She keeps hope alive for others and herself

Since she was 16, Madam Fion Phua has been going to orphanages and old folks' homes to do volunteer work.

In 2007, she set up an informal volunteer group called Keeping Hope Alive (KHA) to meet the urgent needs of the less privileged.

From a one-woman charity, KHA has grown to a large community of over 50 volunteers.

Yesterday, the group won the 2015 President's Award for Informal Group at the President's Volunteerism & Philanthropy Awards (PVPA).

Madam Phua, 45, a club membership broker, said of her volunteer group: "Keeping Hope Alive is my life. It's in my blood and winning the award is not a self achievement but a group achievement."

Every Sunday at 7.30am, KHA volunteers go knocking on doors of one or two-room rented flats to identify the needs of each resident and provide them with immediate help.

For example, elderly residents who may slip on bathroom floors get anti-slip mats and motion sensors for their flats. The group also install wooden ramps at the doorways of those who are wheelchair-bound to enable them to get in and out easily.

The volunteers distribute food, clean houses and provide furniture and household appliances.

They also help pay for the residents' bills, groceries and arrears.

One volunteer, Ms Victoria Teo, 32, a secondary school teacher, said: "I decided to volunteer with KHA because of its model of volunteer work, where it's very hands on and everyone helps out. It's not like when you go to an old folks home and just sing songs for them."

Madam Phua may have visited many flats, but there's one she is unlikely to forget.


She recalled, while visiting a flat, volunteers could smell a stench coming from one of the homes.

When they knocked on the door, a woman answered and told them to keep quiet as her mother was "sleeping".

The mother had actually died two days earlier.

Madam Phua said she was upset when she found out that other residents had noticed the smell, but did not do anything..

"This is the problem with society. People sometimes don't care about others because they feel like they can't even handle their life so why care about other people?" she said.

She hopes that Singaporeans do not just pity the needy but have compassion for them.

"Doing volunteer work enriches my heart and I do not just keep the hope alive for others, but I also keep hope alive for myself," she said.

This article was first published on Oct 15, 2015.
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