Our 5th year at the Assisi Hospice Charity Fun Day!

Champions at Assisi

That’s not the look of triumph – the photo actually shows what we call “sucker buys” (yellow arrows), i.e. when we buy from our own stall of donated items we receive from friends and friends of friends.  When that happens, we “ring the bell” to announce it, and take photos.  It takes place in a moment of distraction when we are arranging stuff and then let the buyer in us surface/escape.  No discounts or bargaining for these!   Siva chalked up the most sucker buys these year, Ivan let loose with a bag donated by Kenneth Pinto.  Its not about one man’s junk being treasured by another – some of this items are still in good condition and are truly donations.  Must be tough for Kenneth to let go Sugoi bike shirts at a steal.

This year we were inundated with box loads of stuff from people moving house.  Usually we get 2-5 bags full.  All it takes is an email list of friends and friends of friends, a makan session and then transport of goods, storage till we set up stall.  Sounds simple but with everyone busy with work, coordination and keeping tabs on who and where to collect goods from can be harrowing.  But somehow everyone commits to it and it happens.  Those with clutter, unload at my place.  When more stuff comes, I unload those at my parents’ place.

Pre-fun day meet-up

The pre-fun day meet-up is also a good excuse to meet kakis.  Like Otterman said most pointedly, “this annual exercise makes sure we don’t only meet up at a wake.”  Choi!   So philosophically, while our stall doesn’t rake in significant amounts (About 2K the last time), this is a most meaningful exercise we can have socially.  Which is why Kenneth is seen furiously beating the eggs and sugar mix into a nice custardy mix for the kueh bakar.

Sous chef

Blend it like Beckham.  The cake is green because the pandan juice extracted from blended pandan leaves (recipe says 8 leaves but I whack in about 15) is mixed in, along with thick creamy coconut milk.  From this, you may imagine the heavenly smells that will transport you to some idyllic time in Singapore when cholesterol had no form of measurement.

Kueh Bakar

When the Kueh Bakar appears, it must be the Assisi Hospice Charity Fun Day around the corner.  This kueh bakar is sedap (picture says it all) and super easy to make.  Because it is suppose to be dense, there is no fear of the batter not rising.  

Here is the recipe and description of this regional delight – I am glad I know how to make at least one kueh. 


This is the meeting for volunteers and stall owners at the Assisi Hospice itself.  I can imagine the organizers being quite exhausted after the event as I write 2 days after the Fun day.  “How much is your time worth?”  There are some who believe its more time-saving if we just donated straight rather that go through all this effort to pick things up from people, sell them on a very hot day. Then again the day and many stalls raise about half a million dollars on average.  

Ok cliche quote coming up and I hope I haven’t got it out of context.

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.” 
― Mother Teresa


 I am also heartened that the makan they provide at the pre-prep meet at the Hospice is a humble spread.  Although I must have had 6 of those curry puffs…  What to do when there is no space and I was positioned by the tray?



Love their logo..

“Our logo is made up of Mary and Child symbol and modern text lock up. Mary graciously offers her Son to the world. She is not keeping him to herself in a tender embrace. The Christ-child in his turn – inseparable from his mother – has his arms outstretched to reach out and to welcome all peoples. It is a missionary attitude the FMDM Sisters have chosen to imitate and supports Assisi Hospice’s mission.”  


As I walked out of the Hospice, I turned my thoughts away from the charity fun day and wondered about the hospice itself. We hope they get well-funded for the kind of work they do.  I can only imagine whatever little we raise will perhaps be comforting for someone who is suffering.


More about what they do from the Assisi Home and Hospice Homepage.


“Assisi Hospice, an outreach service of Mount Alvernia Hospital, was established in 1969 by the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood (FMDM) Catholic Sisters.

We dedicate ourselves to the care of adults and children with life limiting illnesses. In an environment of compassionate and holistic care, we understand the challenges faced by our patients. We are here for all, regardless of financial status, age, race & religion, respecting their faith, culture & values.”

 Their heritage is even more compelling.  

The Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood (FMDM) Sisters have a long tradition of providing healthcare. In 1949, the local government invited a small group of FMDM Sisters for a nursing post in the Tuberculosis Section of Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Singapore. The Sisters were also nursing leprosy patients at the Trafalgar Home and staffing the School of Nursing there.

