Treasuring our pioneers
Two women put together a book as part of the SG50 celebrations to show that seniors continue being active and contribute in many ways.
There is the story of Siow Set Nyok, 84, who believes that it was important for her when she was younger to earn her own living through hard work and not to ask for financial help from anyone. And then there is the story of Eurasian Charlie Theseira, a grandfather of nine, who shared that he worked hard for his family and is more than contented today with the life he has carved out.
These stories are all part of a book in English and Mandarin called “An Extraordinary Ordinary Story” by Dr Yap Swee Cheng, 49, and Joycelyn Yeo, 63, who compiled 50 stories of pioneers as part of the SG50 celebrations and launched the book in October last year. Swee Cheng is involved in projects related to seniors and mentoring needy individuals in the areas of ageing-in-place, ageing successfully, pursuing financial freedom, and happiness after retirement, while Joycelyn is a retiree and an active volunteer.
Shared Swee Cheng, “Ordinary folks play an extraordinary role as our book highlights. These pioneers have great stories and we hope these stories can help them connect with their children, and they see their parents more than just wrinkled and grumpy.” She dedicated the book to her parents on their 50th wedding anniversary.
Added Joycelyn, “We wanted people to see them as pioneers, building blocks of Singapore who have a lifetime of experience rather than seeing them as vulnerable people. … Indirectly, they are potential research topics for the youth and to show them that our pioneers are still actively ageing and volunteering in the community.”
The book initially had 61 stories, which the two women dwindled down to 50 of different ages. There are two pioneers who are above 100 years old and the average age of the 50 pioneers was 79.
“The concept of the book really comes from the bottom of our hearts and that we wanted to do this for seniors. We wanted to tap on their life experiences,” added Joycelyn. “I am so happy to see that even though they have retired, they continue to contribute in their own ways.”
Added Swee Cheng, “The seniors didn’t openly share unless they felt we were interested in finding out more.” Chimed in Joycelyn, “If you spoke their language, it made things much easier. Knowing dialect was definitely a plus-point. Even broken language worked!”
So what’s after the book? Swee Cheng hopes to help write more autobiographies for the seniors as well as collect recipes and compile them in a book.
Copies of the “An Extraordinary Ordinary Story” have been distributed to schools, libraries and eldercare agencies. Currently, all books have been given out and soft copies are only available free of charge by writing to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The books were funded by the SG50 Celebration Fund as well as from other kind donations.