A Home for the Aged Sick.
LOOKING BACK – SREE NARAYANA MISSION HOME FOR THE AGED SICK AT BLOCK 87 & 89, CANBERRA ROAD
By R ASOKAN
Sree Narayana Mission (Singapore) was recently awarded the contract to run a second Nursing Home in Yishun. Looking back, I remember the time when the Sree Narayana Mission Home for the Aged Sick was located at 87 & 89 Canberra Road. During this period I served in the Executive Committee of the Sree Narayana Mission from 1978 to 2002.
Towards the end of 1978, Sree Narayana Mission (SNM) was informed that the Government’s Bases Economic Conversion Division was offering us two very imposing double-storied brick buildings at 87 and 89 Canberra Road, to manage a Home for the Aged. The Executive Committee was very pleased to take up the offer. The buildings were offered at a nominal rent and had the capacity to accommodate a total of 120 residents.
As the buildings needed substantial renovation before it could accommodate any residents, SNM renovated the premises and the buildings were ready by February 1979. We placed a portrait of Sree Narayana Guru in the new Home. The SNM Welfare Committee was entrusted with the management of the Home. It worked closely with the Aged Sick Advisory Committee in the running of the Home. A former employee of Naval Base Hospital was employed on a daily basis at a rate of $7.00 per day to look after the premises. The Home started operating on 18 Feb 1979 with four residents. A ‘Sree Narayana Mission Home for the Aged Fund’ was also launched.
One of our Executive Committee members, Mr Paran, volunteered to oversee the day-to-day running of the Home. The Mission’s Welfare Officer, Don Mathews, was then transferred to the Aged Home, and the Home employed an Assistant Nurse around the same time. We had a dedicated volunteer doctor, Dr Seng Kwang Meng, who used to regularly see the residents of the Home. Later, another doctor, Dr M G John, also agreed to render his services.
As the number of our residents increased, we needed some form of transport. In April 1980 a Datsun 120 Y station wagon was donated by Tan Chong & Co. By October 1980 there were 51 residents living in the Home. Some of the residents helped the Mission during its Annual Flag Day. There used to be many visitors, volunteers, and other well-wishers to the Home. The then Member of Parliament for Sembawang, Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, visited the Home during the Chinese New Year celebrations to distribute ‘Hong Baos’ to residents. Dr Tony Tan also declared the Canberra premises officially open on 22 February 1981, at a ceremony well attended by SNM members.
The Home remained at this location until 22 October 1983, after which it shifted to a new premise at the former Sembawang Hospital. To assist in the shifting operations, we were helped by staff of the Singapore Armed Forces and members of Chong Hua Tong Tou Teck Hwee, a Chinese Association.
The Sembawang Hospital was located on a 5-acre plot of land along Canberra Road. What was underwhelming was that though the land was huge in size, the building was too small to house the residents we had hoped to cater for. The Home’s nursing and support staff would report to the Matron, Mr A Ananda Cumarasamy, who was in office for a few years
The Home had hosted many visits by distinguished guests. Among them was the late President of Singapore, Mr Wee Kim Wee, who visited the Home on 30 September 1988. He was given a tour of the Home and he met the in-house residents face-to-face. He was very pleased with what he saw and heard about the care and support given to the residents at the Home.
In July 1987, the Home was adopted by the RSAF Sembawang under the “Be-Friend“ scheme. Members of the SAF “adopted” individual residents and would visit them to break their loneliness and at least once a week at the Home.
On 15 July 1990, the first ceremonial pile driving for the construction of a new building in Yishun was graced by Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, Chief Patron of the Project, the Minister of Education and MP for Sembawang GRC. The Minister, together with Mr Ng Pock Too, MP for Nee Soon Central, flagged off a Walkathon which was organised in conjunction with the ground breaking ceremony.
The Home’s Volunteer Corps was formed in March 1992. There were about 50 members and they would visit the Home on Saturdays from 2.00 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. to befriend residents. In their line of duty, they would provide emotional and psychological support to the elderly residents.
The new Home at 12 Yishun Ave 5 was completed in June 1993. Residents moved to the Home on 6 February 1994.