18th March 2012
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan
Dr Maliki Osman
cc: Deputy Prime Minister & Finance minister
Dear Ministers & MPs,
Young PAP (YP) activists provided excellent support for burnout caregiver
It has never been easy for me to take care of my wife who has battled schizophrenia for 40 years. As her sole caregiver, I have to write for a living to provide the necessary financial and social support for her. Matters have worsened after she was stricken with arthritis 7 years ago.
The severe knee problems which she faces makes it practically impossible for her to continue to help me carry my books and then sell it at selected churches and public forums. My wife used to cry when she sees me struggling to carry 100 books as I have problems getting relatives and friends to help out. But that’s the reality- when you are looking after a mentally ill person, you are all alone in this world cos’ most people will run away.
The thought of giving up writing completely though I am trying so hard to be self-reliant has crossed my mind one time too many, partly because I feel discouraged by the lack of caregiver support – an issue which I have raised in the media often.
But sometimes all it takes is for someone to believe in you and your cause, and you can bounce back once again. This was when a female activist from the Young PAP (YP) Cashew branch and a member of the YP Executive Committee, Miss Elaina Olivia Chong and her boyfriend - Ambassador (National Olympic Committee of Mongolia) , Albert Teo came to my rescue. (Elaina helps out with the Meet –The – Peoples’ (MPS) sessions at the Cashew Branch). They visited my wife and I in our home and went out of their way to help us, buying 20 copies of my recent book, linking me up with potential buyers and providing me with volunteers to help me market my books at a church last weekend.
The YP volunteers who gave me excellent support established good rapport with the parishioners, resulting in my marketing over 70 books, enabling me to put food on our table” and be well positioned to provide the recreational and medical needs for my wife. These hardworking volunteers were out in the hot burning sun, raising awareness of mental illness and encouraging their readers to support caregivers like myself.
The staff and priests were equally supportive, with one of them, Reverend Father Timothy Yeo, thanking the YP volunteers who rendered the much-needed support for me to carry on my caregiving journey. At the end of the book sale, Father Yeo spoke to the YP volunteers, who included caring Elaina, the tireless Daniel Huang & Jake Tan & his pretty girlfriend Alicia Qwek . Impressed by their dedication and commitment to the mentally ill, Fr Yeo encouraged the volunteers to carry on their good work.
I am deeply touched and motivated to carry on my writing career because of this wonderful structural support.
My perception of the PAP has been pleasantly enhanced by these YP volunteers who sacrificed their rest day to give hope, encouragement and support for those who sometimes feel that they are “left out in the cold.” This is an excellent way for the PAP to boost its image because many Singaporeans feel that the Govt. does not give much attention to mental illness. Imagine if this kind of support can be rendered island –wide. You will not only get more people in such conditions being uplifted, but Singaporeans will be more supportive of the PAP because this will pave the way for a truly gracious, caring and inclusive society.
I am enclosing some photos that were taken at this event. Thank you & God Bless!
Raymond Anthony Fernando
Reply from Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan on 19th March 2012:
Dear Mr Fernando,
Thank you for your kind words – which I will convey to Elaina. I am sure they helped because you inspired them with your devotion and care for your wife.
Please send your wife my best wishes for her health too.
Warm regards,Dr Vivian Balakrishnan