Anticipating their services would no longer be needed after Singapore’s recovery from the Japanese Occupation, the Sisters saved their hard earned salaries to build up a fund for the eventual building of a private Catholic hospital. These 10 years savings were augmented by generous donations from both companies and individuals.

On 4th March 1961, Mount Alvernia Hospital was officially opened. In 1969, donations from the late Mr Khoo Teck Puat saw the building of an extension of Mount Alvernia Hospital. The beds in this block are for chronically ill patients.

In 1986, the Khoo block started accepting respite patients. The building eventually became known as Assisi Home. Assisi Home derived its name from the birthplace of Saint Francis, the Founder of the Franciscan Movement.

Read more here

 The day before the actual the Assisi Hospice Fun Day is about delivering the boxes and bags full of stuff to the stall, this year, one van and 3 cars did the job at one go.  

loading up a day before


The actual day itself starts at 730 and with a sense of anxiety, staring at the pile, picking at it and categorizing as best as we can.  We tried to do it the day before but the task was just too dreadful.


As we unpack, we already get customers and one of the first few was the dude below.  The bike caught his eye and he went off to get coupons.


By blibical standards, the man who is a low wage earner donated the most, he paid $40 after we cut the price of Ivan’s foldable bike.  Ivan’s happy to see the bike go to him. 

rambling librarian's bike

(Photo by Ivan Chew)

He’s got a good deal though cos the bike’s pretty well taken care of and we tuned the gears.


As soon as the Rambling Librarian arrives, we throw the pile of books at him – if sales are bad, he gets blamed.  Somehow this year someone donated lots of raunchy titles and I think people were too shy to buy those.



Each year we emphasize to donors not to give us junk but we find that what is junk to others may not be to lots of people who give us items that are hard to sell.  Which is why we are grateful for Jen and Adrian below who always give the good stuff.  These are items that are still in good condition and not necessarily something you would want to discard for some time more but would part with it for a good cause.



Aunty-killer Kok Min Yee with his killer look.


Haggle at your own risk with the be-moustached hunk – he can sell milk to cows, ice to eskimos, prata to the roti-prata man..



Anand lending support to our star salesman in this almost impossible sale of a set of golf clubs. But they succeeded!


We really hit the ground running and once we unpack and sort, people start to shop around and we hardly stop. 


The lady above bought $70 worth of clothes.  She seemed reluctant t leave – we should give her VIP pass the next time and give her early selections.  Oi Yee voraciously eggs her on.



 We got piles of clothes to sell and in the morning its about $1-2 per piece for the normal ones and a bit higher for better ones.  By lunch time we are selling them at 50 cts.  When we shout 50 cts, people stop in their tracks and search the pile.


Andy, the Toddycat, who came to help out gets a book shoved at him by the Rambling Librarian.  I wonder if he bought it.


This year we also got lots of electrical appliances to sell.  They tend to be bulky so people tend to shy away from them.  So it takes the patience of someone like Tom to do a demo and explain how-stuff-works to potential buyers.  He must be selling a cooking pot here.


The human traffic is quite amazing and this must be one of the most visited carnival in Singapore.


Joelle is newbie so she makes the extra effort to hawk stuff with a basket.  I wonder why Airani is doing a roar?


Kenneth says – “Most memorable sell of the day was a plastic film camera – the type with no settings and focus set to infinity – with an water-resistant case to a teenage girl. It was already afternoon, and we were offloading at a dollar. (The strangest thing is that I didn’t spot the camera the entire day – it’s like it popped up from nowhere.) I half jokingly said, that’s two items – the camera and the case! She picked up another item (can’t remember what it was), and I thought she wanted to throw that in with the camera (and case) for $2. I said yah, sure. Then she gave me $5 or $6 for the lot. Pleasantly surprised!”

We do meet some people who are miserly though and while we want to remind them that this is a charity event – I think we all feel we would take away the joy of the bargain from them.

While we are busy, we take some time out to play hooky and spend coupons and buy food.  The food is great and its a pity not many people know about this Fun Day.  But we also take pictures to blog about this event.


I know lots of people love the lao ban tao hway – its just one of the good stuff you can get at this fun day.


