A stroke of empathy

All smiles… Zaiton Jaffar, a stroke survivor, is happiest when she is spreading happiness to others.

WHEN Zaiton Jaffar had her minor stroke in December 2012, which she thankfully fully recovered from, she also learnt something… how to be positive.

It also taught her to give more to others. “I feel happy to be able to spread joy and see others being happy,” she said with a smile.

The former bank officer who spent 36 years with HSBC Singapore, is a regular face at the Singapore National Stroke Association’s (SNSA) activities and events. Since 2016, the retiree, who is in her 60s, has been volunteering monthly with the national support group for stroke survivors and caregivers, spreading awareness of stroke and its symptoms, as well as sharing her own experience.

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Happy helping… Zaiton (second from the right) manning SNSA’s booth at a public health screening event in October 2019.

Zaiton and her fellow SNSA volunteers also meet with stroke patients going through rehabilitation at St Luke’s Hospital once a month to provide encouragement and a listening ear, although that has been put on hold now due to the COVID-19 situation. An avid cook and baking enthusiast, she would occasionally brighten up their day with bakes like cakes and kueh like ondeh ondeh.

Zaiton is in fact no stranger to volunteering, having joined HSBC Singapore’s Corporate Social Responsibility programmes from 1998 till 2004 (when she left under a restructuring exercise), and from 2006 till 2013 when she re-joined the organisation.

“We headed out practically every week, tapping on the generosity of the bank to visit places including Sungei Buloh, Pulau Semakau, Pulau Ubin and Gardens by the Bay. While we gave our time – for example, to clean the coastal areas of Pulau Semakau – we also gained experiences and education,” she said. “Being a volunteer has enriched my life and taught me to empathise. It is also enjoyable gathering with friends to do something that we are passionate about!”

Since April 2018, she has also been volunteering with SG Food Rescue, a local group that collects unsellable but edible food from vegetable and fruit sellers to reduce food waste. The food items are sent to soup kitchens and charitable organisations that feed the needy, as well as community fridges around Singapore.

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Lady on a mission… Zaiton (second from the right) and her fellow volunteers during a food rescue mission in Little India last December.

Besides the food rescue missions, Zaiton participates in outreach events, educating the public on combating food wastage and providing cooking demonstrations with “rescued” vegetables.

A former volunteer with the Women’s Executive Committee at Bukit Batok East Community Club (CC), she continues to help out at events organised by the CC. Most recently, she stepped up to assist with the CC’s surgical mask distribution and hand sanitiser collection exercises due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Displaying the #SGUnited spirit… Zaiton (back row, second from the right) and her fellow volunteers at the surgical mask distribution exercise in early February.

While her regular volunteering efforts have been put on hold due to COVID-19, Zaiton encourages her peers to give back to society and find platforms to volunteer when they can.

The energetic lady, who enjoys crocheting, knitting and gardening in her free time, said: “We can all do something that makes us, as well as others, happy. And we have a wealth of experiences that we can share with the young.”

Article published on: 29/04/2020
Last updated: 11/07/2020