Tuesday, 26 September 2023

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Despite tragedy, Team Hope will carry on

Report by Terence Lee / Video by Patrick Chng

PASTOR ANDREW Khoo, founder of New Hope Community Services, was a tired man.

The day after organising a meaningful community event that ended in tragedy, he had since been inundated with calls, text messages, and media inquiries.

Next came a long meeting with his committee members, followed by another community event which he was invited to attend.

By the time he reached home, it was close to twelve midnight. When contacted by The Online Citizen the night after the fateful day, he sounded weary.

“I was hoping to lie down for a while to get some rest.”

But while he has felt drained by the ordeal, he is still preoccupied with the welfare of the widow and her three children.

But Team Hope will still carry on, he says.

“We must move forward. This incident should not stop us from continuing the good work we have started. This is a good project, and a great platform to help them.”

Nevertheless, training has been suspended — for this week at least. The Team Hope committee felt that the players are not in the right frame of mind to train. Instead, Pastor Khoo will use the opportunity to gather the whole team together and talk things out. Some of the players and volunteers may not be taking the incident well, he added.

Training is expected to resume in early November.

It is hoped that many of the homeless would adopt an attitude like that of 43-year-old Mohd Shah and his family. He is an odd-job worker while his wife Faizah, 38, is a production assistant. Despite their busy work schedule and late night shifts, they are still able to find time to connect with their three children everyday over dinner.

The whole family is currently staying at New Hope Community Services’ shelter.

In 2007, they sold their house in Singapore and moved to Johor Bahru to set up at catering business. However, hard luck fell upon them when their business partners took off and disappeared with their profits and savings. They had to return to Singapore last year.

After being spurned by their colleagues, they found out that even their relatives did not want to help them. When the family tried to seek shelter with the relatives, they were not only rejected, but mocked and insulted.

In the end, they had to resort to staying at the void deck, then in separate men’s and women’s shelters, and finally at New Hope.

But the family still chose to see this as a “blessing in disguise”. When they were being interviewed, there was a palpable sense of optimism in their voice — not the slightest sense of self-pity could be felt from them.

“The  ordeal made us stronger, and our bonding as a family became much deeper,” said Mrs Faizah.

Currently, they have applied for a HDB rental flat, and hope to move out from the shelter soon. The outcome is still pending.

One of the objectives of the project is to instill self-confidence in the players. It is hoped that by getting them involved in football, they will find the motivation and strength to rebuild their lives. If enough support and funds come in, the committee hopes to send a team to the Homeless World Cup, which will be held in Rio De Janeiro next year.

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