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We Can Count on Uncle Alias & Uncle Azmi

Uncle Alias Bin Wahid and Uncle Mohd Azmi may both be 62, but these active agers have been keeping busy and active by working as estate cleaners. The physical work keeps them fit and active, and allows them to continue supporting themselves.

Uncle Alias has been an estate cleaner in Chua Chu Kang estate for more than 10 years, whereas Uncle Azmi has been serving Hong Kah North for the past three years, though he actually has over 30 years under his belt as an estate cleaner. His longest tenure was with Jurong Town Council for 20 years.

Both men said friendly and approachable residents in their respective estates make their work easier. Though both Uncle Alias and Uncle Azmi do not speak English well, the fact that majority of the residents often greet them with “selamat pagi” (good morning in Malay) or thank them with “terima kasih” (thank you in Malay) make them feel right at home.

Said Uncle Alias in Malay: “I like how language isn’t a barrier in this job. Even though I communicate with residents in broken English, they make a point to understand me and some even speak to me in Malay.”

Uncle Azmi added that he enjoys chatting with older residents in simple Malay and reminiscing together about the past when they all used to live in kampungs. Even younger residents, he said, will make the effort to ask him: “Uncle, you makan already?”

Profile shot of Uncle Alias
Profile shot of Uncle Azmi

Always Keeping an Eye Out for the Young Ones

Even though both Uncle Alias and Uncle Azmi have encountered the occasional rude or unkind comments, both cleaners said most of the time, residents are appreciative of their work and commend them on being dependable and reliable.

CCK estate resident Keung Xi Zhen, who nominated Uncle Alias for the Town Council’s “Appreciate Our Cleaners” award, said she is especially grateful to him for being the extra pair of eyes watching out for her children when they are out and about playing at the void deck or pavilion.

Asked why he goes the extra mile, Uncle Alias simply replied: “Whenever I see kids playing, I naturally look out for them because I don’t wish any parent or grandparent to worry about the well-being of their kids.”

So, whenever he is performing his duties in Chua Chu Kang, and he sees children playing too near the car park, he will warn them to play elsewhere where it is safer.

Over in Hong Kah North, Uncle Azmi also keeps an eye out for the young ones.

He shared an incident where a domestic helper sought his assistance to rescue a child who went up to the top of a playground, but later became too frightened to come down.

Without any hesitation, he climbed up and carried the child down on piggyback. He said the grateful mother thanked him for doing so “without consideration to his own health” as the child he rescued was a little chubby.

As Uncle Alias sagely summarised, their age and experience allow them to understand and identify with the residents’ needs and concerns.

Resident Keung Xi Zhen appreciates Uncle Alias for watching over her kids in the void deck.

Residents Say Estate Cleaners Under-appreciated  

Resident James Chua says he took part in the “Appreciate Our Cleaners” campaign to show cleaners like Uncle Azmi that residents do recognise and appreciate all their hard work and effort.

Of all the occupations in the world that are understated and under-appreciated, being a cleaner is one of them, said Hong Kah North resident James Cheng, who nominated Uncle Azmi.

James said: “My nomination is merely a very small gesture. I just wanted to do my part for these under-appreciated men/women who make our lives better every day!”

Asked what residents could do to make cleaners’ lives easier, James replied: “Don’t litter in public places. Any decent person will pick up after himself. No one should assume that someone else will pick up their trash.”

Without the hard work of cleaners like Uncle Azmi, our estates would be not be so spick and span, says resident James Chua.

James said he first noticed Uncle Azmi because Uncle was cycling around the estate to pick up trash. What impressed James most was the fact that Uncle Azmi went to considerable effort to pick up a small, inconspicuous piece of trash located at a corner of grass patch. That, to James, was a clear sign of Uncle Azmi’s amazing dedication.

Indeed, Xi Zhen said she has known Uncle Alias since her family moved into the estate in 2013, and he never fails to impress her with his diligence and positive spirit.

Residents say hardworking Uncle Alias starts making his rounds around CCK estate very early every day.

“He starts work super early every day,” she added.

Uncle Alias and Uncle Azmi said with the town council’s inaugural effort to recognise the efforts of cleaners in the town, it warms their hearts to know that CCK Town residents are aware of their hard work, and are appreciative, regardless of their age.