We are not all heroes.

faith. hope. love.

Amidst luxury brands and high street stores Singapore’s Orchard Road is famous for sits an old lady just outside Mandarin Gallery peddling an assortment of eclectic wares. From packets of tissue paper to a bottle of dark soy sauce, I always wondered why she chose such a spot (without shelter) to sell her stuff. But she was one of those people at the back of my mind. I never cared for more than five minutes, sometimes stopping to pass her some spare cash on hand.

This night was no exception. After meeting some friends for dinner, we were on our way to the MRT station when we passed by her makeshift stall again. On impulse, I reached for some cash and stuffed it in her hands, walking away quickly without really making eye contact.

It was then a friend said, “Maybe you should write about her. I wonder what her story is; why she chooses to sell her things on Orchard Road.”

I hesitated. As a journalist, it is an occupational hazard to be inquisitive. I didn’t want to intrude, and besides I wasn’t sure if she would agree to an interview. Making excuses, we walked further away from her and once again I tried to put her at the back of my mind.

But I didn’t succeed this time around.

After a detour into Forever 21 and H&M, I simply couldn’t forget how the old lady held her pride like a prize. Even though I passed her some money before, she insisted I take something from her selection of goods. I chose a packet of Nestum cereal before walking away.

This time, I walked back and was surprised to see she was still there, even though it was already 10.30pm. Slightly embarrassed, I asked if I could sit next to her for a chat.

“Sure! I don’t have a chair for you though,” she says cheerfully in Mandarin.

“Aiya, don’t worry about it! I’m happy to sit on the floor,” I dismiss her concerns about the lack of a chair.

And so we talked. About lots of things. About the rising cost of living, about how medical costs are getting more ridiculous, and as with almost everyone in Singapore she had her misgivings about the government. She asked if I believe in a God; I told her I believe in Jesus. And that was that. The conversation meandered to other things.

As it turns out, she’s 83 years old. Rain or shine, she sets up her stall from about 11am outside Mandarin Gallery. If it rains, she moves to the sheltered area.

“The economy’s very bad,” she says. “No one’s buying anything.”

She shows me her weathered hands, swollen and tender from years of arthritis. Apparently years of western and traditional Chinese treatments have not helped. Her fingers are furled, unable to be straightened.

“These things are heavy,” gesturing to her plethora of goods – a can of curry chicken, a black bra wrapped in a clear plastic bag with the tags still attached, a few packets of instant drinks. “When I carry them all home, my hands hurt.”

Sitting there with her was a humbling experience. I didn’t care much for my surroundings, except when people stopped and stared. I was slightly indignant that people should stare as if chatting with someone is a spectacle, but I am no one to judge. I have no idea what went through their minds.

Singaporeans are not known for their warmth. If anything, we’ve been voted as the unhappiest country. According to that Forbes report,

“So Singaporeans are prosperous but unhappy? Overworked, but comfortable? What would you rather be?”

Maybe that contributes to our apathy.

But I witnessed a few incidents that night that told me otherwise. A man who looked to be in his early twenties bought a bottle of oil for $10. Another teenage girl ran up to the old lady, stuffed $2 in her hand, and ran away looking slightly embarrassed. A middle-aged man wrapped a doughnut in a piece of newspaper and passed it to the old lady.

I just had to smile.

At about 11pm, she began packing up her stall preparing to go home. Seeing as her trolley looked rather heavy, I offered to give her a lift home.

“No need lah, it’s easier for me to go home at night. Not so many people. Coming to Orchard in the morning, that’s more difficult. A lot of people want to come here,” she waves off my offer.

Before I took my leave, I asked if we could take a photo together for memory’s sake.

“Aiyo, my hair very messy leh! You sure not?”

And so we took this photo together.

thank you.
A rather unglamorous photo, but it isn’t about me anyway.

Thank you, auntie, for teaching me that we are all one and the same. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me; thank you for not looking down on me on account of age or ignorance.

We are not all heroes. That Saturday night, I learned that giving a little love away can be more precious than anything else. And if we can, let’s stop. Smile. Say hello. Even if it’s a little embarrassing. Even if it’s not something you’re prone to do. (:

P.S. If you ever see her along Orchard Road, please help her out by purchasing something if you can. (:


177 Replies to “We are not all heroes.”

    1. Hey Hero, thanks so much for commenting. It was just one of those things I felt compelled to do, haha. (:

  1. Very nice one D :) So much potential in you to be writing people’s stories especially of our heritage/roots, I hope this open up a paradox box for you ;)

    Would really love to hear about her “story” and could better connect her to the social welfare support available in Singapore, and offer her better business suggestions e.g. it’s not that economy is bad but no one comes to Orchard to buy soya sauce! Can’t fault her for not knowing that really but we can tell it’s really more a case of just not knowing what to do or how to live.

    As I’m beginning to think the Singaporean apathy syndrome has come out of a sense of “helplessness” like most people feel “stuck” and don’t know what to do and so it’s easier to just ignore. Many are not educated/knowledgable on the social welfare support available to offer help to fellow citizens — more especially when their own parents could be needing help — and the two-way stress of having to care for one’s parents and also raise a family, which is deeply embedded in the Chinese/Asian culture is triggering the apathy more than consequences of work and stuff.

