Local Service: Lion Befrienders experience - “ By the grace of God, I am happy now!”
By Vidhi Shah, Grade 11, HS Campus Journalism Activity, East Campus
During one of our visits to Lion Befrienders, a local service institution based in Singapore, I spent my time conversing with Christina, an 80-year-old Singaporean woman of Malaysian-Chinese descent who has been a part of Lion Befrienders for four years.
While sharing her hobbies, I learnt that Christina enjoys listening to old traditional English songs, unlike the average elderly Singaporean, especially the Christmas carols.
While discussing the changes she has witnessed in Singapore over the years, Christina reminisces, “What is different about Singapore today? Hmm...It is very modern today, unlike those days...” Her daily routine includes at least one visit to the hawker centre. The nuances of traditional Singaporean food, back in her kampong remain at the forefront of her heart.
Speaking about her working life, Christina narrated how she used to work in Changi Airport for 15 years as a ground staff personnel. She bemoans how Changi Airport has become advanced in all aspects, from its initial foundation.
Her family includes two sons who live in Singapore. She lives alone, isolated from her family members on a daily basis as she didn’t want to stay with any of her daughters-in-law; she felt that she would be interfering and there would be clashes in viewpoints.
The past flashbacked meticulously in her mind.
Being a daughter-in-law herself as part of her husband’s large family, she was ill-treated by her in-laws. No love... just the harsh realities of life, impacting her. Nor was her childhood pleasant. Her father passed away when she was six years old and she received no mother’s love. Her mother constantly humiliated her and beat her at times, as she didn’t appreciate having a female child. Christina felt that her only purpose for existence was being the “slave of the family” - constricted to household duties. The epitomic female in those days.
Her only companion and well-wisher, amidst the destiny which followed her, was her uncle who sent her to study in a convent boarding school. He believed that she would learn skills there to make a reasonable living. However, her wretched past haunted her, so much so, that at one point she was under severe depression. Her uncle had to admit her to a mental hospital for rehabilitation.
While conversing with me, she said that since she's interested in singing, “I take part in a funeral choir as I feel that it is my duty to sing for them.” Her outlook on finding positivity in all the joys and sorrows faced in life was life-changing for me.
The silver lining for her is the love and financial support from her sons and now a grandson. She goes to visit them on joyous occasions. Her sons are devoted to her, and her grandson looks up to his grandmother as a role model of kindness. Yet it isn’t the same feeling as staying together with them, all united as one. Nevertheless, she is happy. Christina fondly beams, “My children are my strength.”