Big hearted: Tan helping a resident with physiotherapy at his Peace and Harmony Home in Bukit Dumbar, Penang.
GEORGE TOWN: Tan Swee Ban made a vow eight years ago to help the elderly who are sick and with no family to look after them.
He has not looked back since and has helped over 300 senior citizens.
The 53-year-old founder of Peace and Harmony Home, a non-profit nursing home located in Jalan Thomas, Bukit Dumbar, said he set up an old folks home that can accommodate up to 100 residents after seeing many abandoned senior citizens at a hospital.
“Eight years ago, my uncle was diagnosed with cancer and was hospitalised. I spent a lot of time taking care of him.
“I noticed many elderly, sick people being asked to return home but many of them could not leave as they did not have a home to go back to.
“Some were abandoned by their children at the hospital and some became suicidal. I saw a lot of this at the hospital, so I made a vow that one day I would bring them to a place that is safe for them,” he said when met at the home yesterday.
Tan, who used to work overseas including in Italy and Japan as a cook, pub singer and masseur, said the home has 22 male and six female residents with the oldest being 92.
“I started work on my goal after my uncle passed away. My hope is that when I die, at least 100 old folks will still have a place to call home.
“More than 300 senior citizens have been referred to me by various parties, including hospitals and State Welfare Department.
“I have no staff and I do most things on my own. There are a few part-time volunteers who come to help on some days,” he added.
Tan said he wakes up at 5am daily to help bathe the residents, change their diapers and sometimes dress their wounds before making them breakfast.
“I initially started the home as a refuge for senior citizens in Jalan Ismail Che Mat, off Jalan P. Ramlee, two years ago. But it was too small and the area was prone to floods.
“This new place, which we just relocated to in February, was rented from the state government at RM5,300 a month. The renovation cost came to RM280,000 which was funded mainly by public donors and my own savings.
“This is like a halfway home, where I take care of them until they are strong enough before referring them to another old folks home. If they have a family, I will ask their family to take them home.”
Tan said his wish was to accommodate more aged citizens but was held back by space and manpower.
“It’s only me taking care of so many of them. Who would look after them if anything happens to me?” he said, adding that he has a waiting list of 64 people.
Tan said among the residents at the home were a Stage Four cancer patient, stroke patients, an elderly woman with two blind daughters and another elderly woman with a mentally-ill daughter.
“It’s not an easy job but I enjoy doing this. I am happy when they are happy. I am happy when I see them getting better and when they hug or kiss me.
“It gives me great joy to be able to help them,” he added.
Tan said he spends some RM10,000 a month operating the home.