Paying it forward

Paying it forward
Caption: Mdm Ong is happy to use her cooking skills to spread cheer to frail seniors

"I did not know how to cook for seniors. But when I was told if I can cook for children, I can cook for seniors, that struck me! Seniors are like children. The food has to be less salty, nutritious and easy to swallow. I felt hopeful.” 

Mdm Alice Ong enjoys cooking. The 62-year-old sprightly senior worked as a kindergarten cook for four years before retiring three years ago due to health reasons. Mdm Ong used to whip up delicious meals daily for over 80 children and staff.

On her way to work, Mdm Ong would pass by TOUCH Active Ageing (TAA) located at Yishun Block 436. TAA staff started befriending her and learnt more about her interest in cooking. They continued to keep in touch with her after she retired. Upon discovering her special culinary skillsets, TOUCH staff asked if she was keen to cook for 14 vulnerable seniors in the neighbourhood as part of the Blessed Food Blessed Life project by TAA, where residents cook and deliver meals to vulnerable seniors in their neighbourhood.

Discovering strengths
“When they popped the question, I was doubtful. But when I was told if I can cook for children, I can cook for seniors, that struck me! Seniors are like children! The food has to be less salty, nutritious and easy to swallow. I felt hopeful,” said Mdm Ong.

When Mdm Ong was working in the kindergarten, she had upgraded her skillsets, taking up courses and getting her certification. She was taught how to choose ingredients, cook healthy meals, and follow food safety and hygiene guidelines.

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Caption: Mdm Ong preparing a flavourful dish

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Caption: Experiencing the joy of volunteering

Caption: Mdm Ong (left) and TAA staff Ms Doris Lim (right) with packed meals for seniors 

As a dedicated volunteer, Mdm Ong takes the effort to get feedback from seniors to help her improve her dishes. Some of their favourite dishes include braised pork and eggs, sardine with curry, cabbage and fried rice.

A community effort
As part of TOUCH’s community enablement efforts, residents, neighbourhood schools, community gardens have chipped in to help – from delivering the meals to sponsoring the ingredients.

TAA (Yishun) also collaborated with Ground-Up Initiative (GUI) @ ORTO Park to initiate a vegetable harvest project. Supported by corporate partners like Credit Suisse, staff volunteers and seniors worked together to harvest, pack and distribute vegetables to the centre for the seniors, as well as for their Blessed Food Blessed Life project.

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Caption: Corporate volunteers from Credit Suisse with seniors from TAA (Yishun) at ORTO Park in July 2022

Caption: Volunteer Mdm Alice Ong receiving fresh vegetables for her ingredients in support of the Blessed Food Blessed Life Project

“I feel so happy to see seniors tucking into my warm meals. Coming from a poor family when I was young, I know how it’s like not to have proper meals. Home cook food is still the best! Since I love cooking, I gladly cook for seniors. I do what I can to contribute to society with my abilities,” added Mdm Ong.

About the Blessed Food Blessed Life Project
Riding on the momentum of Yes2Healthy Life, a community project by TAA to promote healthy living amongst seniors, the Blessed Food Blessed Life project was launched in 2020 to promote volunteerism. Activating the potential of seniors, with the focus on healthy food, meals are cooked and delivered by seniors across TOUCH’s active ageing centres in Yishun and Wellington to benefit 45 needy seniors. This community programme has served as good conversation starters among seniors to bond, befriend and volunteer together. Community stakeholders ranging from schools to grassroots agencies and corporate partners have also been roped in to join in this collective effort to inspire hope and transform lives.