    But it’s almsot a cultural taboo to write/talk about, so it’s easier for “western” publications to just look at the more superficial causes when in fact it goes beyond, and unless they have walked our walk, not many can claim to know/understand. :)

    1. Thank you for the encouragement Jan! It’s so true, I wish I could sit with her for longer/more often and let her know more about help that’s available. 30 minutes felt so short, I felt like I couldn’t say much (she was talking most of the time and I didn’t want to be rude and interrupt).

      There are so many causes for a lack of finances in Singapore and I can only hope that it will not be taboo to talk about it openly in the near future, so those who need help can get help without a sense of shame hanging over their heads.

      Maybe, just maybe, I can continue writing stories like these. That’s up to Him. (:

      1. Thanks Diane for taking the step to bring about awareness of this lady’s situation. Good job! Yes continue to write more of such story and so bring more awareness as well.

    1. Hi Audrey, thank you for reading + responding! That’s one of the most valuable things I’ve taken away from spending time with her. (:

  2. Hi Diane!

    Thank you for writing this little post.

    I’ve passed by this old lady a number of times too, and I always try to get something from her. Like you, I didn’t talk to her for a long while. Just asked about her business and the weather, but nothing more than that.

    Through reading this, I’ve realised that there are so many stories to be told, and if we could spend just a little more time with her (or people like her), we’ll get to learn a lot more.

    So thank you again for writing this. Thank God for the words.

    The next time I see her, I’ll be sure to talk to her more. :D


    1. Hey Georgia! No worries, I’m glad more will be willing to interact with her and hopefully help beyond monetary terms. Share your stories with us too, if you want! (:

  3. Thank you for going out of your way to talk to the lady and write the story. About a week ago, I walked past her stall, I felt moved to helped the lady by getting something. But I didn’t do it. Your story has encouraged me to be bold. I have decided on what to do next time when I walk along this street.

    1. Hey CH, no thanks needed. It was a struggle to make that decision to go back and spend time with her, so I understand where you’re coming from. Thank you for sharing your experience too, I really hope others who have time and change to spare will take time to say hello to her, or better still, those who are in a similar situation. (:

  4. Thank God you believe in Jesus. This is a broken down world, is good you have compassion for people but understanding is required for the bad things you see. I choose not to have negative reaction and Just like you to reach out to anyone God puts in my path.

  5. Hi Diane,

    Thank you for sharing your article with us, you had just given me a better and clearer idea of what is true compassion & graciousness all about. I think your writing is awesome and I hope it brings you to a high level platform in your journalism. ^^

    1. Hey Xavier, thank you so much for commenting and for your encouragement! Compassion and grace can mean different things to different people; I just happened to share my experience. (: Nonetheless I do think all of us can do with a little bit more compassion, grace, and love. (:

  6. I’m wondering if there is a way to help other than giving some $ or buying stuff. I pondered a few times. Hai… Why don’t I have the determination to…

    1. Hey Feng, I, too, wonder if there’s another way to help. Another friend of mine (who commented above!) gave me a few ideas. Unfortunately I live overseas at this point and can’t visit her on a regular basis. Don’t be disheartened, I know it can be difficult to help. It took me a good long while to decide to go back to talk to her, too. Struggle isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we all go through it. Maybe one day if you do stop and help someone out, you could document your struggle. In the meantime, chin up, smile, and thank you so much for commenting! (:

  7. Reading this is very very humbling… I appreciate your time. I appreciate your kindness.

    Reminds me to be grateful and appreciative of the people and things around me.

    I will remember this post and I will definitely remember to stop by to buy something from the Auntie if I’m in town and in that area again. I used to when I was there but haven’t been to Orchard for quite awhile as the crowd is really crazy..

    Bless you and Bless everyone who took the time to click onto the link and read the article. We need more people with compassion around us!

    1. Hi Kenny, thanks for dropping by and reading! Yes, Orchard (or should I say Singapore) seems to get more and more crowded each time I head back home. We do need more people with compassion around us, reaching out to more people (beyond this old lady). (: Have a great day!

  8. Thank you for sharing such touching story with us. It is contagious…. in a positive way, of course. Your story has lifted my spirit and courage. I will stop by the next time round and help her.

  9. It’s ‘little’ people like this old aunty, with her dignity, grit and pride, that are the real heroes of daily life. I try to buy my packet tissues from the tissue aunty outside my usual mrt stop, or sweepstake tix from the uncle in wheelchair, and stop to chat for moment or buy them a drink/snack. I want my kids to be compassionate in our materialistic world.

  10. She looks like one of those pitiful but intelligent people who make use of others’ sympathy to cheat them.

    Still, looking at what she does, she probably doesn’t earn or cheat much. Maybe she’s genuine.

    1. Hi Ronald, very honestly that thought did cross my mind. What if she’s only preying on people’s sympathies and misusing the money for other things? That stopped me from reaching out to her before, and it’s why I took so long before turning back to talk to her. But I realised her situation probably goes beyond her lack of finances. Besides money, we all need some love, care, and concern too. That’s what made me turn back eventually (: Thank you for stopping by, and thank you for your honesty (:

  11. This is a nice story indeed. We all need to give more heart to help those in need. This reminded me of an elderly malay couple who used to sell fish crackers at beach road hawker centre. Whenever we were around, we would always buy their crackers and gave more for them to cope with living expenses. I am always happy to see their cheery smile amidst their difficulties.

    Then came the day when I never saw them again at beach road. I heard they have “moved on to a better place”. May their souls be blessed.

