Enabling Hope for Veronica

Veronica had spent most of the past 20 years at home, up till the Enabling Services Hub team came along to help ease her back into the community and provided [...]

Veronica Cheng had spent most of the past 20 years at home. Her vision loss, coupled with a diabetic condition that requires insulin jabs, have kept her very much apart from the community. It was the Enabling Services Hub (ESH) team that helped ease Veronica back into the community and provided respite to her mother. ESH was conceived to bring disability support services closer to the homes of persons with disabilities and their caregivers in Tampines and Bedok. Read more about Veronica’s journey in this article first published by the Tote Board.

“Michael Jackson!” Veronica sparkled with enthusiasm as she spoke about her favourite artiste and the dance activities at the Enabling Services Hub (ESH) at Tampines West Community Club that have become a cherished part of her weekly routine. The bubbly 46-year-old, along with her mother and main caregiver, Lydia, are clients at the first ESH@Tampines, which offers community support for persons with disabilities and their caregivers closer to their homes.

Veronica (left) with her mother, Lydia, who does her best to prepare her daughter for an independent life.

Veronica’s journey is a remarkable story of resilience. At 10, she faced a life-altering diagnosis – a tumour pressing against her optic nerves. This left her family with the agonising decision between major surgery and risking the complete loss of her vision. Although the surgery was a success, it resulted in Veronica having partial sight in one eye and total blindness in the other. 

A Mother’s Love

Recognising her needs, Lydia enrolled Veronica in a special education school and has been her pillar of support ever since. However, the 74-year-old home maker observed that the pair had found themselves increasingly homebound in recent times. Veronica would spend most days playing video games or expressing her creativity through handicrafts. Due to Lydia’s age and physical limitations, their outings have been limited, venturing only as far as a nearby hawker centre. 

A nagging concern also lingered in Lydia’s mind: who would ensure Veronica’s continued care and support? In her quest for answers, Lydia began exploring estate planning and other avenues for her daughter’s welfare in early 2023. This journey led her to meet with Fion, a financial adviser and estate planner. Fion wasted no time researching, eventually leading Lydia to ESH@Tampines.

Discovering the Enabling Services Hub

The establishment of ESHs is part of the Enabling Masterplan 2030 and takes a regional approach to bring community support services closer to the homes of persons with disabilities and their caregivers. They enable upstream intervention by reaching out to persons with disabilities in a region to understand their needs, support them in each phase of life, and connect them to relevant support services. In particular, they reach out to persons with disabilities with care needs who are not engaged in any regular learning and community activities.

Supported by Tote Board, the first ESH@Tampines, a partnership between SG Enable and SPD, was officially opened by Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli on 14 August. It serves as a vital source of support for persons with disabilities and their caregivers in the Bedok and Tampines districts, and offers a wide range of community activities, including exercise sessions, volunteering opportunities, courses such as digital skills and financial management, as well as caregiver support and training.

It started its community outreach early this year to better understand the needs of residents with disabilities and their caregivers in the vicinity, with staff and volunteers actively identifying and reaching out to them. Besides connecting them to referral services tailored to their needs, on-site programmes empower them with essential life skills and provide caregivers with much-needed respite.

A wheelchair user preparing a meal with sliced bread and salad. A young man in spectacles looks on.
Participants at the ESH learn essential life skills such as preparing their own food.

This initiative is a significant stride towards improving support for persons with disabilities and their caregivers, especially in anticipation of a rise in senior caregivers in the coming years. 

Tan Su-Yin, Senior Director (Grants) at Tote Board, said: “Our friends with disabilities are an important part of our community. We care for their well-being and that of their caregivers. By bringing useful services close to them, we hope the Enabling Services Hubs will become community nodes for them to access activities and support, as well as to build friendships.“

Growing Veronica’s Circle of Care    

In the months that followed, Fion helped Lydia understand the options for long-term care for Veronica. The plan focused on building social connections, emotional independence and a sense of purpose for Veronica. It encompassed a variety of social activities and learning opportunities while ensuring both Lydia and Veronica had access to ESH’s befriender and caregiver support services.

As possibilities for Veronica’s future grew, so did Fion’s desire to make a difference beyond her professional expertise. Engaging with the centre and its social workers opened her heart to the ways she could help others. Soon, Fion started volunteering for the ESH, eventually becoming Veronica’s befriender, or as Veronica affectionately terms it, her che che (older sister).

Veronica and Fion standing side by side with arms across each other's shoulders
Veronica with Fion taking part in a dancing class. Dancing is one of Veronica’s favourite activities.

Michael Tan, a social worker who has spent time with Veronica at classes and art sessions, is one of many at the ESH who appreciates her infectious positivity. “For nearly eight years, Veronica spent most of her time at home, leading to a sense of disengagement. Since joining the ESH, her outlook has transformed dramatically, and she has become the vibrant heart of the centre. Seeing her transformation and that of other participants makes certain that the work we do at ESH is in the right direction.”    

Hues of Hope

Lydia’s hopes for Veronica are humble yet profound: she wishes for Veronica to continually expand her social circle, engage in her favourite activities such as handicrafts and, most of all, live a fulfilling life. Reflecting on her ESH experiences, Veronica cheerfully recounted a recent digital literacy course she attended, which honed her smartphone skills. She also delved into various ESH programmes, such as physical exercises, courses, and of course, her beloved dance sessions. With a touch of pride, she shared about the first time she performed in front of an audience, a milestone she bravely embraced.

Witnessing Veronica’s indomitable spirit and the nurturing environment of the ESH, Lydia can see more opportunities for her daughter on the path ahead. For Lydia and other caregivers like her, they also take comfort in the steadfast commitment of social workers and volunteers like Fion who form a nurturing support network surrounding their loved ones with disabilities.

Fion, Mdm Lydia and Veronica doing a craft activity together at the ESH.
(From left to right) Fion, Lydia and Veronica doing a craft activity together at the ESH.

Through the Enabling Services Hub, we aim to foster a community where people of all abilities can build meaningful relationships and care for each other, including our friends with disabilities. With the Hub and other community initiatives, we hope to promote joyful and independent community-based living for our differently-abled friends,” added Su-Yin.