she lives with some of her children. Her children and grandchildren are involved in providing care and support for her. Apart from savings, she also receives a pension as well as Silver Support Scheme payouts.

Their full statement can be found here:


During the time of TISG’s conversation with Ms Ortega, she added that she did not receive any updates directly from MSF regarding the old lady’s situation, but added that she would like to know why the old lady still had to resort to collecting cardboard if she was supported by her children and grandchildren, and received a pension as well as Silver Support Scheme payouts.

TISG has also reached out to MSF for further comment.



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