The one way this Singapore gardener knows to help
Mr Ng Kim Chuan is a self-taught Chinese herbalist who grows and gives away medicinal herbs at no charge.
In his yellow rubber boots and a wide-brimmed hat, Mr Ng works on the NTU Community Herb Garden.
His routine includes harvesting and distributing herbs to visitors, and conducting educational tours of the garden.
He grew up a short distance away from the garden. After school, Mr Ng and his brothers would help their parents farm vegetables such as four-angled beans, okra (lady’s fingers), and chye sim.
Mr Ng always held an interest in traditional Chinese herbs, but only had the conviction to pursue this interest when his brother was diagnosed with lymphoma and faced expensive medical costs.
He wanted to help others facing the same circumstance, and saw a way through medicinal herbs.
Mr Ng began investing his money in a garden, despite objections from his family who were concerned about his health and financial well-being.
Even after undergoing knee surgery resulting from a fall, he remains determined and continues to work.
“When you do something that has meaning to you, you don’t have time to think about pain,” he shared in Mandarin. “You forget that it hurts.”
The stories he is told from visitors who feel they have experienced health benefits as a result of the herbs motivates him and gives meaning to his work.
He estimates that he has shared herbs with over 4,000 visitors from around the region.
In his work, he acknowledges that there are those who question his motives and the medicinal value of herbs, and some who take advantage that these herbs are given for free.
In facing these challenges, Mr Ng turns to his mother’s advice to be patient, have perseverance, and live with integrity.
“Take the herbs diligently, exercise daily and keep in good spirits”, he encourages a visitor when she arrived to collect her herbs while we were at the garden. “You’ll get through this. Do your best to regain your health.”
The NTU Community Herb Garden welcomes committed volunteers to:
- Translate plant information/labels from Mandarin into English
- Oversee worker safety at the garden
- Coordinate volunteers
- Coordinate orders and requests
You can also contribute to the upkeep of the garden by donating to the NTU Community Herb Garden Endowment.
NTU Community Herb Garden is located on a small slip road off Nanyang Technological University’s Jalan Bahar entrance in the western part of Singapore.