Lau Chin Leong started his volunteering journey with the Singapore Red Cross' ElderAid programme in 2018. He provides the precious gift of friendship and company to seniors living alone. Chin Leong appreciates that the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) trains new volunteers in psychological first aid and CPR+AED, which enhances their confidence to undertake their roles and responsibilities as an ElderAid volunteer. 

Growing up, Lau Chin Leong looked up to his mother as a positive role model who taught him the spirit of giving through her acts of kindness, generosity and care towards people. 

In 2018, a former employee and a neighbour introduced Chin Leong to the Singapore Red Cross' (SRC) ElderAid programme, which was being initiated in the northern part of Singapore.

Inspired by his late mother's selfless giving, Chin Leong embarked on his volunteerieng journey as a befriender at the age of 44.

Befriending the Seniors

After coming on board as an ElderAid volunteer, Chin Leong was trained in psychological first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation and learnt how to use the automated external defibrillator alongside other ElderAid volunteers. This training equipped Chin Leong and other volunteers with the confidence to undertake their roles and responsibilities as ElderAid volunteers.

Over the past five years, Chin Leong has been visiting the elderly beneficiaries regularly. Cycling from his home in Canberra, he visits four elderly beneficiaries who live in Yishun and Sembawang fortnightly, providing them with a listening ear and companionship. Besides the fortnightly visits, he also regularly calls on the elderly beneficiaries or gets updates from their domestic helpers.  

Patient and thoughtful, Chin Leong always looks forward to these visits. Conversing with the seniors in Mandarin, their conversations delve into topics ranging from well-known local figures to the history of Singapore. 

"My conversations with the seniors have been engaging and meaningful. They are inspiring as they remain curious about the people around them and society. Besides being knowledgeable about Singapore's history, they also contribute to the community with thoughtful feedback on services at healthcare facilities such as polyclinics and hospitals. They establish good habits to maintain a healthier lifestyle, and read newspapers daily to keep abreast with the news and current affairs. Through my regular interactions with them, I learnt that staying curious is the key to maintaining physical and mental well-being," he says. 

One of his beneficiaries is 97-year-old Mdm Tan, who remains as sharp as a whip and takes pride in her impeccable manners. Chin Leong shares that Mdm Tan has taken it upon herself to teach Mandarin to the Myanmar domestic helper engaged by her family. 

Chin Leong also often visits another Mdm Tan who is diagnosed with cancer, and has to undergo chemotherapy. Besides being enrolled in SRC's ElderAid programme, Mdm Tan also relies on SRC's TransportAid programme, which provides specialised transportation for the elderly or persons with disabilities to get to and from their medical appointments.

"Mdm Tan would often share her appreciation of the Medical Chaperone and the TransportAid team's thoughtfulness and care. A medical chaperone would accompany her on the journey to and from the hospital and throughout her chemotherapy sessions, ensuring she is well taken care of while she receives her treatment,” Chin Leong says.

Learning from the Seniors' Fortitude

In his interactions with Mdm Tan and the other seniors, their courage and stoicism stood out and left a deep impression on Chin Leong. 

"The beneficiaries demonstrated resilience. Though they are advanced in age and suffer from physical aches and pains, they rarely complain. They accept their afflictions as part and parcel of ageing. They also speak candidly about death and are not afraid of dying," he says. 

Chin Leong feels that the seniors' sharing has enriched his outlook and philosophy in life.

“When my mum was alive, she told me that volunteering is beneficial not only to beneficiaries but to volunteers and their families too. After joining as a volunteer, I realise that what she said is true. My frequent interactions with the elderly beneficiaries has forged close bonds between us. Through their sharing of life experiences, stories and philosophy, I understand the meaning of life through volunteering. The elderly beneficiaries inspire me to keep going as a volunteer,” he says.

Showing up as Promised

Having volunteered for five years, one of the challenges Chin Leong often faces is scheduling visits on the corresponding dates and times with his buddy volunteer. To ensure quality of care, ElderAid requires volunteers to work in pairs for the home visits. As a full-time tutor, his working hours, which are on weekday mornings and afternoons, are more flexible than most. However, most volunteers are typically only available on weekends. Once, a buddy volunteer pulled out from a home visit at the last minute due to an emergency. Despite this, Chin Leong decided that he would still press on and kept to the appointment.

"I believe that showing up as promised is of the utmost importance. It is the bedrock of a meaningful volunteer and beneficiary relationship based on trust," he says.

Appreciated for Staying the Course

Throughout his journey as an ElderAid volunteer, particularly during the Covid-19 lockdown, Chin Leong has stayed the course. 

It has been five years since Chin Leong started volunteering. For someone who only started volunteering later in life, Chin Leong has proven to be a passionate and exemplary ElderAid volunteer who thoroughly enjoys his volunteering experience. 

His tireless contributions are not only appreciated by the beneficiaries, they were also recognised when he received a Commendation Award at the SRC Awards (2020-2021). The award was a testimony of his dedication and unwavering contribution to advance SRC's humanitarian  efforts by befriending isolated seniors.

Singapore Red Cross ElderAid Volunteer Lau Chin Leong 1

"I am honoured to receive this award and would like to share this award with my four elderly beneficiaries and my fellow volunteers. I am grateful for SRC’s acknowledgement of our contributions," he says.

Besides forging rapport with elderly beneficiaries, Chin Leong's enthusiasm and warmth have also brought him closer to the volunteers. 

He was nominated to undergo the Volunteer Leadership Programme held from July to October 2022. Now a Volunteer Leader, he provides guidance to new volunteers in the ElderAid programme.  

"I will let new volunteers know that they are not alone, that they are part of a team, together with the SRC employees. With SRC's training in first aid and psychological first aid, they will be well-equipped to care for the elderly," he says.

