SINGAPORE - Some months, Madam Mary Chau has to skip paying her utility bills when she needs to top up her ez-link card, buy a phone card or have her hair cut.
She gets $449 a month from Central Provident Fund payouts, but the money is barely enough for her.
After paying $33 for rent, $19.50 for conservancy charges, and $110 for utilities, the bulk of the money goes to buying her meals and essential items.
These consist mainly of noodles, vegetables and eggs. She also uses the money for sundries such as soap, detergent and cat food for her feline companion of 14 years.
"At the end of the month, if there is some money left, I can buy meat or fish for soup," she said. "Sometimes, I buy roast duck and share it with the elderly residents downstairs."
The 61-year-old divorcee, who lives in a one-room rental flat in Jalan Kukoh, had to stop working since a stroke 14 years ago left her with limited mobility in the left side of her body. Her last job was as a restaurant supervisor.
"If there's not enough money, (then I) also cannot help it," she said in Mandarin. "Who will hire me?"
But while she has struggled to find employment, the stroke has not stopped Madam Chau from continuing to help those less fortunate than her.
As part of the Caring Assistance from Neighbours scheme, she visits her elderly neighbours three times a day to make sure they take their medication.
"It's only me at home, so instead of doing nothing, it's better for me to go help others. They treat me like a daughter and I treat them like a mother or father," she said.
She rarely sees her own son and daughter, although her daughter gives her money if she needs to see the doctor for her high blood pressure.
When asked if she was happy that the Government would give her extra cash through the proposed Silver Support scheme, she smiled.
"$200 would be enough. At least I can relax a bit," she said.
This article was first published on August 20, 2014.
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