Main caption: Ex-cabby Mr Chew now spends his time meaningfully engaged in the community
Ang Mo Kio resident Mr Chew Po Ngee, 70, enjoys talking to people. The veteran cabby of 20 years is also an expert in body language; he knows when to speak and when to keep quiet.
“I always remind myself to keep my cool when I am being yelled at. I have learnt to observe and gauge my passenger's mood. Just remain calm and the anger goes away.” said Mr Chew.
Prior to driving a taxi, Mr Chew spent 30 years working in a multi-national company specialising in shoe polish. Known as “Kiwi Chew” by his colleagues, he rose steadily though the ranks, starting as a store clerk to become the company’s distribution manager. He was approachable, readily rendered help and related well with people of all levels - from his chief executive officer to the production workers.
“My colleagues used to approach me to mediate manpower issues. They trusted me and think I can negotiate. As I dealt with the banks in my job, having others trust you is important,” said Mr Chew.
When his company relocated overseas in 1995, Mr Chew was retrenched. He then became a cabby at the age of 47 and later retired at 66 after undergoing a back operation.
In the right direction
Mr Chew became a "lone ranger”. At home and with time on his hands, he helped with the housework while his wife and two children were at work.
“Although I have lived in Ang Mo Kio for 40 years, I hardly knew anyone! I think it is because I worked night shifts, so how to meet people? I just spent my time watching TV. Even if I wanted to go out, I didn’t know where to go,” said Mr Chew.
In 2016, Mr Chew’s life took a positive turn when he received a flyer from TOUCH Caregivers Support (TCG) about a strength training session to be held at a void deck near his home. Out of curiosity, he responded to the invitation.
“The timing was good. I was looking for an opportunity to exercise then. When I saw the other residents, I realised they were all strangers. I only got to know them better after several sessions. Soon we started to chit chat. You just need to be friendly and sincere, and people will trust you,” said Mr Chew with a smile.
Caption: Mr Chew (first row left) exercising with residents at a void deck as part of TOUCH’s efforts to engage and enable residents.
Caption: Mr Chew has found a community of support and is now ready to help others.
Once helpful, always helpful
“It brings me joy to help other seniors, especially those who can’t really walk. And when I see them becoming more self-reliant, like 71-year-old Mr Adrian Ng, who now finds it easier to get into a taxi on his own, I feel so happy for them.” said Mr Chew.
Mr Chew also enjoys helping 84-year-old Mr Lum Cheok Fong. “He tends to face the opposite direction so I need to guide him so he can follow the steps.” quipped Mr Chew.
Caption: Mr Chew (left) assisting Mr Lum (right) at a strength training session
Caption: Mr Chew (first from left) together with resident volunteers at the Community Health Screening at Chong Boon Market
Healthwise, Mr Chew is pleased. His cholesterol level has gone down and he feels more energised. Mr Chew also started befriending TCG staff, and is now more aware of resources in the community that support seniors and caregivers.
“I feel more confident in helping older people now. Even if I don’t know the answers, I will let TOUCH know and they can come in to help.” said Mr Chew.
Mr Chew has become one of TCG’s most active volunteers, helping out at community events and providing logistical support for the exercise sessions.
“Mr Chew’s story is an excellent example of what we are trying to achieve through our community enablement efforts - where we intentionally build platforms for residents to connect with one another and contribute to each others’ well-being. We are happy to be part of this organic process where residents are motivated to help one another,” said Mr Kelvin Lee, TCG’s Manager.