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Youth is not wasted on the young
20 December 2016

Whoever said that ‘youth is wasted on the young’ has not met Aloysius Lim. From his cheerful and congenial demeanour, one can hardly discern the hardships this 18 year old young man has endured. His is a remarkable story of endurance, resilience and indeed, a testimony to the triumph of the human spirit. Aloysius came to be a part of HCA Hospice Care (HCA) through the yCG (Young Caregivers) programme, which allows students, from primary to tertiary level, to experience hospice and palliative care through activities or attachments. ITE College East had arranged for Aloysius to spend 10 weeks with HCA. It was here that Aloysius was introduced to the world of caring for our palliative care patients at the Kang Le Day Hospice Centre.

A troubled childhood

Aloysius speaks openly and candidly about his early life, seemingly unaffected by the somewhat traumatising events. As a young child, he saw his family torn apart by his parents’ acrimonious relationship, leading up to their divorce when he was barely five years old. His single mother, while struggling to raise the family, soon befriended a Caucasian man online. He bought her a ticket to Japan to meet him, promising her a life of adventure and romance. She left her children at home, with Aloysius thinking that she was just going for a holiday. It was only two years later that he was told that his mother would not be coming home any time soon.

Things went awry in Japan and his mother ended up being a drug mule. She was soon arrested for her illegal forays and was handed a sentence of six years in prison in Japan. That left Aloysius and his siblings in dire straits – his father in Singapore was also in and out of prison for gang and drug related offences. As young Aloysius was then barely 13 years old, he became a ward of his maternal aunt, as his mother had signed over her parenting rights.

The aunt then made the difficult decision for Aloysius to be sent to a welfare home, while his siblings remained at their mother’s residence. And so, life changed for the young boy, now a resident of the Chen Su Lan Methodist Children’s Home, where he would spend the next five years. He shares, “Looking back, I think it’s a good thing I was sent to the Home. They provided me the guidance and discipline I needed at that age – if I was left alone on my own, I think things wouldn’t turn out this way.” It was at the Home that Aloysius found two important influences that would frame his life – his faith in religion and a social worker who would re-shape his perspectives.

Triumph over trials

Through the positive influence and guidance of his social worker Jackson, Aloysius developed into an extremely positive and well-mannered youth. He went on to achieve academic success, having earned scholarships and even an overseas attachment in Seattle, Washington USA. He also excelled in sports, garnering several medals in competitive taekwondo.

Career goals in community care

Aloysius credits his social worker for all the positive changes in his life, and is now himself inspired to pursue a career in social work and community care. While his initial interest was working with troubled youths, his exposure to HCA’s patients at Kang Le have broadened his interests. His affable nature quickly endeared him to patients and staff alike. The staff were surprised to see him interacting so well with the patients. As his approach was extremely caring and compassionate, befriending patients came about quite naturally.

As the patients were resting after their midday meal, Aloysius would gently massage their hands and feet. His touch was so assuring that the patients were gently lulled to sleep. “I was initially not so keen to work with the elderly, but I was determined to make the best of my attachment,” says Aloysius. “I thought the ten weeks would be boring but it turned out that these patients were so inspiring to me. I witnessed how they were still happy and jovial on a daily basis, despite knowing that their days were numbered. That really changed my mind about working with the elderly sick.”

Aloysius remembers fondly a patient who has made an indelible impression.  “Peter is someone who really made me look at life differently. He is already in his 80s and has gone through so much in life – he told me about how he was cheated by his best friend of his own life savings when their bakery business went bad. And yet, Peter is still able to forgive him and make the best of his life.”

Now that his stint with HCA has come to an end, Aloysius is now on to a new and exciting chapter in life. He will join the police force for his national service. As with all his experiences in life, Aloysius says he will retain a part of HCA and its beneficiaries with him. “I still want to come back and visit them!” Aloysius assures. HCA is proud to have nurtured this outstanding talent and others like him, who are committed to changing perceptions of palliative care.