“I’ve journeyed with makcik since 2017, so we are very familiar with each other, and she opens up to me. When her husband passed away a few years ago, not only was makcik deeply saddened by the loss, but she also had to take on the burden of looking after her grandchildren by herself. I made it down to her husband’s wake to be with her and continued to support her afterwards in her care of her grandchildren.”
Mdm Lee Siew Lin, 56, makes regular home visits and phone calls to dialysis patient Mdm Tumirah Ahmad, 68, whom she endearingly refers to as makcik, to offer support as she navigates through her struggles with kidney failure and a myriad of family and social issues. For Mdm Tumirah, she confides in Siew Lin, who is a great source of strength and comfort to her.
“I’m glad that makcik is able to open up to me,” says Siew Lin. “As I can converse with her in Malay, there is no language barrier and this helps a lot.”
Siew Lin is a volunteer in the NKF’s Enhanced Grains of Hope (EGOH) programme. It is a home intervention programme helmed by volunteers to support needy patients by delivering basic food provisions and sundry, and providing emotional and mental support during their home visits monthly. The programme supports patients who are socially isolated, lack a strong support system in caregiving or lack access to health and social-related entities. The end objective is to help them build family support and re-connect and re-integrate into the community through the help of volunteers.
“Makcik is more than a friend,” says Siew Lin. “We are like family. Sometimes, I bring my husband and children along for visits. Our families have come to know each other.”
“Siew Lin always shows care and concern for my family and offers to help. During the Covid period, when I didn’t have the strength to go out and buy necessities, she would help me with it.”
– Mdm Tumirah, who is grateful to Siew Lin for helping out her family
When Mdm Tumirah went for a ballooning procedure recently, Siew Lin encouraged her to be mentally strong and checked in with her after the procedure to provide support. She also reaches out to one of Mdm Tumirah’s grandsons who is in his early adolescence to provide encouragement and reassurance as he is exposed to overwhelming external and internal struggles during this teenage growth stage.
Siew Lin keeps makcik’s social worker at NKF updated about Mdm Tumirah’s health needs and social issues her family is facing so that NKF can step in to help if needed. Through volunteering in EGOH, she is glad to have the opportunity to befriend patients like makcik.
“It comes with the perspective of experience and maturity,” added Siew Lin. “For me, it was one of the NKF workshops that I attended which helped me understand what my role is. It is not about giving them a solution, but rather offering practical and emotional support.”
Siew Lin began her volunteering service with NKF in 2014. Back then, she stopped her full-time job as a legal director to spend more time with her two children. She also wanted to do more church work and take up volunteering opportunities. She started off volunteering as a patient escort with NKF. Most patients experience difficulties such as transferring to and from their chairs, requiring walking aids or having poor vision and need help for their mobility and travel needs. Many are also elderly and wheelchair-bound. Patients are required to travel to a dialysis centre for their thrice-weekly haemodialysis treatment, as well as trips for regular hospital appointments. Hence, volunteers like Siew Lin play an important role in improving patients’ access to their medical treatment and helping to ensure their safety by aiding and escorting them.
When she later decided to take up part-time consultancy work, she focused on helping patients through EGOH because it gave her a fixed schedule.
“Volunteering at NKF has been an enriching journey and I’m just happy that I can do a small part to help someone in need in very practical ways.” says Siew Lin. “You start as a friend. Genuine concern and care must come from the heart, and not as a duty. You’ll be surprised by what you can learn. What I’ve learned is to have compassion for people and to realise that there are those within our community who need a helping hand.”
“Volunteering at NKF has been an enriching journey and I’m just happy that I can do a small part to help someone in need in very practical ways.”
– Siew Lin, who provides emotional and social support to dialysis patient Mdm Tumirah through EGOH