'If we help, we'll be happy'

'If we help, we'll be happy'
"The elderly living alone are especially vulnerable," said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Saturday.

Community outreach project Ramadhan on Wheels will be delivering more than just the tangible to its beneficiaries this year.

It has set up a befrienders' programme to match around 150 volunteers with 120 needy households.

These volunteers will visit their adopted families at least once a month, talking to them and offering advice where needed.

Of the 120 households, 70 consist of elderly people with minimal family support.

"The elderly living alone are especially vulnerable," said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Saturday, in launching this year's project.

"Some do not leave their homes often and feel lonely and cut off from the community. Befrienders can... help them stay connected to the outside world."

Mr Shanmugaratnam added that families "in hardship" with young children are another group that deserved special attention and support.

"Sometimes, there are deeper or more complex issues within the family that hold them back," he said. "Without help and support, there is a higher chance that disadvantage could be passed on from parents to children."

Started in 2001, Ramadhan on Wheels is a yearly initiative that helps needy families of all races by providing assistance in the form of monthly food vouchers, home makeovers and other things.

Organised by the Malay Youth Literary Association, the programme has helped about 2,200 families so far. One of this year's befrienders is Ms Leila Abu

Bakar, 36, who found out about the project on Facebook and decided to sign up. She is looking forward to having a good chat with the elderly.

"The things that they talk about are very entertaining," she said. "The heartbreaking bit is that many live on their own."

The full-time operations assistant added: "It's only once a month, so it doesn't take much of your time. I suppose it's a matter of whether or not you really want to."

Mr Shanmugaratnam paid tribute to several of the group's volunteers, including its youngest - seven- year-old Adriana Syaqeera Bt Syed Umar, whose motto is: "If we help, we'll be happy." He added: "I am sure we and all the volunteers feel the same way."

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