  12. Thank you Diane for this insightful spotlight.
    However, my experience with this lady has been less than friendly, even hostile. A packet of instant noodles for $10, and shooed me away when i waited for change. And she clearly had change. It bothered me for awhile, as I walked away, I heard her yelling at other “customers” who wanted to help out, but refused to pay through their nose. As such, she appeared to give the elderly a bad name; nasty, mean, mercenary and rude.

    After much thought, and putting myself in her shoes, she must REALLY need the money to resort to this. She’s at her time of life when she should be enjoying her golden years, surrounded by grandchildren, etc. Instead, she had to make her way to busy Orchard with her heavy goods almost nightly in spite of her arthritic hands, and make a dignified living from selling (overpriced goods).

    So, for those like me, who are only too quick to judge her for her apparent initial rudeness and meanness, do think about it. :)

    1. Hey Nick, thanks for stopping by and reading! I didn’t manage to weave this into the story, but to my knowledge she lives alone and doesn’t have any family. I don’t have a way of verifying that, but I guess I have no reason to not believe her (as you said, she should be enjoying life in her golden years). I had my doubts too, initially. Thank you for being honest in your response, I really appreciate it! (: Have a great week ahead!

    2. Hey Nick! Absolutely agree with you. I really wanted to help her by purchasing something from her. The other day, I passed by her once again admist the many number of times I have walked past her in Orchard. I decided to stop by and help her by purchasing something. I asked her politely, how much does the tissue paper costs? She gave me a very unfriendly look and gestured and said: “10”. Thinking she was referring to the bundle of tissue paper, I asked her politely again: “I just want a packet, since it’s 5 for $10, can I buy 1 for $2 instead?” She shooed me away and said “$10” again… This time, I was really annoyed. I really wanted to help her out by just buying a packet of tissue. To quote a customer with unfriendly glances and selling the price of a tissue paper at $10!

      To be fair, Diane, no doubt your post is touching and insightful. But even so if you require money badly, I don’t think that chasing customers away when we are trying to help should be the right way things go…

      This is just my thoughts…

  13. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story.
    will inform all my friends to buy back her stuff so that she don’t have to carry so many heavy things home.
    It is true that we should slow down our pace and look at our surroundings.

    in the midst of looking, we get to find some unsung heroes, who even though are not implied to do the things they do, but they do it because they love people.

  14. Thank you for sharing this diane. I always wanted to approach her to give her mone but didnt have the courage to. Will make the first step! It kinda brings me to tears to see her in this state cos shes as old as my ah ma and shes living like this. I will make the first step when i see her in orchard next time!

  15. Good post, although seldom did i go to orchard. But once in a while, i did want to buy something from her but got rushed away by my friends. I did purchase from another uncle though. Will see what i can do the next time i visit. Cheers D.

  16. Reblogged this on THE MERCURIAL DEVILEGNA. and commented:
    GOSH. This story really make me think and reflect a lot, as well as relate to VC too.

    Firstly, I have seen this auntie many times at Mandarin Gallery, and yet I have made no effort to buy any stuff from her or make an effort to donate, as I feel that she was just lazy to find a proper job and decided to choose the easy way out, because I assumed. I assumed that’s who she was.
    And it’s the same for VC. I assumed that drawing and thinking of my logos and mascots would be easy without doing some background research. I assumed. And yet, my thumbnails were just the basics, especially my logos. There were no visual appeal or input in them as all. After researching on more different logos, did I finally get the logo that I wanted. My brand name could be read and it showed a panda face as well (:
    Of course, success wasn’t overnight, I did spent 2 hours on a logo, but that was too cryptic to be accepted. But at least I tried and tried again.

    This lesson taught me not to assume. Not to think that I am almighty and that I can cope without proper research.
    And it’s the same for the lady at Mandarin Gallery. Next time I will donate some money to her as she is struggling to make ends meet, and I know how it feel like to struggle for something, like in VC, struggling to think of ideas.

  17. hi!
    nice written. i did saw her few times there and i always wanted to purchase things from her but unsure what to purchase. i do hope that, there is an local welfare organisation able to recognise this such issue and do really help those who really needs helps.

  18. Keep up the good work Diane.

    Hopefully there will be humanity among Singaporeans to assist this old lady!

    I will buy something when i pass by that area and see her (:

  19. If government or her relatives aren’t really helping, our help would be meaningful yet temporary. Thanks for spending time with her, but the government have to do something.

  20. Hi Diane

    Thank you for sharing the story; i am extremely humbled reading your well written story.

    The same thoughts surface each time i go pass her. Being typical and judgmental, i thought that she was more like selling overpriced goods to cheat some poor soul’s money.

    Last Saturday, i saw a girl dropped by to purchase something from her. My initial thought was “why”? I saw the young lady passed her $2 and took a packet of drink powder, i wondered why would anyone pay $2 for something so random in the middle of Orchard Road.

    Your story about the old lady has shed light to many of us about people in our community. Despite her existence for years over at the same spot, we never really wondered why she was there or why she had to be there.

    I admit that i didn’t dare to walk up and pass her money. Maybe next time i would. A few dollar on me would probably end up on things like bubble tea or snacks; but if she could put into better use, i think i won’t mind blessing her.

    Thanks for the good read, again, Diane. :)

    God bless.


  21. thanks for sharing this.. guess the fact everyone is just so busy, will simply walk past without giving a second glance.. will definitely make myself walk that stretch just for this sweet lady..

