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Man loses income as Geylang businesses shut, fish soup stall owners got him to deliver food for them

To make ends meet, he used to deliver food to patrons at entertainment outlets in the Geylang district, earning just S$30 to S$50 a day.
Then, last Friday (March 27), all bars and entertainment venues such as pubs, night clubs and karaoke outlets had to close on the Government’s order, to arrest the spread of Covid-19 — and Mr Chia Meng Guai suddenly found himself out of work.

Mr Chia Meng Guai with his bicycle at Old Airport Road Food Centre, where he picks up food items from Jun Yuan House of Fish stall for delivery.

Mr Chia Meng Guai with his bicycle at Old Airport Road Food Centre, where he picks up food items from Jun Yuan House of Fish stall for delivery.

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SINGAPORE — To make ends meet, he used to deliver food to patrons at entertainment outlets in the Geylang district, earning just S$30 to S$50 a day.

Then, last Friday (March 27), all bars and entertainment venues such as pubs, night clubs and karaoke outlets had to close on the Government’s order, to arrest the spread of Covid-19 — and Mr Chia Meng Guai suddenly found himself out of work with his only source of income for 19 years dried up.

When news of this reached the owners of Jun Yuan House of Fish, a hawker stall that Mr Chia frequents at the Old Airport Road Food Centre, they offered him a delivery job on Monday and advertised his services on the stall’s Facebook page.

More than 24 hours later, Singaporeans have chipped in to donate more than S$700 to Mr Chia, while others sponsored him meals from the hawker stall, which sells Teochew fish soup.

Ms Tsering Ng, 29, who runs the hawker stall with her brother and parents, told TODAY that she wanted to help Mr Chia because he would buy food from her stall and eat there every day, and she noticed last week that he looked distraught after losing his source of income.

She also decided to hire Mr Chia as a deliveryman because many of her regular customers have started working from home and were serving stay-home notices or quarantine orders.

On Monday, she made a post on her company’s Facebook page announcing that Mr Chia would be sending food by cycling to customers 1km away or nearer, with S$1 paid to him for each food item delivered.

She encouraged patrons to contact her via short message service (SMS) or WhatsApp to place their orders. Delivery requests soon came in, and Mr Chia earned S$20 on Monday after delivering food items to customers from 11am to 7pm. 

On top of that, 14 patrons used online payment platforms to donate a total of S$700 to Mr Chia through Ms Ng. 

Several also paid for meals from the fish soup stall to be given to him, and Ms Ng said that she would give Mr Chia a free meal for every S$2 paid to her from this group.

“I didn’t expect the response to be so good. It was overwhelming,” she said.

“After the post went viral, my phone couldn’t stop ringing,” she told TODAY.

 

Left to right: Mr Chia Meng Guai with stall owners Tsering Ng and her brother Ng Bing Jun. Photo: Matthew Loh/TODAY

She initially planned to connect Mr Chia with other stall owners at the food centre to run deliveries for them as well, but she is now concerned that he would be unable to manage the increased workload.

The stall received so many orders on Tuesday that Ms Ng’s younger brother, Mr Ng Bing Jun, 27, who usually runs their other outlet at Wisma Atria mall, came by to help cope with the demand. The Ng family runs a third outlet at Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre.

Mr Ng told TODAY that he was supportive of his sister’s decision to help Mr Chia, and that he was glad to see the positive response from customers.

Mr Chia, who lives with his retired wife in a flat along Old Airport Road and has no children, told TODAY that he was grateful for the stall owners’ support. 

He has always been using his bicycle as his mode of transport and although he can sometimes take up to one hour to cycle to delivery locations and return to the stall, he said that the job does not tire him, and that he was happy and willing to continue doing this for customers.

“If I did not have (the stall owners’) help, I would have no work. I only have a bit of money left for my wife and I,” he said in Mandarin. 

Related topics

food delivery Geylang hawker centre

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