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Tue, Mar 08, 2011
The New Paper
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'I don't expect him to take care of me'
by Joyce Lim

TWELVE years ago, a couple told Madam Angie Ng they needed her help to look after their son.

They never took him back.

Instead, Madam Ng, who is not a relative, raised the autistic boy on her own. She was then 54.

Hers is an incredible story of love, sacrifice and compassion.

Madam Ng has requested that The New Paper on Sunday to not identify the child as she does not want his classmates to mock him.

John's biological parents still do not want to have anything to do with him. They did not call or visit him when he was hospitalised for food poisoning last year, Madam Ng said.

The 67-year-old caregiver was recently recognised for her dedication in caring for John (not his real name) by the Asian Women's Welfare Association (Awwa) Centre for Caregivers. She received the 2011 Model Caregiver Award. (See report on facing page.)

John (not his real name) was all skin and bones when she first saw him in 1998.

"I took him in my arms and he neither moved nor cried - he was so weak. He was dehydrated and his skin was peeling.

So weak

"He felt like a log to me. 'Poor baby,' I thought to myself. My heart went out to him," Madam Ng said in Mandarin.

Now they are inseparable.

At her sparsely furnished three-room HDB flat in Tampines, John frequently called out to Madam Ng. John said: "I love mama very much. I don't want her to die. I want to take care of her when I grow up."

When John was barely a month old, his grandmother had pleaded with Madam Ng to babysit him.

Then, Madam Ng, a single-mother with a 21-year-old daughter, was working as a cook at a food stall at Tampines Mall, earning $35 a day.

Madam Ng said: "I used to babysit four children before I went to work. John's grandmother lives in the next block and had heard of me as a babysitter.

"She offered me $500 a month to babysit her grandson full-time, and asked me to quit my job. I wasn't keen on doing so.

"But she kept pleading with me, saying that she had no permanent roof over her head to care for John as she was living with several children."

She added: "John's parents were not fond of him because he was born an unhealthy baby."

Madam Ng agreed and John's grandmother paid her $500 for the first month.

The money was to cover all of John's expenses, including milk powder.

On the second month, the amount was reduced to $450. It was later dropped to $300 then $70. Soon, neither John's grandmother nor his parents paid her.

Madam Ng said: "Initially the parents would take him home on Saturday nights and send him back to me on Sundays.

"When John was three, his parents found out that he is autistic and had wanted to give him up for adoption. But nobody wanted him because of his condition.

"They stopped taking John home after John's mum had another daughter and a son."

Madam Ng said she knows where John's parents live but cited confidential reasons for not visiting them. She said she tried to contact them initially, but she gave up.

But she did not give up on John. She just loved him.

Treating John like her own son, Madam Ng would bake him a cake on his birthday every year. His parents did not take him home on these special days.

Mr Yong Chong Ye, 25, whom Madam Ng looked after since he was a baby before she took in John, recalled how Madam Ng often broke down and cried whenever she spoke about John.

Mr Yong, an IT applications consultant said: "She's not well-to-do and struggles to provide for the boy. She has a big heart and she is like a second mother to me."

At that time, Madam Ng's daughter had just started working "in an office" and was contributing about $200 to $300 to the household expenses monthly.

Not enough

But it was not enough. So Madam Ng took on part-time work like sewing clothes late into the night for her neighbours to earn some extra money.

On good months, she could make slightly over $100. During bad times, she had to pawn her jewellery to make ends meet.

She said: "Life was tough. There were days when I was left with only $2 to $3. I would buy a packet of rice for John and eat his leftovers.

"There were times when I didn't even have money to take John to the doctor when he was sick and had to borrow from the owners of the hardware shop or the hairdressing salon downstairs."

She added: "It wasn't easy to care for John. Even now, he needs my attention all the time.

"I had thought of baby-sitting more children since I couldn't go out to work, but when the parents of these kids heard about John's illness, they changed their minds about sending their children to me."

She said they feared that given his condition, Madam Ng would pay more attention to John than to their children.

Madam Ng recalled how she would stand by John's crib and cry after putting him to bed every night. "I was already so old and I was worried that no one would care for him if I met with any mishap then," she said.

But Madam Ng was determined to bring out the best in him. With John in tow, Madam Ng would seek out help from grassroots leaders. She wanted to be his foster mum.

She was later referred to the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) and managed to get herself registered as John's foster parent.

Children who are abandoned, neglected or ill-treated by their parents or guardians, can be registered under MCYS' Fostering Scheme.

As John's foster parent, Madam Ng was able to enrol him in the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds).

When John was seven, he took an intelligence quotient (IQ) test and was found to be suitable for an education at Pathlight School.

Madam Ng was overjoyed. She said: "My only wish for John is for him to complete his secondary education at Pathlight and move on to the Institute of Technical Education, so he can learn some skills to take care of himself in the future.

"Many people told me that I am lucky to have a son. I am 67 and he is only 13. I don't expect him to take care of me in the future. I just hope he can take care of himself."

Her story was most compelling

MADAM Angie Ng was selected out of 54 individuals nominated for the Asian Women's Welfare Association (AWWA) Centre for Caregivers' 2011 Model Caregiver Award.

She was given a cash reward of $1,500.

The centre's director, MrManmohan Singh, 51, told The New Paper on Sunday that the judging panel, which included professionals from the health and social sectors, found Madam Ng's story to be the most compelling, especially when they learnt of her resilience and resourcefulness in providing a nurturing environment for an abandoned autistic child and treating him like her own.

Mr Singh said: "She didn't give up on the boy as his parents had done."

The Model Caregiver Award was launched in 2007, with the aim of recognising caregivers' contribution and dedication to those they provide care for, and to showcase their stories as an inspiration to other caregivers and the larger community.

The caregivers were nominated by 25 voluntary welfare organisations and health agencies.

Help us reach out to them

TO HELP the elderly who are living alone, The New Paper has partnered the Lions Befrienders Service Association and Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Project Helping Hands.



It involves installing wireless motion sensors in the apartments of senior citizens living alone.

The system tracks the resident's movements and sends an SMS to a caregiver or volunteer if it detects unusually long motionless periods - for example, if the resident stops moving due to an injury or illness.

This technology, known as the NP's Elderly Monitoring System, was developed by the staff and students of Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Lions Befrienders has identified 1,000 needy elderly Singaporeans living in one-room flats as potential beneficiaries.


To get the hardware portion of the project up and running, at least $1 million is needed by the end of the year - $1,000 for every home.

Equally important is thxe heartware. Volunteers are needed to adopt seniors living on their own.

Their main responsibility is to receive and act on the SMS alerts that will be automatically sent out if the sensors detect unusually long motionless periods.


A donation of $1,000 will pay for sensors to be installed in one flat.

You can donate more if you wish to adopt more than one household, but any amount is welcome.

We hope students in the same class, colleagues in a department or neighbours on the same street or community group will come together to adopt a home.

Please make out your cheque to "Lions Befrienders", and mail it to:
Lions Befrienders Service Association (Singapore)
Blk 130, Bukit Merah View, #01-358,
Singapore 150130

Please indicate on the back of the cheque:
- Project Helping Hands
- Your full name
- Address
- Contact number

Corporate donors should also indicate their company's name (as registered with Acra) and their business registration number.

Donations can also be made by cash at the Lions Befrienders' office during office hours (9am-6pm) on weekdays.

You can also donate online at

All donations are tax-exempt. All funds raised for the project will be handled and disbursed by Lions Befrienders.


To sign up as a volunteer, please call 1800-375 8600 or visit

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