Siva buys some biscuits imported from Berlin.  And that is after a trip from Berlin itself!




Mee Siam, but without the sambal!! We gave feedback.


The kueh kueh and other foods are the good hotel standard kind 



My children meet their grandmother!  I lost one of my dad’s trolleys one year and she never forgot about it.  So this year she reminded me to return my aunt’s trolley… repeatedly.


Siva’s student and mum.  She also happens to be from my old lab in NUS.  So I am ancestral.


Some photos of the sweetie Adrian Lim.  He is a talented salesman.



17_AssisiHospice_CharityFunDay-17jun2012 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

(Photo by N. Sivasothi)



Jessica’s hubby who is a clone trooper.  They were in clone troopers’ outfits the last time but glad they are in less heat-exhausting wear this year!


This guy who is a staff at the grounds bought some shirts from us at 50cents each and then later helped us sell to his Filipino nationals.


Ring the bell! Another sucker buy.  But sometimes, there are things there that are just made for you.


Carnivore prints!  Siva supervises research on mammals in Singapore.


Selling stuff at the Fun day is also a good way to observe human behavior – we tend to keep customers at the stall if we just throw in stuff in a box and let them pick at the pile.  If we arrange it in categories, they tend to look and go.  Perhaps its the spirit of the day where things laid out in boxes or on the floor might reveal a great steal.  As Oi Yee says – “Trinklets, which were sitting on a nice display table, were snatched up when these were moved to the carpeted floor section.
It was a fun BUT VERY, VERY hot day.”


Speaking of hot – this is not a queue but people just hiding in the shade of the Bauhinia kockiana 


These hae bi hiam sandwiches were the best.  I must have had 3 of these.  Not enough!



Father’s day gifts from the kids.  They didn’t know what to do with their coupons must be.  


Spotted – Alvin and Robina!  They should really be helping us out but probably chose the better option of spending money on food.

Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

The patron of the hospice – Ho Ching and a nun on a separate Harley arrives.  We’ve come to expect the roar of this motorcade each year.


The nuns from the Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa herself always look so cool.


They try lah.



Guess who bought the belt?


More good stuff


The fruit section at the bottom of the road. 


Airani and Jen’s expressions sort of sums up the end of the sale at about 430 pm.  

At the end of the day – “We certainly decluttered many people’s homes, and sent away many gratified people and I hope we managed to raise $1,500 in total.”  – Sivasothi.

Kaki’s Links 

more pictures here – 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lekowala/sets/72157630145649420/ (Photos by Adrian Loo)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/acroamatic/sets/72157630160644550/ (Photos by Kenneth Pinto)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sivasothi/sets/72157630170666778/ (Photos by N. Sivasothi)


related posts – 

Our fifth Assisi Hospice Charity Fun Day tomorrow! Goods transfer to SJI International today. (by N. Sivasothi aka “Otterman“)


our tweets and flickr albums on Storify – 

Assisi Hospice Charity Fun Day 2012 (Curated by Kenneth Pinto)




Sungei Buloh 18th Anniversary Walk 2011

Today a couple of us organized by Otterman took 109 participants around Sungei Buloh as part of our yearly celebration of the opening of Sungei Buloh in 1993. I have been doing this Sungei Buloh walk ever since I was a teaching assistant at NUS.  And now as a teacher, I bring students every now and then to the wetlands reserve.  I never get bored of it and every time I promise myself to sit and be more mindful of the migratory birds every december when I am free and when they are around.  Sungei Buloh at this time of the year is extremely pleasant and cool; no mozzies along the boardwalks and bird hides so there really is no excuse not to be there.  And it costs a $1 entry fee on weekends and public holidays for adults, 50cts for kids.

Anyway, the guides today are pretty well trained for this as most of us either have been teaching assistants bringing year one NUS students around this walk or have been trained by Siva or done this many times over.  Each year Siva issues the invites for us to guide but I missed last year as I was at Resorts World Sentosa with my family on a “staycation”; well no more RWS for me until the dolphins are set free so I this year I made sure I freed up the 1st week of december to guide (I sorely regretted my stay at RWS last year and missed out on the Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walk as a result).



