Derek with MWS FDP befrienders Christina Lee (middle) and Yvonne Lee

After several health setbacks wiped clean his savings, Derek Luah Aik Huat climbed his way back to financial security with the help of MWS

When 53-year old Derek Luah Aik Huat returned to Singapore from working as an operations manager in Beijing in 2010, he was infected with pneumonia due to long-term exposure to air pollution. He was admitted into an intensive care unit for a month, before being transferred to other wards for another month. Thereafter, Derek took a year off work to fully recuperate. 

However, health problems continued to plague him as he was later diagnosed with kidney failure and diabetes. The latter led to him amputating his right leg. As a diabetic amputee, he had trouble landing a job and found himself unemployed for years. At the same time, he was the sole caregiver to his elderly mother with dementia up until she passed in early 2022. 

“All these wiped out my savings of $60,000 to $70,000,” Derek recalled. “After amputating my leg, it became very hard for me to land a job. I went for job interviews, but I either didn’t get an offer or found the job unsuitable for amputees,” he said. With no job, Derek relies on income from renting out a room in his 3-room HDB flat, and at times, had to depend on the generosity of close friends to tide him through times of financial hardship.

Saving for a rainy day

In 2020, he was introduced to MWS Family Development Programme (FDP). For every $1 Derek saved, MWS FDP matched with $2. In less than 3 years, Derek reached his savings goal and graduated from the programme. “MWS FDP helped me to rebuild a portion of my savings, which isn’t easy. I feel more secure as I have money to fall back on for emergencies,” he said. 

Christina Lee, an MWS FDP befriender who has been journeying with Derek, said: “Derek was very determined to reach his savings goal, and he was disciplined in managing his expenses.”

MWS FDP helped me to rebuild a portion of my savings, which isn’t easy. I feel more secure as I have money to fall back on for emergencies.”

Derek gets around on his trusty motorised scooter

Giving back to society

Today, Derek continues to be on the lookout for a job. “I still hope to find some work to keep myself occupied. It’s not good to always stay at home,” he said. For now, Derek is paying it forward by serving as a volunteer befriender for the Amputee Support Group. 

“I befriend patients who are diabetic amputees like myself. Some of them also have kidney failure and are going through dialysis. Many patients become dejected and think it’s the end of the world after losing their leg. It’s not; it’s just that they now have to do things differently. I tell them I still go to the movies and supermarket to buy groceries by myself. After talking to me, their mind-sets change and they feel it’s not the end of the world.” 

“At the end of the day, life goes on. Life has been very tough, but I’m a fighter.”

*Derek put up a good fight and passed away from his illness in April 2023.

What can I do to help?

1. Understand

Take your time to question your beliefs, and find out more about poverty in its many forms. Understand it well enough to explain it to friends/family.

2. Care

Care in your own way! As a first step, you can donate and/or volunteer. You’ll be surprised at how little it takes to help change a life.

3. Share

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