  22. People mind too about what people might think. That’s why people are embarrassed. Thank you for your stories. Next time I will defeat that feeling of embarrassment. Everyone should. :)

  23. Hi Diane! I just came across this website of yours from twitter. And I can say that your articles are really good! I really like reading them, and I hope to read more from your stories! The few stories ive read here are pretty good and has inspired me quite a bit! Do keep writing <3

  24. I have definitely seen this old lady a few times in Orchard, but never once bought anything from her. It was rather unusual to be selling anything there, therefore making me hesitant.

    But I am so proud of you, and will promise to get an item from her in the future.

    God bless you, wonderful lady.

  25. Compassion. What are we really without it! Kudos to u fr this amazing entry! I have noticed the same auntie and I have the same thoughts and feelings, just like you, towards her as well. I often saw her sleeping while seating on that small chair i mean it must have been really really really uncomfortable! I just wish that Life will be better for her and hopes that she is happy forever no matter what life brings.

  26. Everyone has a story to tell. Often we are too busy writing our own stories to stop and listen to others.

    As a physician, I often see some of these Ahmas in my clinic. They come in, neatly dressed in their worn silk blouses, daughter and grandson in tow.

    When the consult is over, the ahma is left on her own to fumble through her wallet to cough up the consult and medication bills.

    The daughter/son will then drag the grandson out of the clinic ostentially claiming that they do not have enough money to pay for the bills. And the grandson has an iPad in his hands, whilst the mum carries a Chanel bag and iPhone.

    It breaks my heart to see children treating their parents this way, and i usually waive my consult/medications charge because the ahma really needs her medications to control her plethora of medical problems.

    One can only hope that the grandson does not learn from example, and treat his mother the same way in the near future.

    My advice to you would be to help whoever in whatever capacity you have, for it only takes a small gesture on your part, to change another person’s entire world.

  27. Thank you for your post. Please use your journalism advantage to publicise people who make ends meet in a humble and hardworking manner, so that we can help one another and pay it forward to make this country warm with human touch. Please make create possible with your journalism advantage. Thank you once again. 😊

  28. If everyone that walked passed, take a minute to buy something from here. It will helps her alot. :)

  29. I thank God for a kind person like you. I always walked pass her and thought why she sell random stuffs. I was hoping you could write more about her purpose of setting her shop there however thanks for sharing. I will buy from her next time i see her. =)

  30. Thats kind of you to chat with her. Me? I dont really go to Town so i dont see her but i am looking forward to meet her and listen to her life story.

  31. I loved your story. As a semi-Singaporean (I’m Dutch but lived in Singapore for a large part of my life) it just warms my heart to see there’s still people who actually care about other (less fortunate) people in Singapore. Well done for having a chat and getting out of your comfort zone to get this story to us.

    Next time I’m in town, I’ll be sure to go out and buy something from this tough ol’ lady.

  32. Well written, maybe it was God’s calling. Maybe 1 day u could introduce her to God.

    I always see her in town and would always pass her $10 and she would always insist I take something. I normally would just take a packet of tissue.

    Seeing her sitting at Orchard road at the age of 80+ made me felt sad. These ppl that contributed to the growth of Singapore but unable to retire peacefully. Only goes to show what our government is doing.

    Anyway ppl, do help this lady. I’m sure someone up there would bless you just as u have blessed this lady. Or what ppl would like to call good karma

  33. Thanks D for the effort:) I have always been giving auntie some money and will grab a packet of tissue from her every time when i see her there. However, I hardly noticed anyone else doing that when I was there, everyone will just looked at her and walked away:( I am glad that there is someone like u putting that extra miles and write an article about auntie:) great article and thank u for showing us that there are still many beautiful Singaporeans out there;)

  34. I love this old lady in my heart and seeing her always makes my heart ache. I remember when she let me carry her big bags for her after she packed up. Omy they were really freakin heavy!

    I always been wondering about her and i am really happy to have read ur write up. Thank u for writing. Last time pple used to tell me that all these got syndicate etc, i am happy not to believe them ;)

  35. Very thoughtful and meaningful post. Thank you for bringing most of us back to reality, and also showing that there are indeed a lot of people out there who care for one another.

  36. Hi D,
    Thanks for writing this. Keep on writing from the heart and let your stories glorify Him. You are indeed blessed to be a blessing. Cheers!

  37. Going for the Student Exchange Program in China taught me many things. And one of them was to strike up a conversation with the elderlies and talk about life. It is interesting to hear what advices and life experiences they have to offer. Singaporeans should be more amiable in their daily life. Thanks for this wonderful post.

  38. It’s when we connect with others that we feel their hopes, their pains, their struggles and their dreams. Often we don’t make time to connect with our parents, children and friends. Thank you for this reminder.

  39. This is absolutely a great post and thank u for sharing it with us :)
    I noticed this lady as i work nearby..and just like other people, I feel for her but I am too ignorance to stop and buy something from her..but Indeed, your post change my mind and the way I see myself, it’s embarrassing but it’s good to realize it now.

    Thank u

  40. That’s a beautifully written post, I’m touched and you brought me close to tears! I’ve seen her a number of times around orchard, and if I do see her the next time I visit home (I stay in Australia now) i’ll definitely do my bit to help her. :)

  41. Cheers to you Diane, I always make it a point to buy a pack of tissue passing her more than what its worth(of course). Been wanting to know more about her but didn’t seem to sum up my courage. I wonder where her children or her family members are. Feel so heart broken seeing her in this state(imagine she is your mother or grandmother!) Hope more Singaporeans will help her out but please remember that she’s not a begger, she is just out to earn a living like everyone of us!

