“No One Can Do Everything But Everyone Can Do Something.”
Yesterday, a YouTube video entitled “The Unknown side of Singapore” was making its rounds online. The video was an eye-opener about Poverty in Singapore, something that Singaporeans have turned a blind eye towards. Homelessness and Hunger in our metropolis will be very hard to believe for man, almost impossible to imagine.. but it does exist.
Not too long ago, there were heated debates and discussions regarding the meagre wages that construction workers in Singapore were paid. These debates even found their way to the front pages of our local newspapers. Some construction workers in Singapore earn as little as $1.50 an hour, so for 8 hours of work they earn $12 a day. I think most of us can agree that $12 a day is barely enough.
What if I told you that there are some Singaporeans earning less than Construction Workers?
Picture of a 86 Year-Old Cardboard Collector
Cardboard collectors in Singapore earn 10 cents per kilogram of cardboard. And on a good day, a cardboard collector can collect about 30 – 40 kilograms of Cardboard. 30 – 40kg is a pretty heavy load, as most of our Cardboard Collectors are from our pioneer generation and are into their late 60s and 70s. This means that they earn just $3 – $4 a day. Barely enough for a meal. Do keep in mind that most of the construction workers have their accommodation and meals paid for, but these people do not.
I don’t blame you, I too couldn’t believe the extent of their poverty until I witnessed it first hand. So don’t take my word for it, come and see it for yourself..
Join me at Extend the Feast 3 organized by Happy People Helping People Foundation where we will spend half a day with these people. We will feed them, entertain them, listen to them, make them laugh, make them smile and make sure that they remember that we have not forgotten them. I joined HPHPF for the first 2 Extend the Feasts in Dec 2013 and it was a very enriching experience. Besides the cardboard collectors, we also served many elderly folks who were living alone in the one room flats near our event venue too. We gave them a buffet, free haircuts, free clothes and we even took some of their addresses down to provide them what they need more frequently. But apart from the materialistic things, we gave them a listening ear, we gave them our time, attention and our love. Which I believe they lacked for a long time.
Many people (including myself) have asked these people why they don’t receive funding from organizations like CDC/Mendaki/Sinda, etc. They told me it was mainly due to two reasons.
Firstly, it was because of means testing. Most of these people have sons or relatives who are well off, so they fall through the cracks of our failed means testing system despite the fact that their children and relatives have abandoned them.
Secondly, it’s because most of them do not know how to fill in paperwork and some had criminal records too. Personally I feel that the means testing should only look at the applicant’s situation and not of his family, but that’s another story.
I do agree one contributory factor for the increasing poverty in Singapore is our economic policies and these Cardboard Collectors are a reflection of the rising income inequality. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. We can blame the economic policies, but we can’t afford to wait till the next elections to help these people.
This isn’t about Politics, this is about Humanity.
That’s why I believe it’s time for us to take action and reach out to these people who have fallen through the cracks. The time is now.
Like Teddy Roosevelt said,
For Extend the Feast 3, it will be bigger than the previous 2 ETFs as we will be expanding our efforts and have to concurrent events at two different locations. Like the previous ETFs, we highly encourage participation rather than cash donations. Bring down a few sets of rations (a list will be provided in a picture below) to the location on the stated date, help out with the distribution and spend some time with these old folks. If you are an entertainer of sorts, help bring smiles to their faces. If you can cut hair, groom them so that they feel better about themselves. If you can cook, contribute some dishes to the buffet. Let’s help break the monotony in their ageing life. Here you can see Pictures from ETF 1 and ETF 2 .
-Cooks to contribute delicious foods for buffet
-Drivers with vehicle
-Barbers for simple haircuts for the old folks
-Street performers eg magicians, musicians, jugglers.
-Donors. Ration donations to be brought to location on the day itself. (rice, breads, canned food etc)
-Volunteers to help with packing of donated rations and serving of buffet food to the old folks.
-Doctors to give free consultation to needy old folks during ETF3 -If you can help in any other way, do PM us at our Facebook Page – Happy People Helping People
Lets all come together and help these people, but do not let this be a one time effort. We can help them in many ways in our everyday life, a simple but heartfelt thank you when the elderly lady cleans your table, buying a meal for the tissue paper seller near your place, paying for the drink for the person behind you in the queue, maybe even asking folks if they have eaten or just a simple smile can go a long way. We must change the norm, eradicate ignorance and spread love in Singapore. Everyone of us has it in us to make the lives of the less fortunate a little better. Many students go overseas for service learning trips, but how about the cardboard collectors back home?
With the increasing rates of suicide amongst the elderly population in Singapore, we must take action. We must spread love. These people have done a lot for Singapore, and it’s about time we give back. Ideally they should be spending their time with their grandchildren and enjoying life, pushing cardboards down a street under the scorching sun for 10 cents/kg is the last thing they should be doing in a country with one of the highest number of millionaires in the world. It’s time to be the change we want to see.
Let us not forget.