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Story of elderly cleaner earning S$1,300/month to support ailing wife teaches volunteer valuable life-lessons

Lee Siew Yian said what impressed her the most about Uncle Ming was his gratitude, contentment and resilience

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Singapore—A volunteer was deeply moved at the story of an elderly cleaner with mobility restrictions and poor vision who earns S$1,300 monthly to support himself and his ailing wife. Despite his troubles, the volunteer, Lee Siew Yian wrote that the uncle remains “cheerful and optimistic” and that she saw “the sparkles in his eyes despite his failing eyesight.”

Ms Lee, who wrote about 82-year-old Uncle Ming in a post on her Facebook page earlier this month, asked that her post not be “politicised,” as what is most important is the lessons she learned from the elderly cleaner, and that she wants to share how people such as Uncle Ming can be helped “in sustainable ways,” just as she did by directing him to the agencies that offer financial aid and assisted him in his applications.

Ms Lee, who co-founded The Good Exchange and volunteers for Keeping Hope Alive 让希望活下去, shared a video of Uncle Ming cleaning tables at a food court, despite needing a walking stick to move about.

She had an opportunity to talk at length with Uncle Ming, which made her “a little too emotional,” she wrote in her post, obviously moved by his positive attitude toward life despite his difficulties.

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She wrote, “Uncle Ming is 82 years old and has no children. He gets paid SGD1300 per month as a cleaner. He has a wife who suffered (sic) from kidney problems and has to undergo kidney dialysis weekly. He takes a taxi to and from work everyday, which costs around SGD300 a month. He can’t ride a motorbike anymore due to mobility restrictions and poor vision.”

FB screengrab: Lee Siew Yian

She then told him about the government schemes that he could possibly qualify for and right there and then the two “googled for Ministry of Social and Family Development’s contact (MSF- 1800 222 0000). The hotline was quickly answered and an officer spoke to us and requested for his personal information.”

Ms Lee added, “The MSF staff assured us that a social worker will follow up with him soon after, which means he would be able to receive monthly support and aid.”

Before she said goodbye to him, she asked if he needed any other help.

“I am ok, just me and my wife, we have enough and the mosque gave (sic) us rice every week,” he answered, thanking Ms Lee for her help.

What struck Ms Lee most was his “inner fire and resilience” which make him “extraordinary,” she wrote.

“Today, uncle Ming taught me about gratitude, contentment, and resilience. He wants to lead a dignified life and fend for himself, instead of relying purely on aid.

His gratitude heart rose above all adversity and nothing destroyed his optimistic view of life.

Uncle Ming, thank you for being my teacher.”

Ms Lee ended her post by writing, “We also need to recognise that for some folks, working is a choice. There are also many people who reject support or any form of assistance. Before we comment, let’s get the full picture.” —/TISG

Read also: “I’ve never worked so hard,” says elderly cleaner about impact of Covid-19

“I’ve never worked so hard,” says elderly cleaner about impact of Covid-19

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