By Nicholas Koo
EVERY day, Mr Philip Chong rises at 6 a.m. for breakfast. Since his work shift at the KFC outlet in NTU only begins at noon, Mr Chong spends the rest of the morning writing notes for his customers.
He writes about 60 notes each day, filled with words of encouragement and smiley faces for students and staff at NTU.
Mr Chong, 64, known affectionately by students as “Uncle Philip”, started this habit of writing for students when he began working in NTU two years ago.
“The students often look very glum — like they had just come out of a battle,” he said.
Besides attracting more customers to KFC with his acts of goodwill, Mr Chong also receives letters from students wanting to show their appreciation for his efforts.
He hopes that through his words, the students will spread the kindness to others and give back to society.
One student who received the note was Darren Tan, a second-year student from the Asian School of the Environment. Tan felt that the words boosted his morale.
“I was having a really terrible day, but the letter gave me hope. Encouragement from the most unexpected person really comes as a pleasant surprise,” said the 23-year-old.
After heading home for dinner and a nap, Mr Chong continues his note writing until 2 a.m. before his day starts anew.
Mr Chong is not the only person caring for NTU students.
Mr Chew Teck Kuan cleans the corridors of Crescent Hall and also arranges the shoes of the students living there.
Tidiness is something Mr Chew picked up from home. In Mandarin, he said: “You wouldn’t leave your shoes lying around everywhere at home, would you?”
The 60-year-old says that he treats the students like his children and the hall as his home.
Eunice Chia, a second-year-student from Nanyang Business School, said she has never seen a cleaner who does his job so diligently.
“I appreciate that he goes out of his way to make us a little happier by letting us return to a neat corridor,” said the 21-year-old.
Fortunately, his efforts have not gone to waste. Mr Chew says that some students pick up the habit after a while and continue arranging their own shoes.
“Hopefully, through this, they can learn to look after themselves in the future.”
Deeper within the NTU complex, students staying at Halls of Residence 10 and 11 now have the luxury of getting supper from their shared canteen after hours, without needing to head out of school to coffee shops nearby.
This is because the canteen’s waffles stall opens late for hungry students, introducing a “night special” menu – which changes every night – offering delicacies from carrot cake to curry chicken with rice.
Madam Lilis, the owner of the stall, puts service before self. She opens her store until 11.30 p.m. when most stores in NTU close after dinner time.
Natasha Lowe, a 21-year-old student from the School of Social Sciences, looks forward to her interactions with Mdm Lilis when buying snacks from her.
“She’s such a warm person. I can feel love just by buying food from her and seeing her around hall,” she said.
The 42-year-old tries to keep her prices low and rarely turns away students, even when she is tidying up for the day.
“If Auntie can make for you, Auntie will make for you. Let you all enjoy first, don’t go to sleep hungry.”