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Beautiful, Unwavering Sibling Love

For as long as 30 years, the Koh siblings had been staying together under one roof supporting one another with kinship and love. In the midst of helping the needy, the significance of their strong sibling bond was validated. This was unveiled when a group of more than 20 Tzu Chi volunteers were mobilized to do some renovation works for them in their HDB flat.

Photo by Ng Shey Ying

Rendering financial assistance

The case was referred to Tzu Chi Foundation by a hospital social worker in December 2007, when Mr Koh Hock Teck was diagnosed with a kidney failure at the Intensive Unit Care of Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Thereafter, several Tzu Chi home visit volunteers were assigned to follow up on his case and continued to render assistance and support to his family.

It was later found that his two elder siblings, Hock Seng, 83, and Wm Tee, 73, were also staying together with him, relying on his $295 monthly government welfare subsidies for survival. In view of their needy situation, Tzu Chi Singapore rendered an additional $200 financial assistance to the Koh family and a $100 transportation fees for Hock Teck’s regular kidney dialysis check-up. With help from Tzu Chi’s charity staff, an additional $700 living expenses was granted to the family by the government since 2008.

Revamping living condition

Financially, the Koh family has been adequately provided for ever since they are placed under the regular care of Tzu Chi’s home visit programme. Recently in March 2012, it was reported that their house fixtures and structures such as lightings, tiles and ceiling were in dilapidated condition.

“Once while I was packing in the kitchen, a broken tile suddenly dropped off from the ceiling and it almost hit my head,” recalled Hock Seng of his alarming encounter.

Concerned with the danger that might pose to the three elderly, Tzu Chi volunteers acted promptly on the feedback and mobilized 20 volunteers on 15 April to carry out cleaning, repairing and painting works for the family.

“So many of you are here today! Thank you so much,” exclaimed the elder brother Hock Seng as he greeted and welcomed the Tzu Chi volunteers that morning.

The team started off by assessing the living room and kitchen conditions to determine the actions required. Not much of furniture shifting was required except the sofa set, as the siblings have done some of the shifting a day before into their bedrooms. Though old age, the Kohs were considerate and very much self-reliant.

As the work began, they were told to rest and wait in their respective bedrooms, while few of our volunteers took the opportunity to chat with them and find out more about their lives.

Brotherly love

All unmarried, the Koh siblings have depended on each other for the past 30 years and so they are very close to each other.

Hock Seng, the eldest among the three, has been taking care of his younger brother and sister unconditionally. Every week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, he would accompany Hock Teck to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) Dialysis Centre for his dialysis treatment. Thereafter at noon, he would buy lunch for his younger sister Wm Tee who has to stay at home due to spine-induced walking difficulty.

Looking after a sick sibling could be a stressful and unpleasant task for some, but for Hock Seng, he took it on happily and always shows his care and concern for his brother and sister.

“When the nurses are busy, I help them to take blood pressure and blood temperature for my brother. I know that when his protein level is low, he cannot do dialysis. One day, he has to take three eggs without egg yolk,” Hock Seng shared with the Tzu Chi volunteers. While Hock Teck was sitting beside quietly, one can tell he really appreciates the brotherly love and attention given to him by Hock Seng.

As for Wm Tee, Hock Seng would accompany her to Tan Tock Seng Hospital for her monthly spine check-up. He also does marketing every morning and ensures that three meals are served daily to his family. Despite his old age of 83, Hock Seng’s attention to his siblings is admirable. He knows Hock Teck’s dietary restrictions as well as the amount he could eat. He remembers when Wm Tee needs to go for medical check-up. All he showed was his brotherly love for them. However, as age is catching up and his memory failing, Hock Seng now has to record Hock Teck’s and Wm Tee’s medical appointments on the calendar to remind himself.

As the caregiver to his siblings, he did not complain even he himself has high blood pressure and skin problem. He accepted his role wholeheartedly and all he wished is a safe and happy family for them.

The strength of their kinship could be easily shown through their simple acts during the volunteers’ half-day cleaning work – the three siblings, in their respective bedroom, would slowly come out to ask on each other whether lunch was taken or if they needed to use the toilet.

Contentment is bliss

While the three elderly have given us volunteers the opportunity to do good deed for them, they have taught us a number of valuable lessons – generosity and contentment in life, as well as not to take things for granted. Although they have been receiving support from other organizations such as the NKF and the Community Development Council (CDC), they would still share and give. Often when the goodies distributed were more than they could finish, they would gladly redistribute them to other needy people.

“One time they gave us three tins of Milo, but we can’t finish all, so we gave out two tins to others,” said Hock Seng.

The three elderly were overjoyed as everyone gathered at the living room to take a family photo with them. Their house was repainted, bright and clean after seven hours of “sweaty” work. It was worthwhile spending a day with them as all of us got to revisit the true moral values that we tend to overlook nowadays.

‘’Take what is sufficient for oneself and give some to others.” The spirit that Hock Seng upholds is so much in line with our Master’s recent advocacy of ‘eating 80% full and use the 20% to help the needy’. We are thankful that we have learned much from this lovely family.

Without much maintenance over the years, the 30-year-old house of the Kohs has showed signs of aging such as spalling concrete with rusty steel exposed at the ceiling and dark stained ceiling with peeled-off paint in the kitchen. (Photo by Ng Shey Ying)

After more than seven hours of renovation, the house looks bright and refresh again! (Photo by Ng Shey Ying)

Volunteers first painted the ceiling with primer, followed by white paint, and blue paint for the walls. The house looks much brighter with the new “make up”. (Photo by Ng Shey Ying)

“Women Power”! (Photo by Ng Shey Ying)

It was not easy to find the exact same tiles for replacement. The volunteers were thrilled when they got hold of the last pack of the tiles and here they are spreading thin layer of glue before pasting the tiles on. (Photo by Ng Shey Ying)

The floor was covered with dust and debris after a long seven hours of renovation. Here’re the volunteers cleaning up the interior so that the house can be returned to its clean state. (Photo by Ng Shey Ying)

The once dark and gloomy toilet looks bright and clean after the painting. Hock Seng was happy that the leaking pipe was fixed too. (Photo by Ng Shey Ying)

Though at the age of 83, Hock Seng still remembers every volunteer that took picture with him and his siblings during their home visit back in 2009. (Photo by Ng Shey Ying)

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