A Thread of Hope: Comfort in times of isolation
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
This is Uncle Ong, a #projecthomeworks home partner and recipient of our very first completed Agape Blanket. The blankets were co-designed with volunteers under Sew Much Love, a new initiative under our virtual volunteering series for volunteers to collaborate together as a Habitat community.
We're glad Sew Much Love could bring some sense of togetherness for Uncle Ong, who is himself deeply-family oriented and yet circumstances find him living alone at home. His wife of 34 years had been diagnosed with dementia and has been living in a nursing home for over a year. Despite his own mobility challenges from Parkinson's disease, Uncle Ong travels to visit her every week on Mondays & Wednesdays.
“When you’re married, you must be concerned about your family first. Money is not more important than family. Without money, you can still get help (from family). But without family, nobody can help you," said Uncle Ong.
Photos of Uncle Ong and his wife at the nursing home (L) and on their wedding day (R)
These were words Uncle Ong lived by throughout his marriage, even as his family's situation became increasingly complicated when his wife's hoarding tendencies intensified.
The couple first moved into their current 4-room flat in 1986 after marriage. Uncle Ong's wife became a full-time stay-home mother after their daughter was born. As a sole breadwinner, Uncle Ong himself took on several jobs including working for a debt-collector company, deliveryman, taxi driver and security guard in his older years.
“When I used to be a taxi driver and was waiting for customers to come, I will park my taxi at the flea markets like Sungei Road. I bought a lot of clothes, (because) my intention was to let my wife and her younger sister to bring out to sell to make some money. But we didn’t have any contact so the things just accumulated," Uncle Ong explained.
The collection of items in the house started as early as 1990. The bedrooms became so cluttered that the couple slept outside in the living room for years - Uncle Ong on the floor & his wife on a reclining chair.
As the clutter grew, so did tensions in the house. Arguments over Uncle Ong's futile attempts to clean the house would escalate to calls to the police. “I just cleaned the dust only, and put in a plastic bag but she won't let me throw it. I called the police because I didn’t know anybody who could help," he added.
It was only after his wife was transferred to a nursing home with full-time dementia care in September 2019 that Uncle Ong could make some headway in decluttering his home. With the help of his son-in-law, his daughter and separate Project HomeWorks sessions, Uncle Ong has sorted and packed boxes of items ready to be donated. For the first time in years, he finally has a much-needed pathway to the kitchen and bathroom for his own safety.
For vulnerable Singaporeans like Uncle Ong, the idea of Agape Blankets created by a supportive community is just the type of comfort that can help fight against this pandemic-driven social isolation.
We invite you to contribute a design for a quilt patch that will be used to complete more Agape Blankets. All you need are tools readily available at home or on your phone! Join us and you'll be bringing warmth, comfort and hope through this practical and heartfelt gift 💝 Get started now!
Note: This Agape Blanket for Uncle Poh was sponsored by @unitedwayworldwide grant on behalf of the generosity of @bnymellon Social Finance Fund.