While you were probably still asleep on a Sunday morning, our team was already out on a mission to clear up the house of a lonely lady staying in a one-room flat in Jalan Bukit Merah.
Huiting was arranging the cleaning a few weeks ago together with the earlier free soup project for the residents (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152994532110307.1073741858.653480306), but luckily we did not put the projects on the same day, otherwise we might need to work until late evening.
The flat’s condition was definitely unsuitable for human beings to live in. It was packed almost fully that at any point of time, only a few people could step in; anyway, it was just too dirty and dusty, with a foul smell, that not many people would want to do that. We could not even see her single size bed and she was very used to sleep on a chair instead.
Elderly would not want to throw away any useless stuff because the item might come into good use in future (if they could locate the item). Moreover, many things were parts of their lives and dumping any was kind of like throwing their memories away. If your mum was from a very poor family throughout her life, you could probably been living in a messy house like mine, but trust me, your living condition could never be as bad as that.
We used gloves and masks. Some gloves were torn and my hands were most of the time soaked in water since I had to dip the cloths into the pails of water often. The masks could not filter off the smell and Yonghao had to change a few because they were soaked in his sweat.
The corridor was packed with her items, stretching to around three doors away. I made many trips down to the garbage collection centre with heavvy loads. Each time the auntie said yes to throwing any item, we would cheer because that would lessen the mess.
During lunch time, we bumped into a big group of SMU students who were on their mission to interact with the elderly over the area to find out their problems and needs. They were very nice to send manpower over to assist us despite they were very busy as well.
The auntie was not someone who took things by granted. She apologised and thanked us very often. She even called a friend to buy can drinks for us. She also forced us to take a special edition Singapore coin each by threatening to chase us away.
We went to Tanglin Halt with two big red plastic bags of her clothes to wash while we had our dinner over there. Then, we brought them to return to the auntie before we set off to Yonghao’s house since his dad had to use the lorry. After that, we went to Serangoon Garden for dessert to end the day.
The photos were taken without using speedlite and thus there might be grain and blurriness caused by high ISO and slow shutter speed. My hands were in a big mess throughout. It was extremely challenging to be the photographer when you needed to participate in the mission as well.
Lee Yong Hao
Ahpa Sae Yeoh
Guo Yong Sheng
SMU students from SHINE programme
Camera: Canon 650D
Lens: Tamron 17-50mm F2.8