That’s the Otterman doing a pre-walk briefing and handing out our registration slips and handouts to participants


Every guide is is on the ball as Siva barks orders in the Sungei Buloh visitor centre.



This handout apparently was done by Ria in 2003.  The back of it has a map drawn in a similar exuberant style.

The walk is centered around the visitor centre, bird hide (Station 1) and the mangrove boardwalk.  We all hope to see the Crocodile and Otters but really the highlight of Sungei Buloh at this time of the year are the migratory birds.  It’s always amazing to contemplate that these birds are overwintering and have flown from the northern hemisphere (as far as Siberia) to feed on the Sungei Buloh wetlands or use it as an important stopover before the fly further down under to Australia AND New Zealand


Before the September-March migratory season, a few resident birds are seen on the mudflats but by December, Sg Buloh mudflats teem with waders with names like Whimbrels, Redshanks, Sandpipers etc.  They aren’t that difficult to identify if you have a guidebook, binoculars and some patience.  This is the part where I encourage everyone (including myself) to spend some quiet time at the hide to observe and get to know the waders and some of the adaptations they have (different length bills) to reach different levels of mud for their food.  The scenery plus birds is sure to calm your soul.



That is Marcus (facing you), the youngest of the guides and most energetic of us; what a way to get people excited about the wildlife we have.



It was a pleasure to have ex-students in the crowd; they haven’t changed a bit – more mature but still crazy about nature.


I wonder what Oi Yee, our other energetic guide is pointing to over the sluice gates?



A contemplative guide, Cheng Puay –  he was pretty excited about seeing the croc surface.



2 of the triplets in the family I was guiding, looking for fish, anemones and mudskippers.  Most of the time I was really talking about what could be eaten or not…  It is a great way to introduce biodiversity of the mangroves as most of the things in the mangroves can provides a service to us.

I love pickled tree-climbing crabs in Thai papaya salads.  I had them in Bangkok once and they beat some of the sashimi I have tried.



That’s Marcus gesticulating nature.


That’s Bruguiera gymnorrhiza adding to the festive spirit.


Lighter moments towards the end of the walk.



The date of the Anniversary also happens to be Otterman’s birthday so we either get cake or this time a very satisfying Punjabi meal.

Mac meetup with Teutoburg and Otterman

Today I met up with some kakis at HV when they were having their Mac meet-up. Throughout the meeting, I found myself reminiscing of the day I decided to follow my heart… Afterall, the Starbucks we were at was just beside the Swensens that Otterman, Teutorburg and I dug into the ice-cream almost 6 years ago to celebrate the liberation.

Sweet… and though I have missed botany in a most heartaching way, today’s completion of a mangrove phenology project by 2 amazing students just makes me realise what someone said to me – that I didn’t leave research but a lousy environment.

Bon voyage Teutoburg!

Wedding and friends

Today I attended a good friend’s wedding and I sat at a table with my good kakis. On my right was Cynthia, she is always full of life-giving words. How blessed it is to be her friend. One friend away is Otterman who organized my wedding, he’s a brother to me. Ladybug is sister. And then there is Jaswant and Kok who laugh like little kids. Down the table past them are Zee, Abby and Dione, wonderful people who I am proud to have as Bio kakis and fellow educators. One is indeed fortunate to be surrounded by good people. A blessing. I don’t know why I always feel that in such occasions where I meet good people, I sense heaven, its almost tangible and spiritual. I mean I have that with my family. But because these people aren’t family but they somehow seem heaven-sent, the sense of heaven is there. If you guys read this, bless you.


Today at mass, I was wondering, where is God? Not that I am feeling lost but it was beginning to feel like the same stuff week in and out and, come on, I told myself, I can’t just try to sit out a mass. It would be a waste. Though I am so guilty of that more that half the time.

So as with most spiritual searching, one must knock on the door with some focus and so I knelt down and prayed quietly, “where are you?”

Like the breeze, heaven came with the beautiful voices of the choir as I had my eyes closed and mind quietened, how soothing it was and calming.

Later in the evening I met some kakis for dinner and we spent half the time chuckling away under the full moon like hyenas. Joy. Brother Broughton said in a prayer meeting once that as youths we would have such a great time when we met our friends at Macdonalds or some favourite meeting place. Those were like moments of when we would be experiencing heaven. What a beautiful and accessible description of heaven. Heaven is in the love we have for each other.