  42. Thank you for writing this beautiful post. I also promise you that I would pick up an item from the grandma when i pass by her next time. It’s about time that we wake up and realized that the world is not circling around us. We need to be more gracious and considerate with our actions.

    Thanks once again for making my day!

  43. I was touched by your post. Maybe next time I pass by Orchard road I will buy something from her. Just the simplest action showing that you do care can really make someone’s day.

  44. Great job you have done there:-) as the saying goes “助人为快乐之本” when u help others u feel happy too:)

  45. Wow a very touching and warming post about helping the old and needy. To a certain extent i feel that the government should have done more to provide financial, emotional and physical assistance to the old and aged. It is truly an embarrassment that nothing much has been done for the lady by the government.

  46. Thank you so much for this post. I’m a forefinger living in Singapore, and I am losing so much hope with the locals here since most of them appear to be so heartless and careless about these things around them. This article inspire me a lot and help me regain some faith in the locals of singap

  47. I just love how there are still people like you in Singapore! Singapore is becoming more, I would say harsh, because the stress level is getting higher, and they are forgetting about the little things that would make each other’s day. Just like the old lady’s smile, I’m sure anyone who read this would definitely leave with a smile!

  48. Thanks for your wonderful article! I really appreciate the amount of time and effort you spent writing this article.

    It’s been a while since I’ve seen people writing on noteworthy articles that put important messages across: Human faith restoration. It’s people like you that create the greater good for mankind by increasing the awareness of how we can help the less fortunate around us while we still can. Giving is a bliss; I feel.

    Keep it up! :)

  49. Thank for writing such a post. I still remembered I was taught to give when ever I have extra. I remembered there was quite a few times I bought tissues from this auntie. I gave her $5 for a packet of tissue even though that’s the amount of cash I had left in my wallet.

    My friends will say, “aiyo why pay so much? Come, I sell you at $1. Cheaper than what you paid.”

    But what’s going through my mind was… I am young, I am still be able to earn but this auntie might not have the ability to earn. Even a $5 might be very useful for her. I agreed that her pride is there. She doesn’t want to take money for nothing. She will insist that you take something from her. =)

  50. Hi Diane, this is very touching. We used to live in Singapore for 10 years but we live in Sydney now. I have just posted this to my wall and asked all my SG friends to help this lady if they are there. Keep up the good work !

  51. i wish to hear more about HER story and what she went through rather than the experience you gathered. Thank you

  52. Hi Diane,love what u wrote.Indeed each time i visited that area,always seeing this old lady sitting ard with her stuffs.Yet,i didnt do much abt it as i was always walking too fast to offer,If each of everyone buy one item frm her,she will bringing less stuffs home..So let’s hope everyones will starts to buy frm her^^ after reading this.Thank u.

  53. I once wanted to use $1, to get ‘one small packet of tissue’ from her, but she actually requested for $2.. It’s like ppl might not be rich themselves but stil wanting to help even if its a small amount, but she’s asking for more.. Some kinda using ppls kindness?

  54. Hello there , you are truly one beautiful hero :)
    I want to be a hero too . So i did saw her before but that time i don’t even have enough money . So i decided to give her $5 . I even wanted to cry when i want to give her the money . Eventho she sells things from home , i still feel sad that i just have to give her $5 without saying a word . But just a smile to her and she smile back to me .

    And i really wish next time when i go town i wanted to meet her again .
    Anyway , i am so proud of you posting this .
    And even my family likes your post :)

  55. Wou. This story still makes me think although I heard it already. :) One more reason for me to visit Singapore outside the airport.

  56. Hi from another Asian who proclaimed herself as “diane writes” too :) I’ve been to your hometown last March. It was my first time and hopefully, it will not be the last :) If I encountered this post way before my visit, I will definitely look for her.

    You have a great blog and profession. I’m back reading your posts and enjoying everything. You have a new fan in me :)

    Have a great week!

  57. Yeah nice one..whenever I go down orchard and sees her I always pass her $10 and get a tissue as my way of showing support and not sympathy..I hope from now on more people will also do the same~~

  58. Hello Diane,

    I read your blog about the elderly lady selling things at Mandarin Gallery. I was in Singapore only recently for 3 days and made the effort to look for her. She was not there on my 1st attempt, but she was on the 2nd day which was the day I was due to depart back to KL. I spoke to her and bought something from her. Gave her S$20 when she asked for S$7 and told her to keep the change at least for a hot meal for the day and a ride home. Thanks to your article, she had some exposure and made us aware of the plight of people like her. I wouldn’t be there to at least lend a hand if I did not read this. Pray that she’s doing fine and life is not too cruel on her and others too.

    Similarly, on that same rainy afternoon, I came across another aunty selling tissues in the rain at Far East Plaza. I initially walked past her but passed her again on my way back to Orchard Road and decided to hand some money to her and told her its not a wise idea standing in the rain. Having lived in Singapore as a child, its sad to see these amongst the fast-paced life and development there as compared to Malaysia. Life is tough as we know it, and at least we could do something to help the less fortunate.

    All the best and God bless you.

  59. I’m not trying to be mean, but there are some people out there who deserves more care.

    She is able-bodied, do something else, will she? Contribute to the economy, definitely not by selling things way above market price.

    There is a guy who is an amputee who will station himself outside Paragon, that guy deserves our care, not this auntie.

