Mansion for the poor

OOI Chuan Aik, 76, is blinded by glaucoma but the Penang Home for the Infirm and Aged resident happily describes the we-lfare organisation’s new “se-cond home” – a colonial mansion at 8, Jalan Residensi – as “beautiful”. 

“It is airy here, the taps are new and although I cannot see, I think this place must be be-autiful since it has been resto-red and repainted,” the ex-soldier said from his bed in the mansion, now being referred to as the Residency Home. 

Ooi is among 76 invalid re-sidents from the organisation’s first home at Jalan Mesjid Ne-gri, referred to as the Green Lane Home, who were relo-cated to the mansion last month. 

Another 180-odd senior citizens, mostly mobile residents, remain at the Green Lane Home. 

Outside the mansion’s main entrance hung with auspicious red cloth, 77-year-old bache-lor Yew Ah Leong, sits shirt-less to catch the breeze while watching traffic pass by the busy road. 

“I am here with the other in-valids because of my weak legs while the stronger ones re-main at the old place. 

“I have heard that this mansion used to house Europeans and the rich,” said Yew. 

The mansion was bought for RM4mil and restored at a cost of over RM700,000.

Apart from staff nurses att-ending to the invalids, some “stronger” residents from the Green Lane Home take daily van trips to the Residency Home to help out. 

Green Lane Home resident Lim Siew Ai, 67, makes two daily trips to the mansion to help feed the invalids during meal time and wash the plates. 

“I am still healthy and mo-bile, so what better way to spend my time than to help the weaker ones. 

“Several of us are helping out on our own initiative be-cause we appreciate the good work of the home’s commit- tee in expanding the facilities to provide shelter to more poor, unmarried and uneducated senior citizens like me,” said Lim. 

Bachelor Tian Kim Wah, 76, is another healthy volunteer who helps guard the mansion and looks after residents who are sick. 

On the ground floor of the mansion, male residents lie on their beds spread out dormi-tory-style while the women sleep in a similar set-up up-stairs. 

A grand wooden staircase forms an eye-catching centrepiece, hinting at the past magnificence of the mansion said to have housed the early pre-sidents of Penang’s municipal council and the mayor of George Town. 

Home president Datuk Chan Ban Eng said the mansion was the home’s first property bought for RM4mil and restored at a cost of over RM700,000. 

The Green Lane Home was started in 1963 on land leased from Lam Wah Ee Hospital. 

Chan said the welfare home bought the mansion from the Penang Union Club (Proper-ties) Sdn Bhd which owned the premises since 1962 and had used it for the activities of the Penang Union Club members. 

“We exercise special care in preserving the heritage and historical elements of this co-lonial mansion,” said Chan. 

Restoration and refurbishment works included resto-ring the original high-ceil- ings, installation of new lifts, water sprinkling system, re-roofing, re-wiring, partitioning, toilet renovations and re-fencing. 

Previously limited to 260 residents at the first home, the two places could now house 350 residents, with the Greenlane Home taking in a maximum of 260 while the invalids were housed at the mansion, Chan said. 

He stressed that the home had not authorised anyone to openly collect donations on its behalf for the new facility at Jalan Residensi. 

He said donors could make their contributions direct to the home.  

The Residency Home will be officially opened by Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon at 11.30am on July 30.  

It will followed by an open house with a hawker fare treat for the public from 1pm to 3pm.  

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