Charity Fun day meet-up

Today a couple of us met up to bring stuff to my place for the next Assisi Hospice Charity Fun day 2009. Its also a good excuse to get together. So Mei Fun, Thomas and Jen Kee were the first to come over. Cynth came over with the largest haul and requested manpower to bring stuff up.. I almost broke into cold sweat when I saw a lorry with large boxes and two workers ready to get going. Luckily that wasn’t her load (with Cynthia though, it would have been possible) ; behind the lorry was her suv with the bags full of good stuff to be sold for the Charity Fun day.

Otterman was at home waiting for a replacement M1 card which never came today so we thought we plug him in on the action through skype video….

skype_bryani.png on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

sometime later… the dude is here (pic shows satiation by bryani)


I guess you can’t video-conference a packet of bryani.

The objective of the meeting was met; the first batch of goods to be sold at the fun day has been collected


– see the foilowing post for what the charity fun day is about –

Its good to do something meaningful with kakis.

If you want to contribute to our pile let me know.

5 loaves and some cookies…bags and coffee

The Assisi hospice charity fun day was a great way to spend the Sunday. So the kakis rounded up some used stuff such as bags, books and clothes to sell at the fun fair. We had ensured that the stuff coming in from friends and all were of good quality stuff so quite a few things were branded actually. And I had “let go” of some of my books as well that would have just collected dust on my shelf anyway.. They were nice books.. Like my Aung Sang Su Kyi book which I bought for 47 bucks and went for about $5 or was it $2? Well that depended on our mood. At the end of the day, Ivan was giving free collectibles or bags with each book sold.

Here’s Ivan demonstrating the read the book and then when people are around just tell them “5 for 1 dollar” move. it worked! Such business acumen!

Besides that, we baked cookies and Amy and Thomas made their homemade bread for the kaya toast section. I woke up at 6.30 to make some coffee (Sumatra Mandheing) to support the kaya toast sale.


Su Yin on the left sorting out clothes with Ivan. Clothes were hard to sell but the Polo Ralph Laurens, AIX and Timberland shirts from Charles disappeared soon enough from the displays.

Peck Wai and Oi Yee would have added to the already fun atmosphere but the stuff they parted with were valuable. Not to mention Oi Yee’s Gucci bags! Ah material things!

The day before we had gone to drop off stuff at the stall and realised that we didn’t have decor and a name… but as Ivan pointed out, that won’t really matter to the crowd who would mill around and have more fun sifting through the mess. Which is true as I found out when they rummaged through the boxes of bags which we had planned to arrange nicely on the table; so we dumped the bags into a big box and left it on the floor…. soon, women came and were busily going through the items..amazing.


Books were another great performer… it was nice to see people going through the books and we had our Rambling Librarian to artfully arrange the books. I was impressed at how he had done it in about 20 mins… He had a personable way with people and they took to him… it must be his height ..ha!


Otterman checking out the books


Otherman – a satisfied customer and fellow stall organiser blogs about the day

It was a busy day ferrying the family to the stall and back. But luckily the rest were manning the stations busily so I could bring the kids and wife to the stall. Jen had donated quite a few books and quite a lot of her own bags and helped me organise collections the past month.

What’s a funfair without the candy floss.


My sis, Natalie looking rather pooped out after spending 830 to 5 pm on the opposite end of the retail therapy.

Pix of the day goes to the lovely couple of Thomas and Amy who with much resilience and hard selling, got all the cookies and Kaya toast sold off.


This lady has the honor of being the first ever person to buy the Seastars album. She got her photo taken with us and also another free album to distribute. What a great person! 2 more came to buy our album so Ivan and I may be seriously thinking about launching our commercial album….


At the end of the day… a job well enjoyed and done with a couple of books, bags and clothes left.

Well, the hospice managed to raise over $550,000 according to the CNA news. So I guess our little stall added to that. Well done kakis!

Last year, the hospice saw over 1,000 patients – an increase of nearly 200 from 2006. This year, it expects to spend over S$6 million on improving its programmes.

A third of that amount will be covered by government grants and revenue, but the remainder of S$4 million will have to be met through donations