Kindness in chaos: Doctor comes to aid of homeless man

Uncle Beng is a trishaw rider in Penang, who was unaware of the Covid-19 outbreak, much less the Movement Control Order imposed recently. (Dr Ooi Ben Shyen pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Covid-19 outbreak in the country has shown the ugly side of Malaysians – those who hoard essential items, those who refuse to self-isolate, and those who argue with enforcement officers when told to leave public areas.

Yet in this environment of fear, selfishness and chaos, random acts of kindness have also sprouted, such as in the case of Dr Ooi Ben Shyen, 36, who with the help of the online community, has come to the aid of one Uncle Beng.

In a recent Facebook post, Ben as he prefers to be called, wrote about his encounter with an elderly trishaw rider in Padang Brown, Penang.

According to Ben, the frail man, with bandages on his head, was spotted outside a kopitiam, patiently waiting for his regular cup of “kopi o peng”, wondering why the streets were deserted and his favourite shop closed.

Saddened by this sight, Ben bought the old man a can of coffee but discovered just as he feared, that Uncle Beng was oblivious about the Movement Control Order imposed by the government recently, or the deadly Covid-19 outbreak in the country.

Uncle Beng sitting in his prized possession, his trishaw. (Dr Ooi Ben Shyen pic)

Uncle Beng also told the young doctor that he worked as a trishaw rider by day and slept in his trishaw at night as he had no housing.

As grim as this situation was, Uncle Beng revealed that he was hit by a motorist in January this year, leaving him unable to work. And a recent fall, causing injuries to his head, had only made matters worse.

He has since been depending on handouts from the public.

Speaking to FMT, Ben related how Uncle Beng loved children and used what little money he earned to buy sweets, treats and stationery for the kids he ferried to kindergarten every day.

Uncle Beng was homeless however, Ben said, simply because he was fiercely independent, and ran away from the elder care facility his family sent him to.

Moved by Uncle Beng’s current state, Ben said he appealed to the online community for donations so he could help safeguard the man from contracting Covid-19.

And thanks to the power of social media and kind-hearted Malaysians, the funds kept pouring in.

The bedsores on Uncle Beng’s back come from years of sleeping in his trishaw. (Dr Ooi Ben Shyen pic)

In a matter of just three days, a massive RM8,000 was collected.

“We dressed his wounds and got him into a fresh set of clothes. It broke my heart to see the wounds on his back, the result of sleeping in his trishaw for so many years.

“As for the RM8,000, we’ve used some of it for medical supplies, catering food for Uncle Beng’s meals and to pay for the motel where he will be sleeping for the next few days,” said Ben, already drawing up plans to secure a permanent home for Uncle Beng.

Ben examines the open wounds on Uncle Beng’s body. (Dr Ooi Ben Shyen pic)

Ben said he hoped to rent a place soon so that Uncle Beng will have shelter yet continue to enjoy the independence he so truly loves.

The doctor also said he and a private nurse would check on Uncle Beng from time to time to monitor his condition and dress his wounds.

Nurse Wong Tuk Chan, Uncle Beng and Ben are all smiles. (Dr Ooi Ben Shyen pic)

Uncle Beng also graciously gave Ben the go-ahead to post photographs and videos of himself on social media in the hopes that some of the children he used to send to kindergarten years ago would recognise him and possibly, come visit.

And that’s precisely what happened. Ben tells FMT that a woman, who remembered the sweet Uncle Beng from her childhood days, contacted him expressing her wish to visit the elderly man soon.

FMT wishes Uncle Beng all the best and thanks Ben and the online community for their kind assistance in helping a homeless man live out the rest of his life in dignity.

You can follow Uncle Beng’ progress or contribute to his upkeep by visiting Dr Ooi Ben Shyen’s Facebook page.