THE four-letter word ‘Rose’ beautifully fits this extraordinary Nee Soon East volunteer, with whom I’ve worked for the past one year.
In my books, 55-year-old Rose Koh is simply delightful and delicate with residents in need, elegent and exquisite in people-relationship, graceful and grand in offering a helping hand and admirable and angelic in garnering smiles from teenagers to senior citizens.
Yes, she’s perfect for the flower-like name which usually brings to mind images of romance, secret admirers, and bridal bouquets. She genuinely symbolises friendship and trust. Quietly working behind the scenes, she has helped better the lives of hundreds of residents.
Her experiences with the grassroots will bring tears to umpteen eyes as she bends backwards, regardless of race, language or religion, to assist the needy.
MP Nee Soon East Louis Ng Kok Kwang, at 38 years, one of the youngest Parliamentarians, says: “Not to sound corny but Madam Rose Koh really is the flower that brightens up our community! She serves with her heart and always selflessly helps others. We are fortunate to have her at Nee Soon East.”
An endearing example, Rose says, is a family of three that she reached out to for over two years to gain their trust. She explains, without naming names: “Over time we finally touched the hearts of the family, opening them up to social assistance. It may not always be easy, but my team and I know that if we can do it, going the extra mile for these residents is well worth the effort.”
She points out that most of the time emotional support is a crucial factor for many of our elderly.
HELP ELDERLY RESIDENTS
She adds: “Two years ago on a late night, the constituency staff and I heard of a case of an elderly resident who had suffered a bad fall at the community centre in the afternoon, and was bleeding from the head. We visited the resident at the nearby hospital and stayed till 2.00am before leaving.
“Falling down can be so traumatic for elderly residents. We found out that the resident was living alone and over the week, we made three more visits to check on the resident’s well-being, just to make sure that everything was okay.”
Lawyer Jayagobi Jayaram, Vice Chairman of Nee Soon East CCMC, says: “Rose truly lives up to her name as however difficult a welfare case that she handles, she has this innate ability to both reassure, as well as render the best assistance possible, such that the residents’ needs are met.
“She truly renders her voluntary services both from her heart and with a heart always putting herself in the resident’s shoes. We are truly blessed to have her in our Nee Soon East team.”
Over two decades as an extraordinary volunteer, Rose, a mother of two sons aged 30 and 27, has attended to over thousands of social assistance requests in the community. On average, there are about 10 requests for assistance each week, where families require immediate financial assistance.
“So it is important to act fast so that they can receive help quickly,” she says. “But we’re also wary of those who may take advantage of the government’s financial assistance. My fellow volunteers and I also visit the less mobile, elderly and needy families weekly to check on their well-being. There are often challenges – some might be sceptical and not willing to communicate, or are less receptive to help.”
Ms Lily Lim, Auditor of Yishun Hearts Residents Committee, praises: “I have great respect and admiration for Rose. No matter how busy or tired she is, she will take time out to help needy residents. I have witnessed first-hand how her patience has won the hearts of many residents.”
HUMBLE FAMILY ROOTS
Rose’s passionate interest to serve the underprivileged comes from her humble family roots.
She says: “Coming from a big family, and being one of 14 children, you learn to share at a young age. Furthermore, growing up in a now-defunct Hougang kampong and seeing how everyone cares for everyone inspire me to break down barriers between people and encourage them to get connected with the community. I wish to revive the good ‘ole kampong spirit.”
Her longer-term serve-the-people promise: “To reach out to needy residents, I make it a point to engage and interact with them through social activities, a starting point for me to know residents more. I’m mindful that there is only so much I can do to help. At the end of the day, whether the residents can get their lives back on track depends on their will to do so.”
In the final analysis, I believe Rose Koh, who received the Pingat Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Medal) from the government, is a mini-Singaporean heartlander version of (the late) Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India.
She adoringly says: “Giving up is not an option. This is what I am here for. Having served for more than 23 years and handled more cases than I can keep count, I have never once wavered.
“Even with my slipped disc injury, I still want to keep going because my job is not done yet and there are residents who still need my help. I hope that I can stay healthy and continue to do what I do for a long time more.”
This is the true Rose-hearted volunteer of Nee Soon East: Rose Koh.
Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist, who serves Nee Soon East under MP Louis Ng Kok Kwang. He sits on the Nee Soon East Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC).