SINGAPORE – Peter (not his real name) has been a resident at the Catholic AIDS Response Effort (CARE) shelter for about four-and-a-half years.
Peter, 60, considers himself Taoist/Buddhist, but he said, almost shyly, “Every morning, I light a candle for Jesus. I come into the office and pray to the heavenly Father.”
“I’m taking Catholic food, lodging, everything, given by Jesus. So I must give back,” he explained.
Peter first fell sick in April 2004. He spent 11 days in hospital and came to the shelter soon after he was discharged. Back then, the shelter was located at Hillside Drive, at an unused secondary school, and Peter was an active resident.
 “I looked after the garden, the fencing, hygiene and all,” he said. “I got to take care of the whole place and I felt very healthy.”
He used to follow a Sister around the vicinity, chungkol and axe in hand, to look for flowering plants and replant them at the shelter.
They also collected and repaired discarded furniture to sell or use. “We were like karang guni,” Peter laughed.
After falling sick again in 2006 he has had to take his medication several times a day. He goes to bed by 8.00pm and wakes up at about 5.30am.
At their present shelter where they moved to in 2006, Peter keeps himself busy painting and cleaning.
He cooked for the residents initially. “Now we have proper ration so I just cook soup,” he said. “Those patients who just come out of hospitals are usually quite sick so we look after them for a few months,” he related. “When they feel better, the young ones can go look for jobs. I look after them and their needs. Whatever care I have from CARE, I give to them.”
There are 12 residents at the shelter now; six are working, two help in the office and Peter takes care of maintenance and cleaning.
Every week he goes with Sister Geraldine Subramaniam (who takes care of CARE) to shop for food, toiletries and all other necessities for the shelter.
Peter and his wife divorced in 2004. She and their two children are unaware of his whereabouts. He does not want to talk about his family because it hurts.
Peter likes art and he has been drawing pictures, making bookmarks, key chains and sponge roses to use at events like World AIDS Day or as gifts to raise awareness about CARE.
“I must have done thousands of roses and keychains,” he said simply. “CARE looks after me and I treat it like my home. I must work hard to repay where possible. The Catholics really do a lot for me. Catholic people make us (people living with AIDS) feel normal,” he said.
His wish is to contribute where he can to making CARE better known so that “when other people see that Catholics are doing so much through CARE, they will ask themselves, ‘what are we doing?’” - By Joyce Gan

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