She gives up locks to help stray cats

It was an impulsive decision that she regretted at first.But business journalist Cheryl Cheah, 27, knew that it was for a good cause. And driven by her love for cats, the decision came to fruition.

In front of a crowd of some 15 curious bystanders at pet shop The Pet Safari in nex mall yesterday, Ms Cheah had the first-time experience of getting her head shaved at the hands of a pet groomer.

“I hope to let people know that you can sacrifice a few of your material things and personal appearance to do something for street cats,” she said.

With the buzz cut, she hopes to raise awareness and funds that will to go towards the sterilisation of stray cats in the community, in an event called Spay Day.

Since last month, supporters have donated $2,200 towards her cause through online fund-raising platform

All proceeds will go to the Cat Welfare Society (CWS), the organisers of Spay Day.

The target is to hit $10,000 by the end of this month.

This year, CWS will hold two Spay Days – one on May 25 and another sometime in October.

The events will be held through partnerships with 28 veterinary clinics here and CWS aims to sterilise 600 stray cats over those two days.

Spotting a cleanly shaven pate, Ms Cheah said she is now worried about her two pet cats. “I don’t know if they will recognise me when I get home,” she said.

This article was first published in myPaper

Woman shaves head to raise funds for Spay Day

Ms Cheryl Cheah had her head of long, straight hair shaved by a pet groomer on Sunday to raise funds for the Cat Welfare Society’s (CWS) two Spay Days this year, on which community cats are sterilised, with CWS bearing full costs.

The CWS, which started the annual Spay Day in 2006, is having two of such days for the first time this year – one on May 25 and another in October.

As horrifying as shaving may sound for some, the 27-year-old was a picture of calm throughout – having decided to do so way back in February, inspired by a friend volunteering at SPCA in Kota Kinabalu having shaved his head to raise funds for a cat shelter.

‘I personally feel this shave is nothing compared to volunteers who are on site 24/7. They are the unsung heroes,’ Ms Cheah, who owns two cats herself, said.

This article was first published in The Straits Times 

A gift of hope

by Eveline Gan

For more than a year, Jane Prior’s son, Daniel, grappled with unexplained on-and-off high fevers. By the time doctors nailed down the cause of the fevers, the 11-year-old was getting random bruises over his body.

The diagnosis: Acute myelogenous leukemia, an aggressive form of blood cancer. To survive, Daniel would require a bone marrow transplant.

Speaking at the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) press conference last week, Jane told TODAY: “It would have been so easy for us if his siblings were a match but they weren’t. There wasn’t anything else to do but to wait for a match from someone else.”

Three months later, they found a matching donor from Australia. In 1996, Daniel became the first child to receive a successful bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor at the National University Hospital.

Jane understands how nerve-wrecking the wait for a suitable unrelated bone marrow donor can be for patients and their loved ones. Presently the president of BMDP, the Singapore Permanent Resident now actively campaigns for the urgent need to expand Singapore’s bone marrow donor pool.

At the press conference last week, BMDP announced plans to expand the local register by a further 5,000 volunteer donors this year. There are currently about 50,000 donors in the non-profit organisation’s database.

Each year, 2 in 3 adults in Singapore suffering from various leukaemia and other deadly blood-related diseases will require a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant in order to survive.

But the chance of finding a match from an unrelated donor is only 1 in 20,000, said Dr Yvonne Loh, haematologist and medical director of the Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Programme at Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

Parents are usually not suitable donors for their children because each child inherits half his set of genes from each parent, explained Dr Loh. Siblings serve as the most suitable blood stem cell donor – the chance of a match is 1 in 4. But in more than 70 per cent of cases, this is not possible.

“In Singapore, our patients have access to the very best medical facilities, but with typically small families there is seldom a matching family member so we still lose lives unnecessarily when no matching donor can be found,” said Jane.

When a match cannot be found in the Singapore registry, the search will extend to other parts of the world. Finding a match typically takes about 15 weeks, but for minority ethnic groups, Dr Loh said the search “can go on for many months”.

Explaining why she volunteered at BMDP a year after her son’s transplant, Jane said: “I didn’t want anyone else suffering from the disease to be told that a match cannot be found simply because they belong to an ethnic minority group.”

As donor match is most likely to be found from within the same ethnic group, BMDP hopes to expand donor sign-ups in the minority groups.

Last year, Shalini Nair, 26, underwent a peripheral stem cell harvest to save a stranger’s life. The process took two days, for seven hours each.

“After the procedure, your life is back to normal but to someone else, your donation has changed their life,” she said. Eveline Gan

Sidebar: Becoming a donor – get your facts right.

Are you going to crack my spine or take a sample of my bone marrow? In her decade-long experience as a Bone Marrow Donor Programme volunteer, Jane Prior said that such misconceptions are still common. Haematologist Dr Yvonne Loh, medical director of the Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Programme at the SGH, clears up the mystery surrounding the donation process.

