Making room for good luck this Lunar New Year
Getting the stamp of approval for our volunteers over the weekend from Uncle Png meant so much more, coming from someone who is still very much the 'Superman' of the family. At 75 years old, Uncle Png carries not only the full weight of caregiver to his wife, but also the responsibility of his 3 adult children with intellectual challenges while juggling everyday household chores.
His wife's diagnosis of depression and Schizophrenia gradually led to her mental and physical decline over the last 4 years. "I have to shower her; feed her; bring her to the toilet 5 times a day, in the middle of the night too," said Uncle Png.
When we first met him in December, a growing bed bug infestation in his living room and bedrooms added another unnecessary burden on his shoulders. He saw the first signs of bed bugs about a year ago but his wife's dependence on him made it even more difficult for him to tackle the infestation on his own. The infestation spread quickly to the point where his eldest daughter slept on a hard wooden chair instead of her bed and Uncle Png moved to a foldable camping bed.
“The bed bugs situation never used to be so bad, but there just more and more of them. Every 3 or 5 days, I would catch and kill them with my hands. I’ve heard there was a spray that can be used to kill the bed bugs ... but I just don’t have the opportunity to go out and look for it. My schedule has to follow her timing, her routine. We have no choice, that’s just how she is. She’s like a child," said Uncle Png.
Our first Project HomeWorks session in December with youth volunteers from our SMU Campus Chapter initially focused on clearing out the infestation in the family's 3-room flat in Toa Payoh.
After a day of clearing infested furniture to cling-wrapping new mattresses and sealing up all hiding spaces, Uncle Png happily reported the infestation was gone. Within a month, Uncle Png and his 2 daughters were finally back to to sleeping in their bedrooms on new and clean beds.
But it was clear that even after the first Project HomeWorks session, Uncle Png still needed a helping hand when it came to getting his house to feel like a home again, especially with Chinese New Year just around the corner.
Our second group of SMU youth volunteers sprung into action last Saturday to paint over the stains left behind on the walls and erase all signs (and memory) of the infestation - just in time to help the family ring in the Lunar New Year on a happier note.
"If we can finish painting the bedrooms first, that will be good. So that the girls can put away their clothes and belongings. If anybody stops by, the living room will be emptier and not so messy," said Uncle Png.
To the volunteers, it might seem like a simple gesture of helping to paint and spring-clean his house, but Uncle Png wanted them to know their kindness made a big impact it made on him and his family.
"When the house starts to look neater and bigger, there’s nothing to worry about. The earlier it’s done, the less I have to worry about - I can be happy," he added.