Trusty volunteers offer what the doctor can't order

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 May, 2012, 12:00am


Thousands of Queen Elizabeth Hospital patients in the past 20 years have benefited from the dedication of Uncle Wah-on.

The retired boatman, full name Cheng Wah-on, has seldom missed a day as a volunteer - even in bad weather.

Yesterday he celebrated his 93rd birthday.

Cheung, the oldest male volunteer in a public hospital, will be among about 200 volunteers to receive thanks awards from the Hospital Authority tomorrow.

Known by all the hospital staff as 'Uncle Wah-on', he works from 8am to 4pm five days a week directing patients and showing them the admission procedures On weekends, he knots and knits handicraft items at home as gifts for patients.

'I don't feel tired. You don't feel tired when you are happy. And helping others makes me feel happy,' said Cheng, who has lived with his daughter and grandchildren since his wife died 14 years ago.

Sharing the secret of his longevity and good health, he said exercise and a 'happy heart' were the keys. He spends 30 minutes a day walking from home to the hospital, even on rainy days.

'I do not smoke or drink. I walk every day. I help people and never get disappointed about not being rich,' he said. 'I am happy.'

Another award recipient is Lo Chun-fat, 56, a cancer survivor who still suffers from the side-effects of the disease.

He quit his job as manager with a mainland firm after he fell ill in 1993 and now works as a school gardener, using his leisure time to volunteer with Tuen Mun Hospital's information team two days a week.

'I was sick before and the road to healing was long and painful, but as I share my experience with new patients, at least they feel there is hope,' Lo said.

Sometimes he teaches patients how to care for plants. 'Seeing a seed growing into a plant, many patients feel hope and satisfaction from it.'

Dr Daisy Dai Siu-kwan, the authority's chief manager for primary and community services, said 18,000 people had registered as volunteers in the past 20 years, but more would be welcome to serve psychiatric and cancer patients.

'Their effect on the patients cannot be replaced by staff members,' she said. 'The spiritual support they provide is a very important part of healing.'

Other than conducting sharing sessions and giving directions, volunteers also cut hair, pack goods, escort patients to clinics and run snack shops.

Tomorrow's award ceremony will be held in Queen Elizabeth Stadium, Wan Chai.