    Anyways, the higher ups dont really care as well, there are many others suffering @ Outram-TiongBahru-Chinatown.

    I wouldnt hesitate to hire her anyway

  60. hi diane, thank you so much for your effort to pen this down! i’m sure it will help to raise more awareness that not everyone is fortunate.

    currently, this lady is facing problems to continue her business at this corner of orchard road. officials have been issuing her warnings as she doesn’t have a licence. it will great if anyone here is able to offer alternatives that will still allow her to make a decent income? do consider the limitations due to her illness and age:/

    here is a little background i can provide about this lady: she is living by herself near bukit ho swee at a one-room apartment, barely surviving with some financial aids which are used mainly for rental and bills.

    i do want to emphasize that being compassionate and kind is not just about giving money or food, but also sparing some time to offer your company and lend a listening ear to this lady.

  61. You are such an angel! I am so touched of your moves.Yup will definitely purchase something from her if I drop by there.thanks fof sharing.

  62. Heyy are you from Meld? Think I saw you at one of the CISA gathering in Melbourne haha anw thank you for this awesome post! :)

  63. Hello Diane,

    A link on Facebook brought me here and I am glad it did. I just wanted to say, thank you for writing this, it gives me hope that there is kindness in the world.

    I have also read some of your posts and I must say I really like the way you write – it’s forthcoming and sincere. I have never left any comments on a blog post but this time I must say, keep writing!


  64. Hi Diana,

    Thanks for sharing this heartwarming post! I will be buying something from her the next time I see her (:

    God bless!

  65. Saw her a couple of times but I did nothing to help her, I wouldn’t feel comfortable stuffing her cash.

    Thanks for reminding me to not turn a blind eye to those almost forgotten by the society.

  66. This old lady, was spotted taking cab home.

    Was spotted driven by a Merc

    Was spotted smoking

    I’ve worked at Orchard area for almost 10 years.
    Witnessed by several staffs

  67. This is a really nice post! I’ve never noticed her there before, though I don’t pass by the area often. Maybe I’ll see her the next time I go.

  68. I stop reading blogs for a couple of years as most of the post are all about the luxury brands and luxury living lifestyles and today I’m here reading your post. I gotta say your post moved me. Please do continue writes for the less fortunate peoples. God bless you.

  69. Hi Diane, thanks for sharing this post. Your story touched me. I may have walked past this old lady before but not anymore! Your post inspire me…to become a better person. I mean, it doesn’t do any harm to us by helping that poor old lady out right? whereas, i think we’ll feel rather great about it? It’s great to know that there’re are actually lots of kind souls out there in Singapore too (:
    – Lend a helping hand and bring smile to others <3

  70. Hi D,

    Enjoyed reading you posting. Like myself, I am sure many people will be looking out for her on orchard road and your posting, I am sure will make a big difference for her.

    Thank you for posting.

  71. Congratulations! In one blogpost, you’ve achieved something that a lot of jurnos dream off – to write a real story that makes a positive difference to someone’s life.

  72. Hi Diane,
    Thank you for writing this. I once heard from a friend that this auntie sold him a small tube of Nescafe instant coffee for $4 and always wondered what she was up to. Thank you for shedding light on her. I will be sure to send her some love when I pass by the next time. :)

    1. Beautiful story!
      Thank God for such a wonderful act. Remind us to keep our feelings close and to sometimes step out of our comfort zone.
      Thanks for the post!

  73. Your words and work will inspire us all to do better than our existing mindset. thanks! :) How do you built an ARK? Act of Random Kindness.

  74. Hi

    Thank you for going back and support her by giving your time. I salute to people who does that as I do not encourage anyone who thinks that he/she is doing good deed by just giving money. Giving money sometimes could be degrading to the person. everyone needs to have the dignity to survive, esp someone like her who is like our grandmother’s age.

    I hope everyone pass by could give her a hug and a warm smile.

  75. Well written and i am sure with your post , she will get some extra help. the next time i visit singapore i will look for her and buy some items (along with some friends form singapore so that they will also buy !!! )

  76. Thank you Diane for writing this post. I enjoyed reading it and it reminds me never to stop caring and sharing. The next time I sees her, I will purchase something from her even if it is something I don’t need. That is to help ease her load from carrying to and for everyday, rain or shine.

  77. Did it ever cross your mind why she chose to travel all the way to Orchard Road and not set up her “stall” at the heartlands? I can tell you straight up she is capitalising on other’s sympathy and guilt to sell things. Yes she may be old and frail, and we will all become like this one day. But I just feel that we need to be aware of the reality of the society we live in.

    You probably not worked or just started working. The world is not what you learn in textbooks. The old lady has probably seen it all and smart enough to take advantage of others’ weakness. This is the world we live in.

    You are lucky that you are born into a family wealthy enough to send you to Australia to study. If you are day in day out trying to make ends meet, you think you have the time to bother to blog about this? Humans are innately selfish creatures.

    Face it, life is cruel.

    1. I hope that when you’re old and frail, and your skills rendered useless, that you’d resort to selling your stuff illegally in Orchard Road, under a sweltering hot sun or stormy rain to make ends meet. You’d savage some gifts or second hand goods which your family, if you even have one by then, would abandon. And you’d sell them at absurdly skyrocketing prices, but people would still buy them from you because you look so old and frail.

      And just when you’ve packed up and decide that you’d have barely enough to cab home with all that stuff you’re carrying, some young judgmental ingrates stomp you and accuse you as a fraud on social media.

