'I just can't sit back and do nothing'

'I just can't sit back and do nothing'
PHOTO: TNP

She was so moved by a report in The New Paper on Sunday that Miss Mary Nguyen Thi Hong Van turned up after work to spend time with a family she doesn't know.

Now the 19-year-old wants to visit the family three times a week.

Like many other readers, Miss Hong Van said she was moved to tears when she read the June 14 article about Mr Lu Zhi Quan, 22.

Mr Lu, a part-time ITE student, works as a freelance cleaner to support his 60-year-old mother, who had a stroke, and his sister, who suffers from schizophrenia.

Miss Hong Van, a Vietnamese undergraduate at Singapore Management University, said: "I just can't sit back and do nothing. I am touched by the report, especially the picture of them hugging one another and he is smiling."

ENCOURAGEMENT

She said she doesn't have much money but she wants to be there for the family to offer them encouragement.

Now on an internship, Miss Hong Van has been with the family twice and spent four hours in total at Mr Lu's one-room rental flat in Sengkang.

She said: "I was there to talk to his sister. I like his family. Even though his sister is a bit sick, she did try to talk to me. I really appreciate it."

Mr Lu's sister, 31, has been suffering from schizophrenia for more than 10 years.

He is the youngest of four children and his other two siblings - a brother and a sister - are married and live with their own families.

After his parents were separated, they sold their flat and Mr Lu, his sister and mother ended up at a rental flat in Ang Mo Kio. They also received ComCare Assistance. Mr Lu's father died of cancer last September.

After moving into the new rental flat in Sengkang early this year, Mr Lu's family approached social workers, who are assisting them with ComCare Assistance.

A Ministry of Social and Family Development spokesman said: "They receive monthly cash assistance as well as vouchers to pay for their rental, service and conservancy and utilities charges."

To supplement what they receive, Mr Lu works to support his mother and sister. Moved by his dedication, more than 30 readers wrote in to The New Paper on Sunday to reach out to him.

A donor, who wants to remain anonymous, said: "He is indeed a valiant, determined and positive young man, an all-round good old soul.

"When I think about how little he has compared with the rest of us, it brings me to tears."

Another donor, who declined to be identified, plans to contribute $200 a month for a year.

The 46-year-old, who works in the finance industry, said: "I have been poor before, so I can empathise with him. I don't want to donate a lump sum, it is prone to abuse, hence ($200 a month) so that he has enough to buy groceries and other stuff."

Mr Nathaniel Tan, business development manager of a cleaning services booking platform, said there have been clients asking for Mr Lu specifically as well as others in difficult situations.

Ms Joyce Ling, who runs a counselling clinic and a recruitment agency, has offered Mr Lu a freelance role because of the young man's interest in social service.

Ms Ling said: "I work with a lot of people with mental illnesses, and I think I can reach out to his sister too."

Reacting to the outpouring of support, Mr Lu said: "I am happy to see such spirit in Singapore. I hope my story can inspire people to bond with their family and support one another."

He feels there are others who are more in need than him.

"I'll take a portion (of money collected) to buy food for my old colleagues at a metal manufacturing factory," said Mr Lu. "I'll donate to a hospice and I'll save the rest for my future education fees."

He has been busy as cleaning job offers have poured in.

He said: "One 'Ah Ma' even asked me to teach her how to use the computer."


This article was first published on June 21, 2015.
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