December 23, 2020
Photos by: Bryan van der Beek | Words by: Aditi Ravi Balasubramanian
(Photo above) Two-year-old Hosea Teng, son of Blessed Grace Social Services (BGSS) volunteer Tony Teng, helps deliver meals to needy residents in Chai Chee as part of their weekly volunteer duties.
Volunteers mopping, refurbishing and organising homes once faced the same plight as those they now help: mired in issues of gambling, narcotics and debt.
As part of their recovery, they help others like them. They also work alongside student volunteers from Blessed Grace Church under its nonprofit organisation, Blessed Grace Social Services (BGSS), assisting families in different homes at Chai Chee on Saturday mornings.
They clean living rooms and bedrooms, while those like BGSS volunteer Mr David Chong even check showerheads to make sure they’re working. Mr Chong has done this for four years, and said the experience has been meaningful to him.
“After seeing their faces smiling, a few of them are very encouraging — [it’s] very touching. We clean their house, mop the floor, wash the toilet, clean the fan and everything. After doing everything, we find it very validating.”
They also assist seniors with household chores, before distributing food for lunch.
Today, there are 50 volunteers, who lead recovery groups, help the elderly and foreign domestic workers through activities like ChaiChee ElderCare and Foreign Domestic Workers Care Group.
(Above) Volunteers of BGSS pack and portion Saturday lunch for distribution at a void deck in Chai Chee.
ChaiChee ElderCare, a programme run by BGSS’s programme coordinator Ms Jenny Lim, 69, connects volunteers with the elderly, to help tend to their needs.
BGSS was established in 2014 by the founder of the Blessed Grace Church, Pastor Billy Lee.
The 64-year-old, who is married with two children, developed the initiative after he met a couple trying to cope with the husband’s gambling addiction.
“They had gone through many rounds of debt, addiction; the wife clearing the debt and the husband promising to change. The wife was deeply depressed when she came [to us] at the time,” he said.
For Pastor Lee, working with that couple was an echo of a more tragic ending 10 years prior. Back then, another husband in a similar situation had committed suicide — after killing his wife and two children. He’d approached Pastor Lee for help with loan shark debts, resolving to quit gambling.
Before he could, he succumbed to tragedy a month later.
“I had that flashback about the incident,” he said. ”It caused me to see that I must do something about it.”
So then he started a small support group for gambling addicts. The second couple, who also had two children, compelled him to seek a happier outcome for them.
(Above) Youth volunteers help clean the homes of vulnerable elderly residents in Chai Chee as part of their weekend rounds.
Soon, more debt-ridden gambling addicts joined the support programme, and Pastor Lee got them to help the community’s most vulnerable, and pay forward the help they’d received.
“We have them help the less fortunate,” he said.
Mr Tony Teng, 46, joined Blessed Grace Church 10 years ago and the charity BGSS six years ago. After serving a six-year sentence in prison, he found acceptance in the BGSS community, who he credits with helping him get his life back on track. Now, he says: “I have a decent family with two children… even my marriage was all arranged by church members.”
Not only did he get involved in BGSS’ activities, he ventured into its prison ministry to assist former inmates.
Coming out of prison, Mr Teng formed relationships with many people including Pastor Lee. Knowing firsthand the yearn prisoners have to form bonds, Mr Teng said that when he returned from prison he had to help his “brothers” with the same love he received after his release.
With Covid-19 disrupting its regular schedule of fundraisers and big events, BGSS is hoping for more support from regular donors and corporations or foundations to sustain its work.
This can be done through donations on their website and through SG Cares Giving Week Fund.
Blessed Grace Social Services is part of NVPC’s SG Cares Giving Week Fund, which was set up to help charities (with an annual gross income of less than $500,000) sustain themselves with the needed financial resources so that their good work for the communities they serve can continue.