New friends add special touch to family's Hari Raya

SINGAPORE – Pre-school teacher Dhiya Liyana and her husband Aidil Ismail were preparing to break their fast on April 24 when they heard a knock on the front door of their home in Bukit Batok.

The couple were greeted with a surprise food delivery sent by their newfound friends – Mr Bob Lee and his wife Lim Hwee Hwee – whom they had met in the most unusual of circumstances.

While walking home after work on April 1, Ms Liyana, 31, spotted a teenager looking lost and upset wandering near Bukit Batok polyclinic.

Drawing on her experience with her only child – seven-year-old son Alfee Affendi Muhammad Aidil, who has autism – Ms Liyana noted similar signs of distress in the boy.

She approached the teen and helped him calm down.

Ms Liyana later learnt that Lee Jun Le, 14, had lost his way after boarding the wrong bus.

She called her husband, who had picked up their son from school and was on the way to meet her for dinner.

Meanwhile, Ms Liyana stayed with the teen. While Mr Aidil, 32, was on the way to meet his wife, he came across Jun Le’s parents.

They were frantically searching for their son near the bus stop where he had earlier alighted.

“I showed them a photo of Jun Le that my wife had taken and asked, ‘Is this your son?’ When Bob mentioned that his son has autism, I teared up.

“I told him that my son, who was standing right next to me at the time, has autism too.

“It was extremely emotional for me to be able to connect with the parents of another child with special needs, as they understand our lives,” said Mr Aidil, a pharmacist logistics executive.

This Hari Raya, Ms Liyana and Mr Aidil are giving thanks for being in the right place at the right time, and reflecting on the new friendship with Jun Le’s parents.

Mr Aidil said: “Hari Raya Puasa marks the end of Ramadan and is considered the festival of gratitude and an occasion celebrated with families and loved ones.

Pre-school teacher Dhiya Liyana, her husband Aidil Ismail and their son Alfee Affendi Muhammad Aidil, with Mr Bob Lee, his wife Lim Hwee Hwee, and their son Lee Jun Le, at Bukit Batok on April 7, 2021. PHOTO: BH FILE

“It is also the time of feasts, homecoming, contemplation, forgiveness and reconciliation.

“We were so fortunate to be able to help Jun Le and his family when we could. We chat and ask about each other every now and then.

“They are remarkable parents, so my wife and I definitely look up to them as role models when it comes to parenting.”

For Ms Liyana, Hari Raya on Thursday (May 13) was a chance to watch her son Alfee, a pupil at Lianhua Primary School, mingle and play with his cousins.

“Alfee is usually bubbly and cheerful, and he loves playing with his cousins when he gets the chance.

“Last year, we did not get to meet anyone (because of Covid-19 measures) but at least this time round, we could visit them even though there are restrictions in place,” she said.

Because of rules to curb the coronavirus, people are allowed to gather in groups of only five from May 8 to 30. These restrictions also apply to households, which will be able to receive only five distinct visitors a day.

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The food delivery that Mr Aidil’s family received last month during Ramadan was a gesture of gratitude from Mr Lee and Ms Lim.

Mindful of their new friends’ religious requirements, Mr Lee had ordered a meal from Ashraf Cafe, which serves halal food and also employs people with special needs.

“My wife and I were helping our son commute on his own and following him at a distance to make sure he followed the route. Unfortunately, the trip went awry when he boarded the wrong bus,” said the 45-year-old photographer.

He added that his son had travelled alone before.

But that day, when he and his wife lost sight of Jun Le, they panicked.

So, “when Aidil approached me and told me my son was okay, I felt a huge sense of relief”.

Mr Lee, who lives in Jurong East with his wife, 44, and son, added: “It takes a village to raise a child, and it is important to have the support of people like them in the community.”

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