Myth 1: It is a hassle to sign up as a donor because you’ll need a sample of my bone marrow.

All you’ll need to sign up as a volunteer donor is to provide a sample of your saliva using a buccal swab. The cotton-tip swab is used to collect DNA from the cells of your cheek. You can even arrange for the buccal swab to be sent to you via mail. The DNA information is then recorded in the registry, and you will be contacted to donate if you are found to be a match to a patient.

Myth 2: Bone marrow donation is risky.

If you are found to be a potential match for a patient, BMDP will contact you and arrange for a medical check-up and blood tests to confirm you are a match.

The donation process will be from the vein in your arm (stem cell harvest) or from the pelvic bone (bone marrow harvest). The latter is performed under general anaesthesia. According to Dr Loh, both are safe procedures and risks to donors are mild and rare. Within two weeks of donation, most donors’ blood cell counts would have returned to normal.

Myth 3: I can’t say no after signing up with the registry.

You have the right not to go ahead with the donation process, when you are successfully matched with a patient. However, once you give your consent on the “Intent to Donate” form (this is usually done after undergoing medical check-up and counselling), it is a life-and-death situation for the patient. The patient will undergo pre-transplant treatment which wipes out his bone marrow. If you pull out at this stage, he may die without a transplant.

Call 6327 1344 or visit for more information.

Source: Today

He cheers up morning crowd

He clears trays, fetches high chairs for toddlers and guards over spills until they are cleaned.

He does everything a cleaner at McDonald’s is supposed to do.

Except that he isn’t a cleaner.

He does it all willingly, and for free, just to set an example for others that they should clear their trays.

Mr Dauglas Sim, 53, who according to his website is a consultant and a trainer in ministry work, once worked in McDonald’s for a few years. More than 20 years later, he still feels a connection.

For the past five years, he has been turning up at between 5am and 6am at the fast-food chain’s outlet in Northpoint Shopping Centre at Yishun Avenue 2 to clear tables.
Mr Sim helping a customer open the door to the outlet.

He said: “After being in the service business, it’s become second nature for me to clean up.”

“Only in Singapore do people not clear their trays after they’re done,” he added. “I want to be an example for other Singaporeans.”

Mr Sim, who is single, lives in a three-room flat just opposite Northpoint, making it convenient for him to report for “work” at the 24-hour outlet.

When The New Paper arrived at the outlet at 7am on Tuesday, Mr Sim was already hard at work.

He had placed his belongings – books, breakfast and a hat – on one table at his usual corner of the restaurant.

Another hat, a small umbrella attached to a harness, sat atop his head as he went about clearing trays, often with a coffee cup in hand.

He had bought his usual coffee and muffin set from the restaurant.

Amuses kids

When parents with small children entered, he immediately pulled out high chairs or offered McDonald’s balloons to the kids.

He would go about “working” for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, between free refills of coffee and retreats to his seat for more bites of breakfast.

By 9am, it was time for a well-deserved break.

Mr Sim changed his T-shirt and settled into his chair with the day’s newspapers.

He said he had been doing these acts of kindness for some time, but not exclusively at the Yishun outlet.

He said: “I’ll do this at McDonald’s in Ang Mo Kio or Yishun. Wherever I am. Even at Burger King, KFC, and Delifrance.”

A McDonald’s spokesman said Mr Sim has been a regular customer “for a number of years” and noted that he takes great pleasure in helping other customers.

Said the spokesman: “(Mr Sim) often insists that he is happy to do these things, in spite of offers to help from our crew… As Mr Sim seems happy and is just trying to be helpful, we do not stop him.”

Mr Sim said he gets job offers all the time – the McDonald’s spokesman said they had invited him to apply for a job with the company – but that he prefers to manage his own business.

As his income varies depending on bookings, his sister, an accounts officer, helps out with bills for his house, Internet and telephone to the tune of $500 a month.

Regulars’ favourite

Mr Sim appears to have earned the affection of regulars at the McDonald’s Northpoint branch.

A 39-year-old housewife who is at the restaurant every day and gave her name as Ms Zai said: “Kids normally like him. He’s very cute and makes them laugh”.

He amuses patrons with his various hats – he said he has eight. They include a farmer’s hat and a cowboy’s hat.

Added Ms Zai: “Sometimes when I have a stressful day, I come in and see how jovial he is. It makes me smile and makes my day.”

Another customer, a retiree in his 70s who gave his name as Mr Chew, said MrSim “does everything except take out the trash”.

He added: “Sometimes I’m a bit dizzy and he’ll help my carry my tray. It’s wonderful that he’s willing to help.”

Mr Sim denies being over-enthusiastic, though.

“I might be crazy. But the right kind of crazy, not the wrong kind,” he said, before high-fiving a customer.

Source: The New Paper