Monday, January 31, 2011

S'pore's becoming too noisy: Raymond writes to the press

"The most serious problem created by sound pollution is the impact on our health."
My letter on the above matter was published in MediaCorp's TODAY newspaper on Monday 31st Jan 2011.

I REFER to the letter, "Can't sleep for the MRT clatter (Jan 27), and share Tan Lye Chye's sentiments.

In our fast-paced lives, our homes should be a place where we can relax and have peace of mind. Yet, this is not possible in the estate where we live in Ang Mo Kio because all the year round, there is noise pollution almost seven days a week.

Before residents can fully recover from two years of noise from the Lift Upgrading Programme, we will now have to bear with more noise pollution and inconvenience from the impending upgrading inside our flats, with the changing of pipes, doors and toilets.

I will then have to search for alternative accommodation as my wife, who is coping with schizophrenia, cannot bear excessive noise. Her mobility is also severely impaired because of arthritis.

Shouldn't the HDB show some empathy and provide us with affordable alternative accommodation if they insist on carrying out such works? Should not there be consideration shown to the sick and those who are convalescing at home?

Funeral wakes are carried out almost every month opposite our block and the chanting can last as late as 11pm over three to four days. Every week, the irritating noise of the blower used to remove the cut grass disrupts the quiet we so badly need at the close of the week.

There is also excessive noise when clan associations regularly carry out their activities late in the night, and this sometimes stretches for a week. In the middle of the night, the beating of the drums does not allow anyone a wink of sleep.

Karaoke singing in HDB flats should not be encouraged. To my left, a couple sings at the top at their voices every weekend, sometimes past 1am. Above my flat, another family also engages in this activity with total disregard for residents.

The most serious problem created by sound pollution is the impact it has on our health. Besides disrupting sleep, noise pollution has also been linked with stress, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

As I have to write for a living, I have no choice but work in the wee hours. Doesn't a caregiver also need rest? Little wonder I have suffered burnout countless times.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

MY VIEWS: Support for our marginalised communities: MATCH HARDWARE WITH HEARTWARE -

As the New Year opens, many of us are looking forward to a happy and prosperous beginning. However, for some families, this is not the case when their loved ones have perished in a most tragic way.

First, two teenagers with special needs have lost their lives after one was found drowned in a lake in Woodlands Town Garden, and then 15-year-old Yuen Kai Lek, another special needs student was found dead in a locked bedroom in his home with a rope around his neck.

On Wednesday 5th January 2011, 29-year-old Tok Puay Yong was found dead in the compound of the Church of St Mary of the Angels. Tok, who appeared to have developed mental health problems was depressed over not being able to secure a job.

On 10th January 2011, Madam Ng Sock Luan, 48, who was being treated for depression is believed to have fallen from the common corridor of the point block in Bishan where she lived.

Last month, a cash-strapped 33-year old divorcee who also suffers from depression, gathered her three daughters - aged 10, 11 and 13 – in her bedroom, locked the door and proceeded to burn charcoal which would lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. The mother changed her mind when one of the daughters began crying and coughing. The police who were informed of her suicide bid by this daughter arrested the mother.

The Government has unveiled impressive plans to upgrade several constituencies costing millions of dollars that will improve the lives of residents. Amongst them - the Jalan Besar GRC and the Aljunied GRC.

Whilst this is a good move to improve the physical surroundings of the neighbourhoods, what is lacking is the compassion and support for our marginalised citizens and their caregivers who are finding it so difficult to cope. We can spend a lot of money renovating our house, but if we are unable to give love, support and understanding to our family members, then we cannot call the place we live, a home.

We have the hardware, so now let's match it with the heartware.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Monday, January 17, 2011

I MADE A CHOICE - A Valentine's Day 2011 tribute to my wife, Doris

Raymond chose to marry his wife Doris at the age of 24, despite knowing that she suffers from schizophrenia and depression, amongst other things.

“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want.”
- St Augustine -

Schizophrenia is the most distressing of all mental disorders. The illness alters the way people think and feel, so that perceptions may be changed and thinking can be disturbed.

This is very disabling for the sufferers and very distressing for their families, who often become the primary caregivers.

I made a choice at the age of 24 that I would indeed, take the road less travelled and marry Doris.

So, why did I make that choice?

Unlike the many girls that I dated, Doris was very down-to-earth. I found her to be sincere, loving and caring. This was the woman that would change my life – dramatically.

Often marriages are put to the test when couples are confronted with financial problems or if a spouse is stricken with chronic illnesses.

All marriages will go through good and bad times. But if couples stick to one another during those rough times, the relationship will improve steadily as time goes by.

Today, my wife has a total of five illnesses, including schizophrenia, arthritis, diabetes, high cholesterol and incontinence.

Being the sole caregiver to my wife for more than three decades is no easy feat, and I have suffered burnout so many times.

