Unhappy over mattress move

Unhappy over mattress move
The owner of Nasi Lemak Kukus, Mr Lester Ching, intends to let people who need shelter stay over at his shop. He wants to provide food and accomodation for them and he is even thinking of hiring them as night watch. Mr Ching (the man in yellow) is posing with his staff. According to him, everyone there is just like a cohesive family. This picture is taken before the renovation.

As his way of giving back to society, Mr Lester Ching decided to open up his nasi lemak shop to strangers in need of shelter and food.

But one man who took up Mr Ching's offer repaid his kindness by calling the police - all because he was unhappy that his mattress was moved to a sheltered area in the back alley during the day.

That proves the adage that no good deed goes unpunished. But Mr Ching, 40, is determined not to let one sour episode stop his efforts in trying to help the needy.

"What society has given me, it is incumbent on me to give back," said the owner of Nasi Lemak Kukus on Upper Thomson Road, near the Springleaf housing estate.

After deciding to open his shop to the disadvantaged as a form of shelter after business hours, he put up a post on the shop's Facebook page about a month ago.

In the post dated July 1, he said he intended to put up a few foldable beds for "homeless folks" to stay over after the place is closed at night, and they can get "all the nasi lemak they can eat".

He told The New Paper that he was even looking into the possibility of hiring them as night watchmen.

Despite receiving a number of calls, the take-up rate was poor.

A few days after the post was put up, a 50-year-old forklift driver, whom Mr Ching addressed as Pontian, called to ask if there was a room that he could rent.

"When he heard that it was free, the line went silent for the longest time before he managed to utter a 'thank you'," said Mr Ching, who is also a commercial pilot.

Pontian showed up with his own mattress and stayed at the shop for a week.

Mr Ching said: "During his stay here, he would leave the shop at about 8am and come back around 8pm every day. He did his laundry here and ate whatever food that was available."

Pontian conducted himself well during the one-week stay, Mr Ching said.

As his shop does not have a lot of space, his workers took Pontian's mattress and placed it at the back alley during business hours.

Mr Ching said: "It was a sheltered area, but he was obviously not happy with this arrangement because after one week, he decided to call the cops on my staff."

The odd thing was that he never raised the matter with Mr Ching or his staff and they found out about his grievance only when the police showed up.

"He was pretty solemn and did not show any anger. We found out that he was unhappy only when he called the cops," Mr Ching said.

The police officer told them to settle the dispute themselves.

Mr Ching felt he had no choice but to ask the man to leave. He is understood to be sharing a rented room with another person now.

This incident taught Mr Ching to be more discerning with the people he invites into his shop, but it will not stop him from reaching out to those in need.

He said: "Regardless of how it turned out, I'm still happy that I managed to help him for a week."

This is not Mr Ching's first setback in his attempts to do good.

THANKFUL TUESDAY

About a year ago, he started a "Thankful Tuesday Project" where people could come to the shop, eat whatever food they wanted and pay whatever they wished on the first Tuesday of every month. All proceeds went to charity.

Mr Ching stopped it last month because "it was open to a lot of abuse as people thought that it was free food".

He said he saw security guards contributing $50 and others who were dressed to the nines "milking it for all it's worth". Sometimes, he would even hear the sound of coins being dropped into the collection box.

Mr Ching said he had to sacrifice a week's profit to sustain this every month, so he decided to pull the plug.

"But every time I stop something, I will start something else."

So far, his offer of free shelter has sparked two promising calls. The callers told him that they have someone suitable and would arrange for him to interview them.

Mr Ching said: "Now I'm just waiting for the right one to come. It got off to a slow start, but no issues. I'll just keep on going at it."

It was a sheltered area, but he was obviously not happy with this arrangement because after one week, he decided to call the cops on my staff.

yueys@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on August 06, 2014.
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