Network of help is heartening

Network of help is heartening
TOUCHED: RenovAID host Rosalyn Lee said she tried her best to hide her tears on the show.

SINGAPORE - As the latest host of Channel 5's reality TV home makeover series RenovAID, Rosalyn Lee meets many low-income families hit by illness and poverty.

In the first episode of its fifth season, which airs 9pm every Monday, Lee visited the home of the Tans.

Madam Tan, who has a brain tumour, has to care for her wheelchair-bound husband after his stroke. They have no children of their own.

Lee said of other families that will be featured: "There will be a father-and-son pair whose home looked like it had decayed along with the passing of the mother.

"Another couple in their 60s have to care for their paraplegic son in his 30s, carrying him several times a day from his bedroom to the living room and then for his bath."

In another episode, Lee comes across a woman who has to support her son on her earnings as a cleaner while her husband is in jail for a drug offence.

Most of these families need help, but do not ask for it.

For Lee, meeting these families was heartbreaking. But unlike previous hosts Belinda Lee, Paige Chua and Michelle Chia, she tries her best to hide her tears.

"It's emotionally draining because you can feel their despair. But I refuse to cry on camera," she said.

"I came from a similar background. I feel that if they are needy or desperate, the last thing that should happen is for them to see me cry.

"To me, tears often indicate pity and I feel like I need to be stronger," said Lee, adding that there were instances when she came close to tears.

"Maybe I'm odd, but I try to put myself in their shoes. For me, if someone were to hug me, I'd cry even more."

As much as she can relate to the plight of the families in the 14 episodes, Lee admits that it still comes as a reality check.

"I never saw how bad it could be. I thought my situation was the benchmark, that it could not get any worse. I couldn't afford new school uniforms, my cloth badge was in shreds and when my friends ate at McDonald's, I would go along and just watch them eat their burgers.

"It made me realise the real situation in Singapore. There are so many such families out there, some cases that we can't help simply with a home renovation. Like overcrowding, for example.

"On the flip side, it's good to know there is a strong network of help for the less fortunate. It's very heartening."

After the series ends, Lee said she would like to check up on some of the featured families.

"Some of them have potential to rebuild their lives. Sometimes all that these people need is a new start," she said.

This article was first published on August 25, 2014.
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