Stories

#InMyKampung: Ah Tham

One man's journey from isolation to finding new family.

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As the main caregiver for his dementia-stricken father, Tham Wing Cheong struggled with mental and financial stresses. This worsened when his father passed away, which caused him to spiral into isolation and depression. “I felt like no one understood what I was going through,” he says. "Whether I was eating or watching the television, negative thoughts always lingered in my head.”

Plagued by feelings of guilt and loneliness, the Cheng San FSC beneficiary’s mental health declined drastically, until his Social Worker introduced him to a job at AMKFSC Community Services’ new 414 Community Hub. Unemployed for almost five years due to caregiving duties, the 59-year-old took on the role, not knowing it would spark a new lease of life.

Known affectionately as Ah Tham by fellow staff and community members there, he discovered the joy of becoming an integral part of the community and forming newfound connections. Beyond cleaning duties, Ah Tham acts as the caregiver of the place to ensure that everything is in order during events, and also actively participates in community initiatives, such as supporting the Hub’s free weekly community lunches and helping with ration distributions. He also uses his nifty fixing skills to play handyman to neighbours in his own capacity.

A year on, Ah Tham has since become integral to the hub, participating in meetings with fellow key members. “Here, everyone laughs together, and even the residents are good-hearted – they help out without asking,” he explains. “This place gives me a warm feeling. It’s like my family.”

His jovial self today is a far cry from who he was more than a year ago, a testament to the how being an active community member has empowered him and brought him out of isolation. “I managed to reintegrate into society,” Ah Tham says. “So I encourage others to contribute their strengths – giving back a little will do you good, too!”

#InMyKampung 🏠 explores the inspiring stories of everyday people like Ah Tham to lead community initiatives that ensure their neighbours do not fall through the cracks, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. If you would like to help us build more resilient communities, donate at https://s.giving.sg/Pwzs167.

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