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Builders of Memories
30 December 2020

For HCA volunteers Hon and Cyndi, being part of the journey to create memories for patients and their loved ones is a privilege in itself.

By Toh Wei Shi, HCA Community Relations

Memories are a lasting and invaluable gift for the bereaved, after a loved one passes on. These memories often bring comfort in a difficult time of grief and loss, representing a legacy that the bereaved can revisit at their own pace.

The biannual Family Foto Fair is a form of memory making for HCA patients and their loved ones, amidst the fun, food and capturing of family portraits. Each Family Foto Fair is a cosy affair, replete with the warm sincerity of volunteers, who dedicate numerous hours and great effort to its success.

They are rightfully the builders of precious memories, for those whose days are numbered. Some of these volunteers have faithfully supported the Family Foto Fair and HCA for years, such as makeup artist Cyndi Tay and photographer Hon Chee Seng, who prefers to be known as Hon. Their expertise in their respective fields have enabled them to bring beautiful family portraits to life, providing patients and their loved ones with a lasting keepsake.

Hon setting up his equipment at a patient’s home for the [email protected] project.

Due to ongoing safe distancing restrictions on events, the HCA team decided to bring the Family Foto Fair to patients’ homes. Its home-based spinoff, [email protected], provided patients and their loved ones with the opportunity to enjoy the full experience of professional makeup and photography services.

Despite the additional time and effort needed to travel to each patient’s home over several weeks, the makeup and photography volunteers happily took on each assignment.

Behind the Lens

Having helped out at several local churches and charities over the years, Hon is no stranger to volunteering at HCA. Hon recalls one of the first patients he worked with at HCA, whom he became acquainted with through his wife, HCA Senior Palliative Care Nurse Serene Wong.

“Khairul was a very creative boy and one of his last wishes was to do a studio photoshoot with his friends,” Hon shares. “They came to our home for the photoshoot and we did a setup for them.”

A photo of late Star PALS patient Khairul, taken by Hon.

The young art graduate was unexpectedly diagnosed with end-stage colorectal cancer in 2015. Despite the dire prognosis, Khairul remained focused on his dreams, eventually holding an exhibition, titled “Hope”, before he passed on. In addition to the photoshoot, Hon also worked on a video for Khairul’s exhibition.

Over the years, Hon has tirelessly supported numerous HCA patients and events. Hon, a soft-spoken man of few words, is thankful for the experience. “It is a privilege for me to take photos for them,” he says simply. “It brings me a lot of satisfaction when they are happy with the final product.”

Hon has encountered different challenges on his assignments, but he always has the same goal in mind – to deliver the best work possible. “Due to the patient’s condition, it is sometimes difficult to capture a good shot, so I try using different equipment and angles to make the photos beautiful,” he explains.

The Art of Beauty

We often associate professional makeup services with special events, such as weddings and gala dinners. It is a joy to look one’s best, especially for patients going through the emotional and physical toll of illness. Bringing joy to patients and their loved ones is the motivation that underpins the work of makeup volunteers like Cyndi.

Cyndi applying makeup for a patient’s daughter on a [email protected] assignment.

Cyndi recalls her first encounter with the palliative care sector in 2014, an experience that propelled her to volunteer regularly with HCA. “I attended a roadshow on end-of-life care and got to know the HCA team,” she explains.

Surrounded by a group of like-minded friends in the beauty industry, Cyndi started a group chat, in which she would post details of HCA’s volunteering assignments. “I don’t have to convince them to join in,” she shares. “We all feel for the cause and just want to give back to society.”

Helping patients and their loved ones look their best, brings Cyndi a great sense of fulfilment. “For some families, it was the first and last time they had makeup done and their family portraits taken,” she says.

The beauty station at last year’s Family Foto Fair.

The spirit of camaraderie amongst Cyndi and her friends is evident at each Family Foto Fair. Armed with trolley bags full of beauty equipment, they get to work efficiently and systematically, ensuring that each participant looks their best for the camera. “I am really thankful to the other volunteers for their help,” Cyndi says. “Without teamwork, it wouldn’t be possible to attend to all the assignments.”