He’s held CNY dinners at Sree Narayana Home for 21 years

FOR many of us, festivals involve spending time with our families and loved ones.

Mr Chang Meng Kiat, 55, counts the residents at the Sree Narayana Mission Home for the Aged Sick as his extended family.

For the past 20 years, Mr Chang has faithfully spent the fifth day of the Chinese New Year with the residents at the home, as he funds an annual Chinese New Year dinner.

On Feb 23, he funded the dinner for the 21st time.

Graced by Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, the dinner was a lively affair.

A lion dance troupe started off the festivities for the evening, and Chinese, Indian, Malay and even Malayalam song and dance performances by staff and volunteers entertained the diners.

The annual Chinese New Year dinner is something that residents look forward to.

"It is heartwarming that Mr Chang wants to celebrate Chinese New Year with people he considers his extended family, and it brings richness to the residents' lives," said Ms Swapna Dayanandan, president of the mission.

Mrs Rajambal Krishnasamy, a resident who has attended the dinner for the fourth year, said: "It is something that is good for us.

There is a mixture of programmes from different backgrounds and it is nice to have the opportunity to see all this."

For Mr Chang, the $20,000 he spends on the dinner yearly is but a small price to pay to bring joy to the residents.

As a child, he spent a lot of time with his grandparents.

"But I felt like I never really got the chance to repay them," he explained.

His experiences sparked a desire to do what he could to help the elderly and make sure that the last leg of their lives was a gracious one.

A self-made businessman who deals in investments, he first heard about the Sree Narayana Mission through his mother-in-law's friend.

Though he had been contributing to other homes for the elderly, he was told that the mission needed more help.

Mr Chang, who is married and has five children, first donated to the mission 27 years ago.

Slowly, he started sponsoring groceries as well, engaging a friend who runs a provision shop to supply the mission with groceries.

Apart from his annual Chinese New Year dinners, he also spends his birthdays with the mission, giving out red packets to the residents.

To date, his donations amount to close to $1.5 million, but being able to help the needy is an intangible asset for him.

"I was not born rich," Mr Chang said.

"I had to work hard in order to earn my living and achieve what I have today.

I can afford to contribute now, so why shouldn't I?"

Over the years, Mr Chang's philanthropy has spread to his friends, who also donate to various organisations.

In 1992, two members from the mission's committee started SN Volunteers.

For the past 20 years, they have been spending Saturdays at the home, befriending the residents and organising events for them, including the annual Chinese New Year dinners, funded by Mr Chang.

Mr Jordy Neo, who was at the dinner, has been volunteering at the home for 10 years.

"It's the last phase of their lives. They can't expect much. Most of the time, what they really want is a listening ear," he said.

It was Mr Chang's humility that drew Mr Neo to the group of volunteers.

"As I got to understand him and how the group of volunteers works, I realised they are not after fame, recognition or rewards. They are coming in a very humble manner to serve, to provide and to give back to society," he explained.

Added Ms Dayanandan: "We are very grateful for his support. He is a very humble man. These are the kind of people who truly are role models."

Get a copy of tabla! for more stories.