Volunteers of Matthew 25 help to serve and distribute the cooked food to the hungry. Photo by Angela Anthony
AMONG THE VOLUNTEERS at Matthew 25 are eight Chinese nationals. Most are “study-mamas” – women, usually from mainland China, who accompany their children to Singapore for their education.
These volunteers first came to Matthew 25 for the free meals. Now, they help out in the soup kitchen. Rita Seng, one of the Chinese national volunteers, said, “This is what I can contribute and I hope that it makes some of the people who come here less lonely and depressed.”
Ms Seng not only helps in the soup kitchen but is also helping to run a computer-cum-English programme for Chinese migrant workers. This is an extension of the Matthew 25 soup kitchen operation which provides Chinese workers a few hours to socialise, learn Basic English, and allows them to speak to their families online. The programme is held every Sunday evening 6.30- 10.00pm in a room in the church building.
It initially began with the use of English karaoke songs to teach the workers the meaning of English words. Gradually, the workers asked for something more. Parish priest Father Henry Siew and Matthew 25, are looking "exploring possibilities" of finding someone to teach them in a more systematic way.
Mr Kou, 33, came from China looking for a better life, but problems with his agent resulted in him having to seek employment as a cleaner. He said that the computer-cum-English programmes help a little in communication between Chinese nationals in Singapore and makes him feel less lonely. Despite his difficult circumstancs, Mr Kou was cheerful.
Apart from the Chinese nationals, there are some elderly men and women who volunteer. Some volunteer at Matthew 25 to escape loneliness or problems with in-laws or to spend time with friends there. “Everyone is welcome,” Ms Lee said with a smile.
She also welcomes teenagers and youths saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll sign for your CIP hours!” CIP stands for Community Involvement Programme, which all secondary students are part of. In order to finish their secondary-level education, they must complete a certain number of hours of community service. Ms Lee added that it was good training for the young to be exposed to the reality of their environment.