Caregiver Stories

No Qualifications Needed, Just the Urge to Help

Post on 19/06/16

Caregiver C. H. Cheong has brought a ray of light back into the lives of many Survivors. He reflects on his very first day as a Befriender.


My first introduction to the Singapore National Stroke Association was through its newsletter StrokeWatch. While I browsed through the newsletter, my eye was drawn to a notice: “We Are Recruiting Befrienders for Ang Mo Kio Community Hospital.” I continued reading and I saw the following statement:

“No qualifications needed, except the urge and commitment to help others, straight from your heart.”

That didn’t seem too demanding! Although I had never been a volunteer in any of the community service organisations before, I decided to send an email to the contact person, Jimmy Yeong, for more information.

To my surprise, he did not take long to reply. His first comment on being a befriender was, “l am being honest – there is no glory in our work but your reward is that you know you have done something useful.” I liked his honesty and I did not take long to tell him that I would be at the hospital the coming Saturday afternoon.

I arrived on time and heard Jimmy calling out my name as I was looking out for him. I was then introduced to the group of befrienders. To my surprise, I met more stroke survivors in the befriending group than I had expected. This gave me much encouragement because I knew it would be easier for them to speak to other stroke patients and share their experiences.

clasped-hands-541849_1280We met and talked to a number of stroke patients. I was surprised and encouraged that the stroke patients welcomed our presence. They were willing to respond to our requests to move their limbs. Some even smiled. In a few minutes, many were transformed from being “depressed” to “cheerful”. At first, there seemed to be a “dark cloud” hovering over them, but in a matter of minutes after we had talked to them, we could see a little ray of sunshine and hope.

It was indeed very heartening to see them responding this way. Some were improving slowly but others were getting better by leaps and bounds. We found that the latter usually had a more positive attitude and heeded the important advice, “Never give up. You have to try again and again.”

I remember an elderly male patient who was very depressed and refused to open his eyes. His daughter was so concerned that she asked a nurse to approach us to speak to him. At the beginning, he was quiet and refused to open his eyes. But with much coaxing and encouragement, he responded well and we were able to make him move his hands and legs, and most importantly to look at us. Another patient, a bank manager, was encouraged by the visits of the befrienders and indicated that he would join us when he was much better.

After completing our rounds, we assembled in the cafeteria to share our experiences. I was amazed with the enthusiasm of the various volunteers, especially those who had suffered a stroke before. They showed much perseverance and courage to overcome their own fears and suffering. Deep inside, they knew they could help other stroke survivors in their recovery too.

We have come to the conclusion that it is important to have the right mindset in order to recover. Once a stroke patient decides to overcome depression, and wants to recover, half the battle is already won.

It did not take me long after that to decide to be a regular befriender of SNSA. I am convinced that though it is an uphill task, just by showing my care and concern, I can play a part as a befriender to help a stroke patient regain his confidence and recover faster.

If you’d like to become an SNSA Befriender too, do get in touch.

By C. H. Cheong, Caregiver and Befriender.

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