Keeping Hunger at Bay
With more than nine years of experience as a warehouse assistant and supervisor, 54-year-old Mervyn Yip is an expert in logistics planning and management, and has a knack for seeing complicated processes from start to end.
Today, Mervyn applies his skills in logistics planning at TOUCH Home Care (THC) where he has been overseeing the Meals-on-Wheels (MOW) programme, a meal delivery service to frail and homebound elderly since he joined in 2011. As an MOW coordinator and logistics officer, Mervyn is responsible for tasks such as the screening and recruitment of MOW volunteers and the assignment of volunteers to the homes of the elderly for meal deliveries.
Although the coordination of meal deliveries is the main focus of Mervyn’s job, he also visits the elderly clients in their homes to gain a better understanding of their condition and needs. Though Mervyn’s job is mainly of a logistical nature, his work is still very much about people.
Explains Mervyn, “Work life in TOUCH Home Care is different from those few companies that I have previously worked at. Besides the mandatory coordination and planning, one of my current duties at THC is to attend to our clients when they call; they may request to change their meal type or cancel their meals due to medical appointments. Human interaction is what adds colour and meaning to my job.”
Mervyn (first from left) with the Meals-on-Wheels volunteers.
He adds, “In the course of my work, I got to know of a client who is visually handicapped. Despite his disability, he is the most polite person I have come across. Each time he called in, he would introduce himself in a systematic manner and is always a nice person to talk to. However, in the second half of 2014, he informed me that he was diagnosed with stage four cancer and would be spending his final months at a hospice. Of course, I was saddened by this news and arranged to visit him. Though physically weakened by cancer, he was still admirably positive and mentally strong. As we shared the same faith, I said a prayer for him and we parted ways.”
“I was told a few months later that the gentleman had settled into a constant daze and could no longer recognise anyone. He passed on not long after. Nonetheless, I am glad and privileged to have had the opportunity to spend a little time with a helpless person, and bring some comfort to him during his final moments.”
Of course, as fulfilling as his job is, it is inevitable that Mervyn faces challenges at work. Despite having a well-planned meal delivery schedule and roster in place, there are moments when volunteers do not turn up at the last minute. A missing volunteer would mean a missed meal for at least one homebound elderly.
“Ensuring that our clients don’t go hungry is of utmost importance to my team at THC. It gets stressful when volunteers don’t show up as promised because we have a schedule to follow and time is of essence. That’s when I’ll need to make an immediate decision to arrange for a replacement at the last minute or tweak the delivery plan accordingly”, says Mervyn.
Still, the rewards gained from the job far outweigh the stressful moments, keeping Mervyn motivated all these years.
Mervyn remarks, “I am happy that I can assist with one of the basic needs of the frail elderly – providing them with meals. For many of these elderly, MOW is their lifeline. It is not practical for them to cook or leave their homes to buy food as they have difficulty walking and many are homebound. Without meals delivered to them, the elderly will either starve or end up eating innutritious biscuits or bread, causing their health to suffer in the long run. As an MOW coordinator, I’d like to think that I’m helping to keep their health on track!"