Thriving at home
Updated: Feb 11
When we first met 79-year-old Mdm Tay, it was apparent that she is someone who wears her heart on her sleeve. We saw it in her open affection for her husband who passed away 8 years prior, the pride she had for her home, and in her joy towards the little things in life despite her age.
Upon welcoming the Habitat team into her abode in Lavender, the very first thing Mdm Tay did was to lovingly point out her husband’s photo on the dining table. She then proudly explained that the two-room flat was the very first home they bought together when they got married over 30 years ago! Each time Mdm Tay spoke about her departed husband, her eyes shone with love.
It was no wonder that her home too has become a dear reminder of her beloved. The closet in Mdm Tay’s bedroom was not to be touched by the team – it belonged to her husband, she explained. Sharing the flat with Mdm Tay are also 8 cats whom she treats like her own children. Having raised them from kittens with her husband before, she shared that she has difficulty falling asleep without them.
Since her husband’s passing, Mdm Tay has lived alone. While she has 9 children (5 sons and 4 daughters), most of them have moved overseas or are married with their own families. At around the same time, her health started deteriorating. Asthma, incidents of heart attack, constant headaches, declining eyesight from cataract, and permanent mobility issues after a glass shard got accidentally embedded in her leg…the list seemed to go on. As a result, Mdm Tay was unable to continue her job as a cleaner, or maintain the hygiene of her home.
When the Habitat team visited her house, it was infested with cockroaches and bedbugs. Even after fumigation, remnants of the infestation painted the walls and furniture, with dead insects still hiding in nooks and crannies. The team set out to discard infested furniture and rehabilitate the home into a safer place for Mdm Tay to live in over 3 sessions.
And it was during the sessions where one could really see the pride Mdm Tay had for her home. She took an active role in assisting volunteers in the decluttering process – each item had its own place where it belonged. She was also more than willing to help whenever possible, from cling-wrapping smaller items to keep them bedbug-free during the sessions – or sorting through her lovingly well-kept photo albums.
Looking through the old photos, Mdm Tay joyfully shared her reminiscences with the Habitat team. When she was younger, she often used to party at the nightclub and travel to Chiang Mai. But the story which awed us most was how she found her daughter who had been lost for 30 years through a listing posted in the newspaper! Her daughter is now living in Malaysia. The story was even covered by the media thereafter.
These days, Mdm Tay still keeps an active lifestyle through her hobbies. She continues to cook, and she is known as the resident cat feeder of the neighbourhood. Every morning, afternoon and evening, Mdm Tay will head down to feed the many cats around without fail. Her regular spot has been marked with flattened cardboard boxes, and the neighbours instantly come for a chat once they see her.
We were able to meet one of the resident cats, Da Bai (Big White in mandarin), and saw how Mdm Tay eyes lit up the moment she got to interact with it. Having lived in the same place for 30 years, Mdm Tay has truly set her roots in this corner of Singapore, and it is a place which brings much joy and comfort.
Mdm Tay was also a recipient of one of our Sew Much Love Agape Blankets, which was co-created with love by Habitat supporters.
After the tireless rehabilitation process, Mdm Tay's home, a place of precious memories and much happiness, is finally safe and clean. Homeowners such as Mdm Tay are unable to be vaccinated due to pre-existing health conditions. Due to the rising cases in Singapore, we are temporarily putting a pause on sessions with unvaccinated homeowners to reduce their risk of contracting the virus. The team is carefully monitoring the situation and hope to continue serving these homeowners as soon as we can.
While we are presently unable to recruit new volunteers due to COVID-19, you can still support homeowners such as Mdm Tay by being our monthly donor. Visit habitat.give.asia to make a difference today. We also invite you to design a quilt patch which will be used to complete more Agape Blankets to show love to our homeowners!