      And then, I hope the whole world looks back at this post and take back all that sympathy that you’ve asked for. Why?

      Because face it, life isn’t that cruel, you are.

  78. Hi Diane, thanks for the article.
    Was directed here via Facebook as I was curious to see this familiar aunty in the article link.

    I’ve previously worked in Orchard, and she used to peddle her wares near where I worked, within sight.
    Looking at her definitely invokes the sympathy and need to share some care and concern for her.

    But she is really quite hot tempered and rude. Initially thought I might have engaged her on one of her bad days, but actually it seems to be almost perpetual.

    Not for me to judge, but she is almost never appreciative for help rendered.

    Notice her long enough over a long period and you will notice her being picked up by a certain Mercedes.

    Might be a kind soul whom always offers to send her home, cant be sure. Driver is a young female. Else she usually cabs, which is okay given her heavy load.

    Just wanted to say that things might not always be what it seems.


  79. Hi Diane,
    Thank you for sharing this fascinating story. It gives us a lesson of life. Nowadays
    people are busy of their personal business or works. We become selfish, money minded and materialist, that we forget people who is in need or in pain. Thank you to cheer her up.

  80. My heart goes out to aunties like her who sell tissue paper at prices we can get at one-fifth the price. There is an auntie at my workplace who always approaches us selling her tissue paper. Sometimes, I see pple ignore her and i cant help but reach out for my wallet.

    Thanks for sharing! I’m sure you made her day!!

  81. My heart goes out to aunties like her who sell tissue paper at prices we can get at one-fifth the price. There is an auntie at my workplace who always approaches us selling her tissue paper. Sometimes, I see pple ignore her and i cant help but reach out for my wallet.

    Thanks for sharing! I’m sure you made her day!!

  82. Hey babe! I feel so happy that you actually spent that precious bit of time to sit down and talk to her. I did the same too last year, and yes there were some stares from passers-by (maybe curious?). Like you, I’ve seen her several times at orchard area. I found the courage to talk to her on one occasion and that was one of the most memorable nights of my life. I was glad that I took off some time to sit down and talk to her. By the way, her name is Zheng po po. =)

  83. Hi Diane,
    The old lady is actually a rich woman. (Millionaire in fact).
    Though this may sound like a joke, it’s not.

    Do more investigation and you’ll find the sad truth.

    Again. Truth. Not a joke.

  84. Thanks for sharing this . I always saw this auntie too but hesitate to approach her. Though i wanted to know why she choose to open her stall there. Now this writes had clear some of my thoughts. I definitely will buy something from her :D probably tissues !

  85. Im not sure about others but have anyone actually tried to buy something from her?
    I did. and a couple of times too. In the beginning, she bought a pack of tissues from her as it didnt cost much… to me.

    But has ANYONE actually asked how much shes selling her goods for? I tried to buy a can of baked beans from her as I figured its one of the heavier items in your bag and it would help lessen the load. I asked her how much it was and she quoted me $30. Now… Im all for helping but $30 for a can of baked beans is ridiculous. Coincidentally, I only had $20 and offered her $20 instead. What came as a shock to me was that she started scolding and saying its $30.

    Honestly, if I was in the same position, I would take the $20 for the one can of baked beans. But everything has its price to different people and she shouldn’t be scolding me for it.

    This happened maybe a year ago..
    Now when I see her, I simply walk past only cause i know I tried to help but the lady is making it a VERY difficult case to help.

    Its nice to see everyone commenting how touching the story is. its great. But pls go down and interact with the lady yourself and make your own judgement call.

    or go to bugis and chinatown too.

    For readers who are not reading the comments, scroll through and u will read similar encouter

    1. Not having lived in Singapore for a while but a regular monthly visitor back to a place I used to call home, I’m surprised and a little shocked by the comments here. Firstly, I think I’d like to say a word or two even though I’m Malaysian but mind you I still have a place in Toa Payoh till now. Saying that she takes a cab (I barely can afford to take a taxi in Singapore) or even a Mercedes picks her up occasionally is something that needs some firm evidence to reveal if this elderly lady is really a fraud. To say that her choice of transport is by change is also suspicious too. Can someone shed some light into this, perhaps by waiting for her to pack up at night a snap a photo or take the registration of the cab or Mercedes? I’m saying so as these syndicates have been operation in KL for a long time and many have been exposed, and I’ve even done so once with a group of ‘blind people’.
      To say that she’s rude and temperamental….. well….. she’s elderly and may be having a bad day so please be patient, truth or not will be revealed whether you are there to witness.
      To say that she’s a millionaire?….. well…… would you squat by a pedestrian walkway under the sun and rain to sell junk if you are……???
      But to say that she’s old and frail and needs to earn a living, speak to her and get her side of the story……
      Maybe life was cruel to her, take things with a pinch of salt and a benefit of the doubt, we don’t know what she has to say until someone has the guts to ask her….. again….. I would but she speaks Mandarin and I can barely but I’ll attempt on my next visit soon. Humans are naturally selfish, so don’t be one and don’t be cruel to others.
      My two cents worth.

  86. i remember her but in a bad way.
    3-5 years ago, i was eating at botak jones near the youth park.
    she was selling some tissue. i wanted to help her by buying with 1dollar. but she walk over then she told me, the table before me offered 2 dollar for her tissue and how much and i willing to pay her. i was shocked and feeling ashamed that i can only offer 1 dollar. now i think back, i wanted to help out of good will but her action make me never want to buy things from her.

