Friday, November 8, 2013

A Visit to St Theresa's Home

Last 19 October, Saturday, our family had to deviate from the usual routine (that is, waking up late in the morning from a late-night Friday movie or tv show). I woke at 630am to prepare light breakfast (a.k.a. heated pizza from the night before) and got everyone ready by 8am to take the bus to Montfort Secondary School (MSS) and catch the shuttle bus to St Theresa's Home. After a short briefing by the MSS Parent Support Group (PSG), we were on our way to meet, greet and entertain some special people.

The visit to St Theresa's Home was a joint project by MSS PSG and the Montfort Alumni, their first as a team, in line with the school's vision of "A Man for Others". St Theresa's Home, formerly the Little Sisters of the Poor, was established in 1935 to provide housing, food and medical services to the elderly. When I received the letter from the school about this volunteer activity, my first thought was "we have to take part in this project". It was on my birthday month and it would be a great way to celebrate by sharing our time being of service to some elderly people in the community. So there were no second thoughts, we HAD to join in this activity. Kelvin initially didn't have a good reaction, which I understood as it was a weekend which was one of the days he could rest. He even said no one from their class was going. But I convinced him that this was for a good cause - showing compassion and sharing our time with the elderly. To make the story short, I was able to convince him and his brother that we were going. I knew something good will come out of this somehow.

When we arrived at St Theresa's Home, we were welcomed by other organizers who got into the venue first. The hall was already prepared and decorated with flower balloon sculptures. Tables and chairs were set up for a lunch treat.

We wheeled the residents (aunties and uncles) one by one from their rooms/wards into the entertainment hall. There were about 40-50 residents per ward (a total of 200 or so residents), and 40 volunteers who came, so each of us accompanied around 4-5 residents into the hall. The first auntie who I assisted was a very friendly lady. She was quite chatty. She asked where I was from and who I was with. I replied I was from the Philippines and I was with my family (husband and 2 boys). She said I looked young she thought I was a student (I think my petite figure is always mistaken for youthfulness). She said she was single so no children to take care of her, but that her brothers sometimes visit her. She seems to enjoy her time at St Theresa's Home and has a very positive outlook. And even if the entertainment has not started yet, she was already very grateful for our presence.

I left her at the hall after finding a good place she was comfortable in and went back to the ward to help bring in more residents. I was separated from my boys as they headed to the second floor to assist the caretakers in taking the residents to the lifts. The second resident I was about to take was an uncle, but he said his brother came to visit and he will be going out with him, so I had to give back to spend some time with his family member. His brother was also an old man, but probably slightly younger than him. I could see the concern/care of the visitor brother as he talked to the resident brother. He even brought him some food, which I assume was his favorite because he was proudly showing them to me before they left. 

The next uncle I brought to the hall was so excited about us visiting and preparing some entertainment for them. They even called it a "party". One of the caregivers asked, "Rocky, do you want to go to the party?" To which he quickly replied, "Yes, of course!" Then he was strapped into his wheelchair before I wheeled him into the hall. He was a very tall man but looked quite frail. I had to make sure his legs were secure and not dangling while I was pushing the wheelchair. 

After several trips, most of the residents were already in the hall, while others had to stay in their wards due to physical restrictions or because they had something else to attend to (visitors, favorite tv show, etc). The program started with a prayer by Brother Thomas, followed by a speech from the PSG Chairperson Vincent. From then on, strings of performances from different groups wowed the residents. There was a lion dance performance, dance number, marching cadets' exhibition, wushu, and song numbers by the PSG. The Filipino resident caregivers were also called up the stage and performed a famous Filipino song "Anak" by Freddie Aguilar. They were accompanied by a local volunteer who was also playing the guitar. his rendition of the song was so spot on we couldn't believe he could sing fluent Filipino. The entertainment portion of the program ended with the volunteers singing "pass it on" (of course, I was trying to stop tears from falling at this moment).

Lunch for the residents followed as the volunteers took turns queuing up for food to be distributed to the residents. The teachers reminded parents and other volunteers to let the Montfortians do most of the responsibility of being of service to the residents as this one of the main goals of the activity. The food - fried rice, plain rice, curry, fried chicken, vegetables, meatball, kuehs - was catered. While some of the residents were eating, some PSG volunteers were going around asking residents to sing. The residents eagerly took the mic and brought us back to olden days with their renditions of their favorite English or Chinese songs. I could see they were really having a good time and that they were happy visitors come from time to time to entertain and be with them.

When they were done with their desserts, we said our goodbyes and wheeled them back to their wards, one by one, as they received goodie bags prepared by PSG volunteers. They were all grateful for the gifts and thanked all of us as we brought them back to their wards. Their smiles were worth giving up more sleeping time. This was a Saturday morning well spent.

Here are some of the photos taken during our visit to St Theresa's Home.

short break as the elderly were finishing up their desserts

lunch time for the residents

the Filipino caregivers accompanied by our local guitarist

with Tara, a fellow parent volunteer and a friend for several years now
our family felt blessed (even with Ira whining at some point)
 to be able to take part in this sharing activity. I know it will sink in, somehow :)

There were several times I had lumps in my throat as I thought of their lives in the home. Some of them were really old and immobile. Some don't seem to respond to anyone. Some even don't have family members to visit them. It saddens me to think I will also be reaching this stage in my life and may also be left alone. But having met some residents who had bubbly personalities and positive auras, I knew life can be better no matter where we are or what age and state we are in. It's all in the mindset. That was what I took home from this experience.

For those who are interested to share their blessings at St Theresa's Home and make the elderly residents happy and entertained for a day or so, you can visit their website:

 Address : 49 Upper Thomson Road, Singapore 574325
 Telephone : 6256-2532
 Fax : 6254-4589
 Head of Agency :  Mr Victor Seng, Administrator

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