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Brightening up the twilight years

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These youths are leading by example by showing gratitude to our senior citizens.

It all started when his grandmother had a bad fall in her apartment. While she was hospitalised, she was diagnosed with dementia. Although she was in a rehabilitation centre, her condition worsened due to the poor treatments she received.  

The harrowing incident inspired Valentino Tan to start NutriVille in 2011, right before his national service. He wanted to help other senior citizens, including his grandmother, to age better and happier. 

'FoodArt by NutriVille' is one of the three programmes introduced by the 24-year-old. It helps senior citizens learn more about food nutrition by creating food art. 

Valentino has conducted the programme for about 600 senior citizens across Singapore at various senior activity centres and community centres. The sessions are typically conducted once every one or two months.

 
EACH SESSION IS GUIDED BY AT LEAST FOUR VOLUNTEERS TO CATER TO 20 TO 50 SENIOR CITIZENS.
PHOTO CREDIT: CENTRAL SINGAPORE CDC 

"Most of the time, I would be leading the sessions. But if there is an intern available, I will encourage them to lead it," he said.


VALENTINO SHOWING A PARTICIPANT HOW TO MAKE PAPER STARS. 

"To me, all sessions are very important. When you start a social enterprise, it is important to have passion because that makes you look forward to go again," he added.

 
VALENTINO (MIDDLE) ALWAYS HAS THE SUPPORT OF HIS MOTHER (RIGHT) AND HIS VOLUNTEERS. 

Apart from getting funds from the WeCare Arts Fund, some programmes were paid from his own pocket. 

Ever since his grandmother, who was his main source of motivation, passed away in 2012, he turns to the smiles and laughter of the old folks that he has helped to push himself. 

Now, Valentino is focused on stabilising NutriVille. He plans to roll out more programmes and initiatives to impact more senior citizens in the community. 

"[In the] long term, in accordance to our motto "Your Social Kampong", we strive to be able to build not just a "virtual" kampong but a "real" kampong in line with our social mission for the seniors," he added. 

Another initiative that focuses on senior citizens is Extend the Feast (ETF). 

Organised by non-profit organisation Happy People Helping People Foundation (HPHP), ETF is a bimonthly event that treats needy elderly residents for a free feast in their neighbourhood.  

Founded by Mohd Nafiz Kamarudin in 2012, the foundation aims to raise awareness and help the poor who are living without necessities like food, shelter and basic healthcare. 

Nafiz, a full-time medic, started HPHP after being inspired by his trip to Thailand three years ago. After seeing homeless people picking leftovers from the garbage to eat, he felt his calling was to help the needy.


ABOUT 200 SENIOR CITIZENS GATHERED FOR THE FOUNDATION'S NINTH FEAST LAST SATURDAY.

For every ETF event, about a hundred volunteers are roped in to help in various ways, such as bringing home cooked dishes and providing entertainment. These volunteers are usually invited through a Facebook event page created by Nafiz.

Besides providing food for the old folks, each event usually includes fun activities like a magic show, bingo and a henna booth to keep them entertained.


NAFIZ (RIGHT) PLAYING BINGO WITH THE SENIOR CITIZENS.


A VOLUNTEER SHOWING OFF HIS MAGIC TRICKS TO ENTERTAIN THE CROWD. 

To reach out better to the old folks, the 34-year-old works with senior activity centres to spread the word about his ETF events. He also gathers volunteers through HPHP's Facebook page to look for elderly cardboard collectors and extend the feast invites to them.

After each event, the senior citizens are usually surprised with a "door gift": a bag filled with groceries that are donated by the volunteers. 

It was heart-warming to see the volunteers helping the senior citizens to carry their groceries. Some volunteers even provided free massages.

THESE WERE THE BAGS OF GROCERIES THAT WERE DISTRIBUTED TO THE SENIOR CITIZENS. 

Looking at the large turnout at the recent feast last Saturday, Nafiz is confident that ETF will continue running once every few months in the long run. 

His advice for youths? "Participate more in non-profit initiatives because these are the people who help out of goodwill without getting paid," said Nafiz, with a smile.