Over the years l witnessed how our community transformed. From drinking water from standpipes to drinking from taps, from attap and zinc homes to HDB flats, from street hawkers to hawker centres and food courts, from one Outram General Hospital (now SGH) to 5 huge Hospitals, from big families of 8 and more, to smaller families of 3 to 4.
Life was simple then, and with no TV, owning a radio was a luxury. Resettlement was common, so many were asked to move from one place to another to make way for roads, new homes, schools and new industries. Many had their land acquired for comprehensive development. They were paid very little. Life was quite disruptive as big families were broken up to move into smaller HDB flats during resettlement exercises. Many grumbled but there was no choice as Singapore was in the construction phase of nation building.
Education was encouraged and schools were built to meet demand. Many families did not send the girls to school. So it was not uncommon to find the elder girls leaving school to help look after the family. Now they need help.
Jobs were not easy to find and hawking on the streets were a common sight. Pirate taxis ply the road and they were cheap form of transport. The streets were not generally safe and gangsters roamed the streets till LKY threw them into jail. The people were generally poor but they went about trying to make ends meet.
When they fell ill they visit the Outpatient Dispensary (OPD) which gave good and affordable medical care. For mothers and children there would be Maternal and Childcare clinics to take care of them. Home deliveries of babies were common.
Today Singapore has transformed into a first world city. The change was too fast for many. So this pioneer generation now faces a new challenge. Their simple lifestyle cannot meet the demands of the new world. With little education they accepted not high paying jobs. They do not have much in their CPF and many have no CPF. They toiled very hard so their children would have a better life.
Now age has caught up with them. Today many are struck down with multiple health problems. They used to pay less than $5 dollars for an OPD visit but now it is different. Health bills have jumped many folds. Also some were resettled away from their children so they stay alone.
I hope with this backdrop younger Singaporeans will have a better appreciation of what the pioneer generation went through.
This move to help this generation is timely and I support this very fine gesture.