Seven-year-old Ah Boy is no ordinary Primary 1 pupil. He is his grandmother's little helper at her newspaper stall, staying by her side until she sells out of newspapers or closes at 10pm.
STOMPer cyberdog wrote in to STOMP after seeing Ah Boy sleeping on the ground as her grandmother sells newspaper, and his contribution was published on the website. The New Paper has followed up on the contribution with updates on the duo.
Ah Boy, which is his grandmother's nickname for him not only acts as the eyes for his almost blind 63-year-old grandmother, Madam Lim. He also helps her sell newspapers every day in Ang Mo Kio. Unlike other kids his age, Ah Boy do not have the luxury to go for supplementary activities like swimming lessons, but he does not mind.
The bubbly boy says:
"I'm happy as long as I'm with my grandma."
When there were no customers, Ah Boy will make himself comfortable on a single mattress placed next to the stall. He has also devised a game to pass by time at the stall. While his friends may be watching TV at home, Ah Boy does it as well by joining the uncles sitting in the coffee shop.
Their small corner is in front of UOB ATMs, a convenience store and just by a coffee shop.
His grandmother, Madam G.H. Lim, 63, has been selling newspapers and magazines for at least 20 years. Grandma and grandson have been together since his mother left for Malaysia around 2007. As Madam Lim's eyesight worsened, Ah Boy took on more of the work.
Madam Lim's eyesight deteriorated after an accident while burning joss paper 20 years ago. She can only see blurred images now. However, the grandmother said she can still cope with her customers when Ah Boy is not around, by feeling the coins as they are of different sizes.
Despite her disability, she insists that she is not a burden to her grandson. She cleans the house and washes the clothes. She also takes the bus by herself sometimes, using an umbrella to feel her way.
Madam Lim says:
"I can look after myself. It's not like he's only taking care of me all the time. We take care of each other."
When Madam Lim heard from Ah Boy's principal that he is making steady progress in school through the learning support programme for English, she was visibly glad saying that when Ah Boy will be able to get a good job when he grows up.
But the little boy interjected saying:
"When I grow up, I will take care of my grandma."
While they live simply, they are happy. Over the years, well-wishers have donated many items-including toys, TV sets and boxes of cookies-which now fill their flat.
People who pass by their stall also give them food while others decline to take the change the boy gives them. A good Samitarian offered to take Madam Lim to see a doctor, but the offer was declined by Madam Lim.
"Even if I can get my eyesight back, the follow-up treatment will cost a lot. I also don't want other people to spend so much money on me.
"I'm glad everyone is concerned for us. But they don't have to be.
"We are fine and our lives will get better."
A Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) spokesman told TNP that they are now gathering more information and will work with other agencies to offer appropriate assistance to Madam Lim and her grandson. Aids in the form of vouchers and donations will also be available for them.