Apart from providing guidance to volunteers, Chin Leong often shares his volunteering experiences with his family and has brought his teenager along to one of the home visits. Chin Leong feels that this helps with family bonding, while encouraging his family to also think of others and give back to the society. 

"I hope more people will step forward to volunteer their time and effort to brighten the lives of the elderly," he says.

By Tracy Lam, Volunteer
Copyedited by Ruth Lee, Volunteer


Inspired? Join us as a volunteer.

As we commemorate International Women's Day, we celebrate women who have made a difference through their contribution to Singapore Red Cross' (SRC) humanitarian efforts.

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred the Ravindran sisters – Nila, Nithila and Nithiya – to initiate Preciouz Drops, a programme that encourages people to donate blood at Bloodbank@Dhoby Ghaut and Bloodbank@HSA. The trio share their experience of dispelling misconceptions, publicising the blood drive and garnering the support of blood donors, volunteers and sponsors. They hope to inspire others to give the gift of life. 

Healthy, eligible individuals can save up to three lives through blood donation. With this simple but impactful act, donors give blood recipients and their families hope that their loved ones will be with them for many years to come. Yet, merely 1.8 percent of the population in Singapore are blood donors. Of this, only 22 percent are youth blood donors. This is a worrying trend as demand for blood will only increase with Singapore’s ageing population . 

So it is heartening to see youths, like Nila, Nithila and Nithiya Ravindran, championing the cause of blood donation. The three sisters are blood donors who share a goal of donating blood 30 times before the age of 30.

Singapore Red Cross International Womens Day 2023 Ravindran sisters 1

"The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how blood donation is an integral part of our healthcare system.  As regular blood donors, we were already aware of the shortages at our local blood banks, particularly during the onset of the pandemic," said Nila, 22. 

In an effort to do their part for the community, the sisters decided to support the healthcare sector amid the height of the pandemic. They kickstarted their volunteering initiative, Preciouz Drops, to encourage more people to donate blood.

Strategising for the Campaign

The siblings strategised to boost blood stocks as much as possible and decided on the optimum dates for the blood drive with that in mind.

"We tied it with a festive occasion, as we realised that holiday periods are when blood banks experience low blood stocks. To select a date, we uploaded a poll with shortlisted dates on our individual Instagram stories and looked at which date got the highest number of votes. From the results, we confirmed a date and proceeded to make a reservation at one of the blood banks," shared Nithiya, 18.

Rallying for Support

The sisters typically took a month to organise a blood drive. After selecting a date, they tallied the number of people who could donate on that date, while liaising with the Bloodbank@Dhoby Ghaut and Bloodbank@HSA.

Singapore Red Cross International Womens Day 2023 Ravindran sisters 2

"We reached out to friends and family to inform them of the blood drive and created a Google form for potential blood donors to register. Next we called the blood bank to get a group code to shorten the waiting time for our blood donors. We then embarked on our publicity campaigns, which included setting up an Instagram page to publicise our blood drive and creating e-posters and posting it on the Instagram page, as well as our individual social media platforms. We also reached out to the Singapore Red Cross, Red Cross Youth, Blood Buddy and to publicise our blood donation drives, and expand our outreach," Nila detailed.

Besides getting support from blood donors, the Ravindran sisters also roped in volunteers and sponsors to bolster their outreach.

"We garnered the support of sponsors – including Yakult, and boutique companies such as Scoopy’s Gelateria that provided magnum ice creams – to join our campaign. We also managed to get mask pads for our volunteers." Nila explained.

Overcoming Challenges

Unsurprisingly, the siblings had to surmount various obstacles to get people to donate blood, particularly at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Due to the fear of contracting COVID-19, many were fearful of stepping forward to donate blood. Dispelling misconceptions and convincing people to step forward proved challenging and was one of our biggest hurdles," Nithila, 19, recalled.

Another challenge the sisters faced was ensuring the safety of the blood donors and confirming their eligibility. 

"To overcome this, we shared advice on iron-rich food they could consume to boost their iron levels, and directed them to the Singapore Red Cross website to check their eligibility to donate blood. We also encouraged them to sleep early and stay hydrated. We hoped these efforts would enable more potential blood donors to clear the eligibility tests," shared Nithila. 

The sisters faced a multitude of challenges that tested their determination, but they banded together, battling misconceptions, tackling the pressures of the pandemic, and securing sponsorships while engaging youth through social media platforms. 

"Every time we lost sight of our purpose and felt like giving up, the urgent need for blood donations and the many lives that we can help save kept us going. The low blood stocks and misconceptions toward blood donation motivated us to do our utmost to encourage more individuals to join our blood drive," said Nithiya.

A Rewarding Experience

Despite the challenges, it was rewarding for the Ravindran sisters to see their efforts come to fruition.

Singapore Red Cross International Womens Day 2023 Ravindran sisters 3

"It was heartening and memorable to see many people setting aside time amid their hectic schedules on the weekends to support our cause. Hearing stories of patients who are given a second chance in life through blood transfusions certainly made the experience a rewarding one. We saw the beauty of humanity, with people from all walks of life banding together to give others the chance to live," Nithila mused.

The sisters attributed the success of their blood donation campaign to the spirit of unity, collaboration, and solidarity in the community and hope that more will be inspired to champion the cause of blood donation. 

"Preciouz Drops is an embodiment of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. We are extremely grateful to all our volunteers, blood donors and sponsors for setting aside time to participate in our blood drives and sponsoring items respectively over the past three years. We hope people will keep supporting the cause of giving the gift of life," said Nithiya.

By Arshad Shiju, Volunteer
Copyedited by Shahirah Ansari, Volunteer


Keen to donate blood or organise a blood drive? Click here.