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Soul Food: Love and Care on a Plate
30 November 2015

Featuring the work of photographer Kerry Cheah, the article showcases the the love and time dedicated by our charitable volunteer, Anson Ng.

Article by Rose Ramli

Every day from mid-morning to early afternoon, the compact HCA kitchen houses a hive of human activity. As lunchtime nears, this activity starts revving up to fever pitch as chopping, slicing, dicing and other prep work gives way to the clang of pots, the crackle and hiss of food cooking. Seemingly chaotic, after a few minutes, an observer would note that the team of volunteers cranking out dishes for hungry HCA Day Hospice patients works like a well-oiled machine. There are no raised voices, no sign of increased tension as one may expect from a kitchen heading towards the busiest time of the day.

At the centre of this storm of activity, a man dressed simply in shorts and t-shirt, draped with a green apron as his only badge of office, stands over a huge wok. It is clear that this man, cheerfully adding a pinch of this, and a splash of that into the wok, loves what he is doing. He steps away from the wok, to have a word with another group of volunteers prepping food at the table, whisks away used containers, and still had time for a grin and a hearty hello to all and sundry.

Meet Anson – volunteer, cook and friend to all.

Anson is no stranger to the food business. He has been volunteering in one capacity or another for many years, in positions mainly revolving around food preparation and cooking. He shares reluctantly that his health had been affected when he was cooking for many more people than currently at the Day Centre, and was forced to cut back on some of the work. It is clear that his passion is helping people, and this had cut deep.

This drive to help appears to stem from his childhood experiences and his realization that he may in fact have been adopted. His search for his roots did not lead him to aimless wandering, but to realization and a focus that he had to give back for all that he had received. He started helping out in a nursing home and has not looked back since.

Anson’s contribution to HCA Hospice Care doesn’t start and end in the kitchen. In the early morning, he heads out to the markets to gather ingredients for the dishes of the day. These are not the barest and cheapest of ingredients that one may expect for a kitchen of a non-profit. Anson does not stint when it comes to giving patients what they ask for. He admits sheepishly that people have asked him why he would use prime ingredients such as tiger prawns in dishes for the sick and infirm, but answers stoutly that he believes that we should try our best to give our patients what they crave, as such food fills not just the stomach but also warms the heart.

Anson has since added on groceries distribution as part of his many duties, pulling together a list of must-haves for patients with input from HCA doctors and spends his precious weekends hauling loads and driving around Singapore. In this venture, he is helped by a group of young helpers, kids of his friends, who were inspired to help when they realised what he was doing, though simple, had tremendous impact. His outstretched arms are always ready to reach those in need, from providing basic needs such as food to supporting families through funeral preparations.

Families and communities around the world bond around food. A famous gourmand once said “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” Anson understands this and strives to fill what could be the last stretch of a patient’s time here, with love served on a plate.

HCA Hospice Care has about 215 individual and 13 group volunteers last year supporting our services and making a difference in the lives of our beloved patients. Drop a word of encouragement to Anson and his team for their tireless work at communications@hcahospicecare.org.sg. You may visit https://www.hca.org.sg/hospice/volunteers/info-on-volunteerism to find out more about being a volunteer with HCA Hospice Care!