It's their calling to care

It's their calling to care
(From left) Healthcare aide Subhani Silva, Madam Koh Bee Eng, Miss Chua Sor Bee and nursing aide Mary Jane Lentejas at the Red Cross Home for the Disabled.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Even on her days off, Miss Mary Jane Lentejas, 25, a nursing aide at the Red Cross Home for the Disabled (RCHD), would still head there to check on the residents.

She is among the 53 healthcare employees who live in an on-site dormitory located at Lengkok Bahru, which is near Jalan Bukit Merah.

The employees, most of whom are foreigners, care for more than 100 residents with severe disabilities, including cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia and autism.

It is a demanding job, and it is easy to overlook them.

But for the residents' family members, nurses like Miss Lentejas are a godsend.

Miss Lentejas left her home in the Phillipines about a year ago, leaving behind her two children aged two and five, and her fiance to work at the home here.

She told The New Paper: "Sometimes on my days off, I would still go to the wards to check on the residents. As a mother, I can understand how the family members of the residents feel. When they leave, they are worried."

When TNP visited the home on Friday, the wards were clean and well-kept, and the nurses friendly and professional.

Miss Lentejas, whose eight-hour shift includes bathing, feeding, and changing the clothes of the residents, said her job is not easy as some of the residents cannot speak.

"We need to know what is wrong with them, so we need to 'translate' their body language. When they cry, they may be hungry, or their pillow isn't arranged the way they like, or their diaper needs to be changed.


"We need to have a lot of patience," she said.

Healthcare aide Subhani Silva, 36, has been with the RCHD for about 10 years.

She said: "I like to help the disabled residents and I work with them happily. They cannot do anything by themselves, so we need to help them.

"When I was new, it was hard to understand what they needed because they cannot talk. But I am used to them and their means of communication by now.

"I am very close to all of them. One of the residents even refers to me as her daughter."

Madam Koh Bee Eng, 82, is thankful to the RCHD for taking in her daughter, Miss Chua Sor Bee, 56, who became physically and mentally disabled from a fever she had when she was nine.

The two of them are featured in a video on YouTube for the Singapore Red Cross.

Madam Koh told TNP: "In 2007, my late husband fell and broke his leg, and I could not take care of two of them. I tried to look for different homes, but they would not take her in because she is severely disabled. I was so relieved when the home took her in.

"I am so old, I cannot take care of her already. The staff are so friendly, and they take care of her very well."

Director of RCHD, Miss Serene Chia, said: "As most residents are unable to vocalise their needs, our nursing team is extra alert and sensitive to every gesture, sound or eye movement in delivering care.

"Though nursing is physically and emotionally demanding, many consider it a calling and would not trade their uniforms for the world. They are truly our unsung heroes."

How to help the Singapore Red Cross

The Singapore Red Cross is a humanitarian organisation dedicated to relieving human suffering, protecting lives and dignity, and responding to emergencies since 1949.

Besides its home and day activity centre for the disabled, the Red Cross serves the vulnerable through its blood donor recruitment programme, transport aid, food aid, elder aid and community first aid.

It also builds capacity and resilience through its training academy, and volunteer and youth development.

To make a donation or volunteer, visit or call 6664-0500.

This article was first published on Jan 23, 2017.
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