Poverty need not be unhealthy

Mr David Kan (middle) showing Mr Mareedar Subramaniam and his son how to prepare a healthy meal.
PHOTO: Poverty need not be unhealthy

They live from hand to mouth each day and their meals usually consist of little more than some rice and sardines.

Mr Mareedar Subramaniam, 84, and his two sons, 61-year-old Balakrishana Subramaniam and 43-year-old Thiyagaraj Subramaniam, survive on the former postman's monthly pension of $497.

About $300 goes to rent and utilities for their two-room flat in Toa Payoh.

With less than $200 each month left for food and miscellaneous expenses, eating healthily is most definitely out of the question.

And this month, they have to dig even deeper into their pockets to pay Mr Balakrishana's hospital bill for treating "water in his lungs".

Both his sons are not working. Mr Balakrishana is mentally unwell and Mr Thiyagaraj quit his security guard job because of a back injury.

Yet, even with such a tight budget, the family was able to enjoy a nutritious and healthy meal of rice-soy, topped with mushrooms and an egg.

They even have a 1kg bag of Anlene high calcium powdered milk, which costs about $25.

All these were provided and made possible by the Wellness and Meals eldercare enrichment programme, a project run by Family Life Centre, a non-profit organisation based in Toa Payoh.


Mr David Kan, 49, the centre's founder and programme director, told The New Paper: "We want to promote health and happiness for the elderly and foster independence.

"For this programme, we hope to offer holistic aid to the less fortunate."

This week, members visited shortlisted homes to make donations and educate the residents on how to cook healthier food. They are prioritising those with more serious medical issues.

Mr Christopher Chee, the community care director of Family Life Centre, said: "When they (the elderly beneficiaries) go outside to eat, the food is very unhealthy and contains lots of oil."

The Subramaniams were taught to prepare their rice-soy meal with guidance from Mr Kan and Mr Chee, who taught them a few basic steps to prepare the meal, such as dicing the mushrooms and how to properly beat the egg.

They also explained the use of the milk powder, which was specially formulated for bone strengthening.

Mr Kan and Mr Chee also visited Mr Lai Nga Woo's home in Toa Payoh, together with TNP on Monday.

Mr Lai suffers from gangrene, evident in his swollen feet. The 60-year-old bachelor lives with his brother, who is two years younger.

He often goes to the hawker centre at the next block for meals, which are unhealthy for him.

Said the retiree: "I'm happy for the help and look forward to the rest of the programme and planned gatherings."

Wellness and meals

The programme started by Family Life Centre, a non-profit voluntary welfare organisation, aims to enrich the physical and mental health of the underprivileged who are above 50 years old, and to promote health and happiness.

The project started this month and is now in the second phase, where members visit beneficiaries to donate food items, which are mostly sponsored, and teach healthy cooking and eating.

The first phase was completed last week, when the centre performed physical and emotional medical checkups on 100 people from the blocks at Toa Payoh Lorong 5.

Because of a shortage of volunteers, the group is starting with residents in Toa Payoh, where it is based.

The third and final phase, which will be after the visits have been completed, will comprise therapeutic activities and events.

The organisation is looking for volunteers. For more details, go to www.familylifectre.org

This article was first published on May 21, 2014.
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