293 neighbours lauded for kind acts

Retired merchant sailor Haji Rugiman Supa'at has not gone on a holiday with his wife for the past 20 years - until last month, when they went to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam for a four-day break.

But even on holiday, Mr Rugiman often thought about the well-being of an 80-year-old man with heart problems and his five children, aged 49 to 58, who all have Down syndrome.

They are his neighbours in Tampines, and although they are not related to him, Mr Rugiman, 62, considers them family.

"I was worried that they were not eating enough and no one was really cleaning the flat," he said.

He first got to know the family 15 years ago and has been helping out at their house, which used to be a 10-minute walk from his flat before the family moved to a two-room flat six floors below him.

Mr Rugiman cooks and cleans for his "extended family" every day. When the older man, who is known only as Mr Zakaria, fell ill and had heart attacks, Mr Rugiman accompanied him to the hospital and took care of the children.

Mr Rugiman, a father of three, has been reminded by his own children to scale back on his "duties" and rest, but does not intend to do so.

He said: "If I don't do it, who will? No one will bother, and then what will happen to the family?"

For his efforts, Mr Rugiman was one of 293 people recognised for their kind acts as good neighbours.

The biennial Good Neighbour Award, which was first launched in 2009, is given out by the HDB, People's Association and Ministry of National Development. The campaign is supported by Singapore Press Holdings and the Singapore Kindness Movement.

Also recognised yesterday for being a good neighbour was Institute of Technical Education student Lee Hui Shan.

The 18-year-old was nominated by her next-door neighbour Syed Izhmir for taking care of his six children for the past eight years.

"Most kids at that age would just keep to themselves, but she played the big sister who played with them and watched over them," said the 37-year-old safety coordinator.

Hui Shan has endeared herself to his family so much that she would sleep over at their place on some nights, he added.

But Hui Shan said she was just doing what felt right.

"I never saw many differences between us, and they have treated me like their own and helped me when I had problems too."


This article was first published on May 24, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.