    1. Hi Kian Huat, I believe she sets up her stall outside Mandarin Gallery (between H&M and Ngee Ann City) on Orchard Road most days around 11am-11pm. She may not be there on certain days due to other commitments. Let us know if you do drop by! (: Have a blessed week!

  87. Hi, adding on to another unpleasant experience with this old lady outside mandarin gallery. I have donated to her before but i have usually never taken note of her pricing ( and i never had a rebuttal from her, i guess because i always gave a sum exceeding her ‘asking price’ )
    However, my girlfriend had a very bad experience with her recently, just last week in fact. Apparently she demands at least 2 dollars for a packet of tissue and she will tick you off if you decide to give her a sum lower than that.

    I agree it is not a nice sight to see an old lady at her age and physical condition to have to endure the weather, rain or shine just to accumulate a sum of money to sustain her living expenses.

    Yet the way she demands and expects over-the-top prices when most people are giving out of goodwill is downright unfathomable and off-putting. I am not here to discourage people from giving but I do believe that such an unpleasant experience should be shared especially when I am not the only one who has witness such bad attitude.

    1. Hello Diane. I was back in Singapore the past weekend and saw her there at the same spot at the frontage of Mandarin Gallery near the road across from H&M (formerly California Fitness). Seems her attitude has changed a bit. Not sure if I caught her on a bad time but there was a big crowd on the streets but there were a few people stopping by to see her wares but walked off after talking to her. True enough, this time she wasn’t too friendly. Maybe she was really having a bad day.

      Just a separate note, there’s this elderly couple at SS2 wai sek kai (glutton’s square) in Petaling Jaya who goes around selling tissues and they really do walk long distances. The man is partially blind. I tailed them and they seem genuine, not pushy and took a bus home unlike syndicates picking them up.

      What was touching was a limping old lady selling the most wonderful bak chang at Section 17 Petaling Jaya hawker centre and nearly shops. She will hobble with her pushcart the entire night and been doing it for a long long time. Her dumplings were awesome, and at RM3.20 for plain pork and RM5.00 with salted egg yolk with the heavenly home-made taste, I’ve no complaints……

  88. hi there
    just want to ask if you notice if there is a trolley with her at the point of time?
    if not i thinking of getting one for her (those which our parent use to go wet market)
    that should ease her pain abit i guess

  89. Hi,

    Just leaving my two cents after reading the article and the comments by the various readers.

    I have always been sympathetic towards elderlies and donating to them whenever possible. I frequent town a lot as well so I will always see her at her usual spot, selling all the various random stuff ranging from foodstuff to cooking needs.

    However, there are a few questions that always come about in my head before I could donate:

    1) She usually goes home late during midnight after all the buses have finished their service. How does she get home after that?

    (I dont know but it seems a little bit strange to me. I mean, she cant possibly walk back to her bukit ho swee home isnt it? Perhaps as mentioned by some readers that shes being picked up by a mercedes? I dont know)

    2) Why would she be selling all the random stuff in the middle of town when people have no need for it (at all)? Even more so when her equipment are extremely heavy, doesnt make much sense to pull her stuff all the way, everyday with her condition and age isnt it? Why not sell just mere tissue papers that are convenient to carry and more practical as well?

    And lastly, according to some readers, shes living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet. Then why would she be rejecting people’s intention to help out purchasing tissue for a lower price than she requested?

    I hope readers do not take my comment the wrong way. As much as I do feel sorry for the old woman, I just feel that things MAY NOT be what it seems to be.

  90. In addition, I personally feel that the people claiming about the other side of her may not be wrong as well. Why would anyone want to deliberately criticize an elderly and to defame her. Perhaps they are telling the truth?

    However, there is an article in TRS that says that she was selling stuff albeit the haze at PSI 270 too.

    Things just doesn’t sum up.

  91. I saw her in Orchard frequently and always wondered to myself.
    Does she have a family?
    I wonder why her family members still let her sell things everyday for such long hours at this age?
    Could the interviewer help to answer this ?

  92. Hi Diane,
    That is really some story and mixed emotions… Continue you writings.. Best of luck for you and the auntie…

  93. Hi! Great article! There’s one piece of bad news. I dont know if you knew this, but she passed away today at SGH. :(

    1. Oh by golly. Can we verify that? I came by Singapore several times from April and the last was just last week. I’ve not seen her at her usual spot since my last trip prior in January. Was thinking she found a better place but seriously this wasn’t what I meant. Anyone can verify this? God bless her if this is true :~( and if she really is at a better place now……

  94. Sigh, she passed away 00:06 11June 2014 in SGH.. can google “cine Aunty orchard selling” to read
    RIP Aunty

  95. Hi Diane, thanks for the article. I just found out that Zheng Po Po has passed away on 11 Jun.

    Each time I am nearby Orchard Cineleisure, I will search for Po Po to ensure that she is safe and sound. She reminds me of my mum as they both have similar look and feel. Now that she is gone, I will have no one to look forward to when I am in Orchard.

    I can’t thank you enough for writing this article, the photo posted in this is the only way I could remember Zheng Po Po. I wished I could have done more for her. RIP, Po Po, you have a place in my hearts.

  96. kudos to you diane, for making the choice to sit and spend time with zheng po po. it was not the easiest choice to make, but im sure zheng po po was grateful for that. hugs*

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