Even though Doris is currently coping well with her mental illness, a relapse of her schizophrenia is always possible.

This is because of her struggles with arthritis, which often leaves her in severe pain and misery.

People with mental illness can relapse if a severe physical illness is not properly managed.

For schizophrenia, like some other mental disorders, is unpredictable.

Doris worries a great deal that one day she might not be able to walk.

But I have to constantly assure her that despite all her ailments, I will continue to care and love her to my last dying breath.

For I made a choice 35 years ago to marry Doris and keep our marriage vows intact despite the adversities I know I will face.

There is no question that the world today, is filled with an appalling amount of evil and suffering.

So, it is abundantly clear to me that what the world needs is love - lots of it.

If we can give love, understanding and support to a beggar, the elderly sick, the man who has lost his job, the children who go hungry, the depressed and the oppressed, then wouldn't everyday be Valentine's Day?

Come 14 February, let us make a pledge to 'infect' those around us with the power of love. For love has the power to heal.

My sentiments about my beloved Doris is best summed up in this Valentine's Day poem, entitled, “Love grows in a red rose.”Poem: Love grows in a red rose A Valentine's Day tribute to my lovely wife, Doris Lau Siew Lang

Dearest Doris, I may have to write till I'm blind

But with you in my heart,

I can survive, I will be fine

Treasure the pretty red rose

Your favourite flower – the one I gave to you some time ago

The beautiful rose that made love grow

As my affection for you each day continues to flow

Place the red rose on your coat

And allow your dreams to stay afloat

I'll take down on the dance floor

Dance with you cheek to cheek

Then you'll smile again, cheer you up

Perk you up - that's for sure

And when you finally pass on and be taken to the Lord

Like a drifting cloud

Each night, you will pass by

And as I look up yonder, high in the sky

I will see your face and try not to cry
For whenever I see a red rose in all its splendour

Your name, your face, your smile, your warmth

I will always cherish,

I will forever remember

Happy Valentine's Day, Doris

I will stay committed to you - and that's a promise."


Raymond Anthony Fernando

Monday, January 10, 2011

Next Book

Coming your way (Akan Datang)! Raymond's next book: “A CHOICE, A VOICE, A CAUSE: One man's advocacy on social issues”
There are many talented singers, sports champions and world leaders who have left a legacy. Boxing legend Muhammad Ali is most certainly one of them. Then, we have singers like the late Jim Reeves, Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley and politicians like Sir Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi and American President Abraham Lincoln who will forever live in our hearts for their invaluable contributions to society.

But you need not be a superstar or a famous politician to leave your mark. Some people who believe in advocacy will be remembered for speaking up for the marginalised, the needy and the poor. Model Caregiver 2007 and Mental Health Champion 2011 - Raymond Anthony Fernando who has championed the plight of psychiatric patients and their caregivers for more than six years has been described as one of Singapore's leading advocates on mental illness.

“A CHOICE, A VOICE, A CAUSE: One man's advocacy on social issues” documents Raymond's tireless efforts to raise awareness of mental illness and other social issues, and to secure more support for those who struggle with the stresses of life. This well-known caregiver has written a total of 100 letters to the press – 46 of which are reproduced in this book. Raymond has also taken part in campaigns, given motivational talks and spoken on national television and radio to seek better understanding, support and compassion for sufferers of mental illness and their families.

This book, expected to be out in March 2011 retails at $15. Place your orders early with Raymond E-mail to avoid disappointment. There are limited copies.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Finding disabled people who go missing -Use pendant with chip for easy tracking

My letter was published in The New Paper today, Wed 5 Jan 2010, page 20.

I refer to the report, “Oh no, is that our son?”and “ Oh no, it's him” (The New Paper, Jan 2, and 4).

The worry that Mr Chye Chee Meng and his wife must have gone through, first in searching for their missing teenage autistic son and then finding out it was he who had drowned in Woodlands Town Garden, must have been overwhelming.

The police had first told them that the body did not appear to be their son, but later told them the drowning victim was their missing son after all. Perhaps, if investigations had been more thorough, the mistaken identity would not have added to the parent's anxiety.

That aside, people with intellectual disabilities need better protection so that their caregivers are not placed in too much anxiety should their loved ones go missing.

Perhaps the authorities could consider implementing an electronic tracking system in the form of a pendant for this vulnerable group, who could also include the lonely elderly.

Participation in this scheme should be voluntary.

However, the pendant could be attractively designed and affordable so that more people would wear it.

The pendant should have the details of the wearer in a microchip, similar to the Development Disability  Registry (DDR) Identity Card for people with disabilities.

This device would enable the police to track any missing persons in this category in double quick time, cutting down on manpower hours and resources.


Let us be inspired by what Oprah Winfrey once said: “Do one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.”